Senior Guidance

California Senior Living

California Assisted Living

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Costs of Assisted Living in California

California Senior LivingThe cost for an Assisted Living Facility in California averages about $4,000 per month ($48,000 per year), although the amount increases depending on the services required. Although this is higher than the national average of $3,293 per month, when you consider California’s high cost of living, it is comparable to the average cost. The costs may also increase for residents with Alzheimer's and dementia. Assisted living costs in California are still much lower than the price of California nursing home care, where semi-private rooms cost $91,250 and a private room is almost $113,000 per year.

Assisted Living in California costs more than Adult Day Health Care, which averages around $20,000 per year. You may be surprised to find out that California Assisted Living Facilities are cheaper than hiring a Home Health Aide. A full-time Home Health Aide in California costs on average $55,000 a year, which is for a 44-hour week. It should also be noted that Home Health Aides do not provide the scope of services available in assisted living facilities. It is predicted that by the year 2030, Assisted Living in California will cost $72,000 per year – an increase of over $24,000.

According to the Genworth study on assisted living costs across the United States, city-by-city assisted living costs in California are as follows, from lowest to highest:

  • Merced, CA - $2700 per month
  • Modesto, CA - $2750 per month
  • Madera, CA - $2800 per month
  • Stockton, CA - $2925 per month
  • Bakersfield, CA - $3324 per month
  • Riverside, CA - $3325 per month
  • El Centro, CA - $3400 per month
  • Hanford, CA - $3414 per month
  • Fresno, CA - $3500 per month
  • Sacramento, CA - $3500 per month
  • Visalia, CA - $3500 per month
  • Vallejo, CA - $3650 per month
  • Redding, CA - $3850 per month
  • East Bay, CA - $3973 per month
  • Chico, CA - $3988 per month
  • Los Angeles, CA - $4000 per month
  • Orange County, CA - $4000 per month
  • San Diego, CA - $4000 per month
  • Oxnard, CA - $4150 per month
  • Yuba City, CA - $4395 per month
  • Santa Rosa, CA - $4450 per month
  • San Jose, CA - $4500 per month
  • Santa Maria, CA - $4500 per month
  • Salinas, CA - $4750 per month
  • Santa Cruz, CA - $4800 per month
  • San Mateo, CA - $5000 per month
  • San Luis Obispo, CA - $5100 per month
  • Napa, CA - $5250 per month
  • San Francisco, CA - $5950 per month

There is an enormous difference in assisted living costs of $3250 per month between the most affordable city for assisted living in California, which is Merced, CA and the least affordable one, which is San Francisco.

Who pays for Assisted Living Care in California?

Assisted Living care in California is usually paid for privately by either the California seniors or their families. In California, Medicaid is referred to as Medi-Cal. Currently, there is a California Assisted Living Waiver Program (ALW) that should be available for at least the next 2 years. The Assisted Living Waiver program only operates in the following counties: Orange, Kern, Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Sonoma and Santa Clara. However, some of these counties do not have any facilities (called Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly – RCFEs) which participate in the program. California seniors are eligible for the ALW waiver if they qualify for Medi-Cal, require a nursing facility level of care, are willing to move to one of the participating counties, and will work with an enrolled care coordination agency.

California seniors who are part of the ALW program can get the following services:

  • Assisted Living Services – seniors can receive these services either in-house by a facility (RCFE) or by a licensed Home Health Agency to those in public housing;
  • Care Coordination – includes organizing, identifying, coordinating, and monitoring the services that will be needed by those who utilize the program; and
  • Nursing Facility Transition Care Coordination – includes helping transition California seniors who are enrolled in a nursing facility back to the community.

Services for a senior living in California

California has a vast array of services for older adults. Many such senior services are handled by the California's Area Agency on Aging.

California’s Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) provides help to older Californians. The main goal is to advocate for seniors and older adults and to provide information on programs, options, and community support for the elderly in California. Area Agency on Aging assists all seniors in California, regardless of age or income level.

There is also the California Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, to help seniors living in California file and resolve complains when it comes to their living facilities. This includes California Assisted Living and California Nursing Facilities as well. Below we will provide a detailed overview of all California senior services available to a senior living in California:

  • Multipurpose Senior Services Program – this program is used to arrange for and monitor the use of community services to prevent or delay placement in an assisted living institution for frail or elderly clients who are appropriate for nursing facility placement in a but chose to remain in the community. Eligibility requirements include:
    • Seniors 65 or older;
    • Live within the site’s service area;
    • Eligible to receive Medi-Cal;
    • Be appropriate for care management services; and
    • Suitable for placement in a nursing facility.

Certain services are provided via California's MSSP funds which include:

  • Adult Day Care/Support Center – a community based program that offers non-medical care to help adults with disabilities;
  • Senior Housing Assistance – this may include the addition of adaptive devices (grab bars, railing, etc.), emergency help in situations that require location, assistance with temporary lodging in certain situations, and help restoring utility services;
  • Senior Chore and Personal Care Assistance – these services are provided to California seniors who need help from others to remain living independently. The Chore part of this program involves household tasks and not personal care of the individual, while Personal Care provides help to the individual to maintain hygiene, safety, and activities of daily assisted living;
  • Senior Protective Supervision – this service is to insure provision to California seniors in their homes who are very frail and are at a high risk to suffer a medical emergency. This supervision doesn’t require medical training and can be performed by anyone who has received appropriate training to identify a medical crisis and can get the help necessary in the case of an emergency. This is not referring to abuse or neglect; however, if you believe that someone over 65 in California is a victim of abuse or neglect you should report it immediately to your local Adult Protective Services office;
  • Senior Care Management – this service helps California seniors gain access to the needed waivers and/or other services that are available to the individual in need;
  • Senior Respite Care – a service which includes the supervision and care of California seniors while their usual caregivers take a short break;
  • Transportation – used for non-emergency situations for seniors without transportation. It gives the senior access to the community such as doctors, social service providers, or special events;
  • Meal Services – this includes both meals in a congregate setting or home-delivered meals for California seniors who are homebound and are unable to make meals for themselves;
  • Senior Social Services – this includes counseling, money management, and social reassurance or friendly visiting; and
  • Communication Services – this includes help with translation and help with emergency response systems.

Pros and Cons of Senior Living in California

California is a diverse state geographically and it is only getting more diverse racially (it’s already a minority-majority state.) It has deserts, mountains, and the Pacific Coast to choose from when searching for a place to live in or retire. When considering where you should live and retire in California you should consider your options.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Weather – the climate in California is amazing for seniors, as is the beauty of the state. Besides the ongoing drought and the fires in the summer, you rarely hear of bad weather in California. The Mediterranean climate that is the most common in the state is characterized by dry summers and mild, moist winters. Los Angeles, for example, has mild temperatures during the winter and snow and frost is almost unheard of. San Francisco has cool summers but is prone to fog during the summer. When you travel farther inland there are colder winters and hotter summers. 45% of California’s total area is covered by forests, and it has more forestland than any other state besides Alaska. It is home to the famous giant Sequoia trees, which are the largest living organism on Earth, and Redwood National Park which is home to the world’s tallest trees. The park is an excellent destination for California seniors who are more active and enjoy the outdoors. The California White Mountains has trees that are some of the oldest in the world, with one bristlecone pine estimated at over 5,000 years of age. The California Central Valley is bordered by mountains on all sides - the Sierra Nevada to the east, the Cascade Range to the north, the Tehachapi Mountains to the south and the coastal mountain range to the west. This valley is where much of California’s produce is grown and is an integral part of agriculture in America. The climate of California varies due to its large area and the variations in elevation. It is so diverse that this state has both the highest point at Mt. Whitney, and the lowest point at Death Valley, in the contiguous United States. Most of the state has a Mediterranean climate, but due to the large size of the state, there are parts which are subarctic as well as parts that are subtropical. Due to the current off the coast of the state, even the large cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles are cooler than other areas on the same latitude. As some seniors prefer cooler weather, while others like a warmer climate, California's diverse climate in its various parts makes it an excellent choice for older adults.
  • Cost of living – the median home value in California is over $450,000 – the second in the nation and more than double that of the entire U.S.;
  • Variety – be it the college town of Berkeley, the wine country near Napa, the golfing paradise of Palm Springs or the Walk of Fame in Hollywood there is always something for the adventurous elders to do in this state; and
  • With Disneyland, cruise ships leaving from Long Beach (Los Angeles), seniors will never be short of visitors should they want them.

California Demographics

The most populated state in America is California. In fact, if it were a country, California would rank 34th in population in the world. It is the 13th fastest growing state in the nation and the U.S. Census reports the population to be close to 40 million people. This state has eight of the 50 most populous cities in the U.S. - more than any other state. Three of the 10 most populated cities in the U.S. are in California – Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose. California has a larger population than Australia or Canada. The senior population in California is around 13.3% - over 5 million seniors in total.

The metropolitan area of Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana is the largest in the state with over 12 million people, followed by San Francisco-Oakland (approximately 3.3 million), San Diego, (about 3 million), Riverside-San Bernardino (approximately 2 million), and Sacramento (almost 2 million). California is a great city for seniors who love large cities with many different people and lots of things to do. The top three religious majorities are: Protestant (32%); Roman Catholic (28%); and none or does not identify (27%.) However, California also has the largest Mormon population outside of Utah, a large Jewish community, and a large Muslim community. 40% of all Buddhists in America live in California and the state has the highest Hindu and Muslim population of any state in the nation.

English is the primary language in California, followed by Spanish, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Tagalong, Vietnamese, and Korean. Almost 43% of the population of California speak a language other than English at home. Over 200 languages are spoken and read in California. Even the California DMV offers the written exam for driver’s licenses in 31 languages and the audio exam in 11 languages.

The racial composition of California is vast and very diverse. It is the second state in America, after Hawaii, to be known as a minority-majority state. Hispanics, white or non-white, are the largest ethnic group in the state. The latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the total population of California (seniors, adults and children combined) was approximately: 73% White; 6.5% Black or African-American; 15% Asian; 2% Native-American, and 0.5% Pacific Islander. Almost 40% of the population is Hispanic-Latino (any race), and 60 are non-Hispanic (any-race.)

Seniors should also keep in mind that California has a state income tax that ranges between 1% to 12.3% and a 1% surcharge, called the mental health services tax, is collected on taxable income of $1 million on more. California has the 13h highest per capita income, around $63,000, in the nation. The bad news for the California elderly is that there is a 2.5% tax on qualified pensions and early distributions. But the good news for seniors is that Social Security income and Railroad Retirement benefits are exempt. Property is taxed at 100% of the full cash value, and unfortunately there is no relief for California senior citizens. There is no inheritance tax in California. The purchasing power is lower than average in California. For example, $100 is worth just $88.97 in California when you consider the purchasing power and the cost of living.

Places of Interest for Seniors living in California

There are numerous things to do and see in the “Golden State,” but here are some ideas that might be of interest to seniors and those that come to visit:

  • USS Midway Museum – located in San Diego, California;
  • “Jail and Sail: Alcatraz Tour and Twilight Bay Cruise” – cruise from the Pier on the Embarcadero in San Francisco to board the ferry to Alcatraz Island;
  • “Muir Woods, Giant Redwoods and Sausalito Half-Day Trip” – leave from San Francisco and drive to Muir Woods where you can see the giant redwood and sequoia trees, then stop and browse Sausalito. This is a four-hour trip and you can be picked up from some of San Francisco’s central hotels;
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium – located in Monterey, California. This attraction
  • Whale Watching Excursion in Dana Point – a two-hour whale watching trip that leaves from Dana Point, California;
  • San Diego Zoo – located in San Diego, California.
  • La Brea Tar Pits and Museum – located in Los Angeles, California.
  • Glacier Point – located in Yosemite National Park, California.
  • Napa Valley Wine Train with Gourmet Lunch – travel aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train on a restored antique train through Napa Valley to St. Helena while you enjoy a gourmet meal and dessert; and
  • The Gondolas at Heavenly – located in Lake Tahoe, California.

Some places to consider for California Senior living:

  • Seal Beach, California – located in Orange County, California. The population of Seal Beach is estimated to be almost 25,000, of which approximately 38% of residents are age 65 or older. Last year, Seal Beach rated #1 of 688 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in California,” #1 of 668 of the “Best Places to Retire in California,” #1 of 484 of the “Best Suburbs to Buy a House in California,” and #5 of 166 of the “Best Suburbs to Live in Los Angeles Metro.”
  • A majority of the city is home to the Naval Weapons Stations Seal Beach military base. During the month of April is the “Lions Club Pancake Breakfast” and July is when the Fish Fry is held. The Summer Concert series in July and August is popular among seniors, as is the Christmas Parade every December;
  • Laguna Woods, California – located in Orange County, California. The population is estimated to be around 17,000 people of which almost 80% is 65 or older. 90% of the population of Laguna Woods lives in the retirement community of Laguna Woods Village and the median age of this town is 78 years old. Last year, Laguna Woods rated #2 of 668 of the “Best Places to Retire in California,” #14 of 419 of the “Safest Places to Live in California,” and #6 of 199 of the “Safest Suburbs in Los Angeles Metro;”
  • St. Helena, California – located in Napa County, California. The population of St. Helena is estimated to be around 6,100 of which over 19% are seniors 65 years of age or older. Last year, St. Helena rated #17 of 668 of the “Best Places to Retire in California,” and #37 of 419 of the “Safest Places to Live in California;”
  • Indian Wells, California – located in Riverside County, Indian Wells has a population estimated to be around 5,300 with 55.1% of residents age 65 or older. Last year, Indian Wells ranked #4 of 668 of the “Best Places to Retire in California.” The city hosts a world-famous tennis tournament (5th largest in the world) in the Indian Wells Tennis Garden – an enormous tennis stadium that is so large that there is only one other one in the world that is larger. If you are a senior who loves the game of tennis - Indian Wells could be a great retirement choice;
  • Calimesa, California – located in the San Gorgonio Pass in Riverside County, Calimesa has an estimated 8,600 residents of whom almost 30% are senior citizens aged 65 or older. Last year, Calimesa ranked #5 of 668 of the “Best Places to Retire in California,” #88 of 484 of the “Best Suburbs to Buy a House in California,” and #32 of 98 of the “Best Suburbs to Live in San Bernardino Metro;”
  • Belvedere, California – located in Marin County, California. Belvedere has a population of around 2,200 of which approximately 27% are seniors age 65 or older. Last year, Belvedere ranked #8 of 668 of the “Best Places to Retire in California,” #11 of 667 of the “Healthiest Places to Live in California", #8 of 105 of the “Best Suburbs to Live in San Francisco Metro,” #4 of 59 of the “Safest Suburbs in San Francisco Metro,” and #6 of 107 of the “Suburbs with the Best Public Schools in San Francisco Metro;”
  • Lake Wildwood, California – located in Nevada County, California. The population is estimated to be around 5,000 people of which almost 37% are 65 or older. The median age in Lake Wildwood is 58 years old. Last year, Lake Wildwood ranked #14 of 668 of the “Best Places to Retire in California,” and #76 of 667 of the “Healthiest Places to Live in California;”
  • Walnut Creek, California – located in Contra Costa County, California. The population of Walnut Creek is estimated to be around 70,000 with over 26% at least 65 or older. Last year, Walnut Creek ranked #20 of 668 of the “Best Places to Retire in California,” #28 of 59 of the “Safest Suburbs in San Francisco Metro,” and #42 of 107 of the “Best Suburbs to Live in San Francisco Metro;”
  • Gold River, California – located in Sacramento County, California. The population is approximately 8,000 of whom almost 20% are seniors 65 years of age or older. Last year, Gold River ranked #27 of 668 of the “Best Places to Retire in California,” #58 of 688 of the “Best Places to Live in California,” and #3 of 54 of the “Best Suburbs to Live in Sacramento Metro;” and
  • Sonoma, California – located in Sonoma County, California. The population is estimated to be 11,000 with 25% of that population age 65 or older. Last year, Sonoma ranked #31 of 668 of the best places to retire in California.

SeniorGuidance.org provides comprehensive resources on various senior living options, including: assisted living facilities, senior living communities, nursing homes, independent living communities, continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) and all other long term senior care options, including memory care such as Alzheimer's or Dementia.

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