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Florida has traditionally been one of the states that is most popular for senior living, partly due to its warm weather and many different senior living options. But, whether traditional or not, is the “Sunshine State” the best state for senior citizens to retire in?
Services for a senior living in Florida
Florida is a state that has taken a progressive approach to caring for those over 65 as well as those who are disabled. Most of the services that are provided to seniors are done so through the Department of Elder Affairs via 11 Florida Area Agencies on Aging located throughout the state. These AAAs also serve as Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ARDCs) which provide information and assistance to Florida elderly residents about benefits, programs, and services for which they may be eligible. It is part of a national goal to restructure helpful services that are provided to older adults and those who are younger with disabilities. The goal of ARDC is two-fold: to empower seniors and disabled persons so that they have the information to make informed choices and to streamline access to the long-term supportive services.
Most states, Florida included, have realized that it is far less expensive to care for an elderly person in their own homes than it is to care for them in nursing facilities, and that is also where most people would rather be. To try and keep older Floridians in their homes or at least in a community setting, programs are offered in an attempt to help maintain and restore independence for these individuals.
Florida has more than 20 Home and Community-Based Programs and Services (HCBS) for Florida seniors, as well as 18 additional programs and services for the Florida elders.
- Nutrition Programs – there are a number of programs that are designed just to meet the nutritional needs of the 80,00 older Floridians who benefit from community nutrition services. Some of them are:
- Adult Care Food Program (ACFP) – provides meal reimbursements to adult day care centers;
- Congregate Meal and Nutrition Sites – there are almost 425 sites in the state of Florida that serve thousands of meals daily. There is also the home-delivered meal program that most of us know as “Meals on Wheels.”
- Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program – United States Department of Agriculture funds this program and it is growing as funding increases. Currently, it is only available to low-income Florida seniors who reside in Bay, Dixie, Escambia, Alachua, Gadsden, Hernando, Jackson, Lafayette, Gilchrist, Leon, Liberty, Suwannee, Union, Sumter, and Washington counties;
- Nutritional Education for Older Adults – the goal of this program is to teach seniors about healthy eating and to improve and support healthy behaviors;
- Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP) – this program supplements funding for food that is used in meals for seniors;
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – this used to be known as Food Stamps and it provides low-income people and families with financial assistance to purchase healthy foods.
- Protecting the Rights and Safety of the senior population, including:
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman – also known as the LTCOP is a volunteer-based program that is statewide. The goal of this program is to act as advocates for residents in long-term care settings;
- Adult Protective Services – sadly, abuse and neglect of seniors is more common than many of us realize. This program helps prevent the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of older people;
- Emergency Home Energy Assistance for the Elderly Program (EHEAP) – provides assistance to households with low-income during a home energy emergency. To be eligible, Florida seniors need to have a heating or cooling emergency that was documented, one resident must be a senior 60 or older, and must have a gross annual income that is 150% of the federal poverty level or less.
- Silver Alert Program – similar to the “Amber Alert” when a child goes missing, a “Silver Alert” is when a person with Alzheimer’s or a related disorder is driving and becomes lost;
- Disaster Preparedness – gives information and advice on what to do in the event of an emergency as well as keeping all AAAs and service providers have plans in the event of a disaster;
- Elder Helpline – information regarding services and activities can be found here; and
- Public Guardianship – appoints local public guardians to those who don’t have assets or income to afford a private guardian.
- Health and Wellness Programs for Florida Seniors – programs devoted to the health and wellness of seniors in the community and their caregivers:
- Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative – this program provides services for those who are affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementia disorders;
- Community Care for the Elderly (CCE) Programs – provides services in the community that allow seniors who are functionally impaired to live in most independent and cost-effect way possible;
- Communities for a Lifetime (CFAL) – a statewide program handled by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs with the goal of making all communities safe and nurturing places for residents. Included in this program are plans for Housing, Transportation and Mobility, Elder Abuse Prevention, and Health, Wellness, and Falls Prevention.
- Memory Disorder Clinics – there are 15 designated Memory Disorder Clinics that help people with dementia and other memory disorders. They assess, diagnose, and treat to those who have symptoms of dementia as well as train caregivers and respite providers;
- National Family Caregiver Support Program – helps families with specific caregiving circumstances;
- Respite for Elders Living in Everyday Families (RELIEF) – offers in-home respite, including evening and weekend respite;
- Senior Companion Program – volunteers in this program help with transportation, shopping, meal preparation, advocacy, companionship, and respite to frail caregivers;
- Florida Home Care for Elderly (HCE) Program – this program supports care for Florida residents who are 60 and older in family-living arrangements within private homes rather than institutional or nursing home care. To be eligible for this program you must have a caregiver living with you and meet the Institutional Care Program (ICP) limitation; and
- Florida Hospice and End-of-Life care
- Long-term care or community-based options for health care and services:
- Comprehensive Assessment and Review for Long-Term Care Services (CARES) – a pre-admission screening program for people who are applying for nursing home placement. Assessments are performed by a registered nurse or an assessor, which are then reviewed by a doctor or a registered nurse. This tool helps to identify what the long-term care needs of the client is as well as determining what the appropriate level of care is for the client. The CARES assessment is mandated by Federal law for those who are applying for Medicaid for nursing home care or home care, as well as for private-pay clients who are suspected of having an intellectual disability or a mental illness;
- Nursing Home Services – a website run by the Agency for Health Care Administration that can aid in choosing a nursing facility;
- Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid – providing information to seniors about ways to pay for long-term care and services. There are three main components to this:
- Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders (SHINE) – a free program where trained volunteers assist people with questions regarding Medicare, Medicaid, and other health insurance programs;
- BenefitsCheckUp.org – a website from the National Council on Aging which provides a website for low-income seniors to see what programs and services, if any, for which they are eligible; and
- FloridaDiscountDrugCard.com – a program to help lower the cost of prescription medication for residents of Florida.
- Legal, Employment and Miscellaneous Services:
- Senior Legal Services and Senior Legal Helpline – a variety of services are offered on this page by clicking on the above link. There is a Senior Legal Helpline (1-888-895-7873) aides in providing free legal advice to eligible senior Floridians. Additionally, there is a Lawyer Referral Service which can be reached at 1-800-342-8011, which has discount prices for those who are either low-income, aged, disabled, or with HIV/AIDS.
- Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) – a program for those 55 and older who are looking to enter or re-enter the workforce. Must meet the eligibility requirements of 55-years of age or older, unemployed, resident of Florida, poor employment prospects, and low-income; and
- Florida Intergenerational Connections – a program developed by the Florida legislature to bring different generations together so they can learn to work together and appreciate each other.
As you can see by this list, the state of Florida has been extremely pro-active in caring for the growing senior and disabled population. This is not an exhaustive list and if you are looking for other services or information then calling the Florida Area Agency on Aging would be a good place to begin.
Costs of Assisted Living in Florida
As per the Genworth Study on long-term care costs across the United States, the cost for an Assisted Living Facility in Florida averages about $3,045 per month ($36,540 per year), although the cost for care increases depending on the services required. Florida elderly who are suffering from dementia or those who are special care facilities for dementia residents will usually pay higher fees. However, the expense of an Assisted Living Facility in Florida is still much lower than comparable costs of Florida nursing homes, where even a semi-private room costs $89,060 per year on average, and a private room costs over $100,000 ($100,375 to be precise).
Assisted Living in Florida does cost a bit more than Adult Day Health Care, which averages about $16,380 per year. Moreover, Florida assisted living facilities are cheaper than hiring a Home Health Aide, which currently costs $45,188 per year on average, and that is based on a 44-hour workweek. These costs will only continue to rise, as it is projected that by the year 2030, assisted living in Florida will cost $55,270 - an increase of nearly $20,000.
City by city, assisted living costs vary greatly throughout Florida. The costs are as follows:
- Lakeland, FL - $2100 per month
- Miami, FL - $2500 per month
- Sebring, FL - $2719 per month
- Homosassa Springs, FL - $2850 per month
- Deltona, FL - $2923 per month
- Jacksonville, FL - $3025 per month
- Pensacola, FL - $3048 per month
- Punta Gorda, FL - $3050 per month
- Orlando, FL - $3250 per month
- Sebastian, FL - $3300 per month
- Tampa, FL - $3350 per month
- Cape Coral, FL - $3360 per month
- North Port, FL - $3500 per month
- Palm Bay, FL - $3500 per month
- Gainesville, FL - $3534 per month
- Ocala, FL - $3600 per month
- Port St. Lucie, FL - $3600 per month
- Tallahassee, FL - $3740 per month
- Panama City, FL - $3825 per month
- Crestview, FL - $4375 per month
- The Villages, FL - $4763 per month
- Naples, FL - $4835 per month
Helpful Programs to Pay for Assisted Living in Florida
The state of Florida has two Medicaid Waiver programs to help elderly and disabled people with their monthly expenses; however, there are eligibility requirements for both programs. First, let’s discuss Medicaid eligibility requirements in Florida. If you are Florida resident with a low-income who is either disabled or 65 years or older, it is called SSI-related Medicaid (SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income). If you are a resident of Florida who is eligible for SSI, then you are automatically eligible for Medicaid.
There are two waiver programs that will help pay for Assisted Living Services in Florida:
- Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) – this program is for those who are appropriate for placement in a nursing facility but can stay in either their home or the community with services being brought to them. PACE is a unique program because it is paid for by both Medicare and Medicaid and in return is responsible for providing clients with the entire continuum of care. Many of the services are offered via adult day care centers and case management. To be eligible for PACE you must:
- Be 55 or older;
- Reside within the area served by PACE;
- Meet the eligibility requirements determined by the CARES program; and
- Be able to safely reside within the community.
- Statewide Medicaid Managed Long-term Care Program (SMMC LTC) – created by the Florida legislature in 2011, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and Department of Elder Affairs reformed how some Florida residents obtain long-term care from the Medicaid Program. This divided the system into two different programs: The Long-Term Care Managed Care Program and the Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) Program. Eligibility requirements for SMMC LTC are:
- 65-years of age or older and eligible for Medicaid;
- 18-years of age or older and eligible for Medicaid due to a disability;
- Be assessed using the CARES assessment tool to need nursing-home level of care and meet at least one established clinical criteria.
Each of these plans, The Long-Term Care Managed Care Program, and The Managed Medical Assistance Program, has contracted with the ACHA to provide the long-term care services to the Florida elderly. To be eligible, the provider must offer a variety of services, including Adult Companion, Adult Day Care, Assisted Living Facility Services, Homemaker, Hospice, Intermittent and Skilled Nursing, Nursing Facility Care, Physical Care, Occupational Therapy, and Transportation.
Pros and Cons of Senior Living in Florida
Financially, Florida is an average state, both to live in and to retire. On a 100-point scale, Florida comes in overall at 101, with Groceries at 104, Health at 101, Transportation at 104 and Miscellaneous items at 100. Housing, at 98, and Utilities, 97, are both below the national average. Another way to look at it is what the value of $100 is in the state. If you would expect to spend $100 on items somewhere, in Florida those same items would cost you $100.91.
Here are some things to consider when choosing if Florida should be your retirement destination:
- Weather – The state has relatively mild winters, and its nickname is “The Sunshine State. In Tampa for example, there are 101 clear days per year with 66% sun, allowing plenty of good weather for retirees to explore all that Florida offers. The climate of north and central Florida is humid subtropical – meaning it has hot, humid summers and mild to cool winters, where South Florida has a tropical savanna climate – with monthly average temperatures above 64° F. The warm Florida weather allows seniors to engage in outdoor activities throughout the year and is one of the reasons that Florida is such an attractive option for seniors. However, the weather in Florida is not always beautiful. Central Florida is known as the “lightning capital” of the United States due to the high number of lightning strikes - more than anywhere else in the United States, with Florida being #1 on the list. It also has one of the highest average precipitation levels of any state. Florida leads the nation in tornadoes per area, but they don’t often reach the intensity of those in the Midwest. Hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30, and because Florida has such a long coastline, it is the most hurricane-prone state in America.
- Community – elderly Florida residents won’t be without friends for long in Florida. It has the highest percentage (19.06%) of people over the age of 65 than any other state in America.
- Places to retire – Florida has large senior retirement communities all over the state, ranging from active Independent Living Retirement communities with great amenities to Assisted Living, and Nursing Homes;
- Golfing – if you are senior who is golfer then Florida may be your paradise. The state has more golf courses per capita in the nation; and
- Museums and Theaters – Florida has the sixth-most theaters per capita in the United States and the 15th most museums per capita, enough to entertain most seniors.
Florida is the third most populous state in America with a population of nearly 20 million people. It has the highest percentage of seniors - people over the age of 65, with nearly 3 million seniors living in Florida. 21.9% of the population is under 18. It is estimated that Florida is the seventh-fastest growing state in the U.S. Illegal immigrants make up an estimated 5.7% of the population.
Most people live on the West and East Coasts of Florida with the major cities being: Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa/St. Petersburg, and the Miami-Dade areas. Over 75% of the Florida population lives within 10 miles of the coast. English is the primary language in Florida followed by Spanish, French Creole, and French. The Miami metropolitan area is the largest in the state with almost 6 million people, followed by Tampa (2.8 million), Orlando, (2.2 million), and Jacksonville (1.3 million).
Hispanics and Latinos make up a significant part of the population in Florida, particularly in the Miami area, and, as of a few years ago, 57% of those younger than one were minorities. There are vast differences in the racial makeup in the metropolitan area of Miami and the rural areas in the center of the state. The three largest religions in Florida are The Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the United Methodist Church.
Florida is one of seven states that have no taxes on individual wages. However, there is a corporate income tax. It does have a 6% sales tax and counties are permitted to add additional taxes ranging from 0.5% to 1.5%. Therefore, the highest tax can be 7.5% but, on average, it is 6.62% which is the 29th highest in the country. Most products are subject to these taxes; however, most groceries and medicines are exempt.
Florida’s property taxes also depend on which county you reside in, but the average is 1.1%, which is the 19th highest in the country. There are exemptions for certain situations, one of which is for Florida seniors over the age of 65.
Florida is also considered to be a very tax friendly state for seniors, due to the following:
- Income from Social Security is not taxed;
- Withdrawals from retirement accounts are not taxed;
- Currently, there is no estate tax in Florida;
- Wages are taxed at normal rates; and
- Both public and private pension income are not taxed.
Places of Interest for Seniors Living in Florida
Florida has a multitude of activities that may be of interest for older people in the in Sunshine State. Here are some of the top attractions:
- Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum – located in Key West, Florida. This home/museum was home to the famous writer who wrote in this home for ten years. Currently, tours are offered every 15 minutes from nine am to five pm. In addition, the museum is open for weddings and other events for a price and to make a reservation. This home/museum has been recognized as a Natural Historic Landmark, Literary Landmark, and is recognized by the Library of Congress due to the important role it played in U.S. History. Don’t forget when you visit to check out the famous six-toed cats;
- Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex – located in Titusville, Florida. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is unique in the world due to the artifacts that it has. Seniors can see the space shuttle Atlantis, touch a moon rock, tour a spaceflight facility, and meet a veteran NASA astronaut. This attraction opens at 9 am and it is recommended that you arrive early as it is a full-day experience;
- The Dali Museum – located in St. Petersburg, Florida. A museum which is dedicated to celebrating the life and the works of the famous surrealist artist Salvador Dali and features works from throughout his career. There are over 2,100 pieces in the collection, including 96 oil paintings, original drawings, prints, sculptures, and documents. Although the museum is primarily dedicated to the works of Salvador Dali, there have been temporary exhibitions that have included the work of Frida Kahlo, M.C. Escher, da Vinci, Eduardo Chillida, and the relationship between Dali and Duchamp. Some of these are temporary and are subject to change.
- The Ringling – located in Sarasota, Florida. The original house (named Cà d'Zan,) including: an art museum, the Circus Museum and the Tibbals Learning Center, Mable Ringling’s rose garden, the historic Asolo Theater, the gravesite of John and Mable Ringling, and FSU Center for the Performing Arts stands to preserve the legacy of John and Mabel Ringling;
- Discovery Cove – located in Orlando, Florida. Discovery Cove is an interactive attraction where Florida elders can interact with dolphins, feed the tropical birds, see sea otters, and walk on the Grand Reef floor. It’s an attraction that all ages will enjoy and grandchildren will never forget;
- Snorkel with the Manatees – located near Homosassa, Florida. Manatees are docile, slow creatures that have the nickname “sea cows” as they spend most of their day eating plants and moving slowly throughout the water. Unfortunately, the manatee population is declining – mainly due to humans destroying their habitat, and boats hitting the slow-moving creature. Go visit now before these amazing creatures becomes extinct;
- Imaginarium Science Center – located in Ft. Myers, Florida. This attraction has hands on exhibits and a 3D theater so the whole family can enjoy something;
- Castillo de San Marcos – located in St. Augustine, Florida. St. Augustine is the oldest city in America and there are many historical things to see and do within the city itself. However, this is the fort, constructed by the Spanish of tiny seashells, that has stood for over 300 years. In 1702 it was attacked and again in 1740 and surprisingly the seashells have stood the test of time; and
- Walt Disney World – located in Orlando, Florida. There are simply too many things to do in Disney that you can enjoy with your grandchildren. Besides Walt Disney World, EPCOT, and the Animal Kingdom, Disney has expanded with luxury hotels that any family would enjoy.
Some Places to Consider for Florida Senior Living
There are many large cities in Florida to consider when looking for a destination for retiring, but these are some of the smaller cities that have been highly rated for senior living:
- Rockledge, Florida – only a few miles from the beaches on Florida’s East Coast, this town with a population around 25,000 is between Jacksonville and Miami. It has a low violent crime rate, is within an hour drive from the theme parks, only a short drive to lakes, rivers, or the ocean lagoons and is not in one of the many “touristy” areas of the state. Average home prices in Rockledge, FL are less than $190,000 - very affordable. The population is approximately 27,000 of whom around 16.5% are age 65 or over. Last year, Rockledge ranked #57 out of 523 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Florida,” and #53 out of 231 of the “Safest Places to Live in Florida;”
- Dunedin, Florida – north of St. Petersburg and west of Tampa, this town of less than 40,000 has a strong sense of community and a violent crime rate that is much lower than the average nationally - and almost half of Florida’s high rate. It has many small, locally owned shops and restaurants. For bicyclists, this town has a 39-mile Pinellas pedestrian and bike trail that runs right through the center of downtown. Finally, the average home price in Dunedin, FL is $170,000. Senior Citizens make up almost 30% of the population of Dunedin. Last year, Dunedin ranked #80 out of 497 of the “Best Places to Retire in Florida,” #78 out of 346 of the “Best Suburbs to Live in Florida,” and #93 out of 231 of the “Safest Places to Live in Florida;”
- Palm Beach, Florida – this town is an island town of under 10,000 people, although that number increases three-fold during the winter months, and over 50% of the population is age 65 or older. There are excellent schools and exclusive shops both on the island and within a reasonable driving distance. The average price for a house in Palm Beach, FL is $500,000 - so be ready to spend some serious money to live in this area. Last year, Palm Beach ranked #12 out of 231 of the “Safest Places to Live in Florida,” #11 of 57 of the “Safest Suburbs in Florida,” and #73 of 497 of the “Best Places to Retire in Florida;”
- Warm Mineral Springs, Florida – located in Sarasota County, Florida. The town is close to Tampa/St. Petersburg. Warm Mineral Springs is known for a free-flowing artesian spring and the “Warm Mineral Spring Motel” which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The population is approximately 5,100 with almost 73% of the population age 65 or older. Last year, Warm Mineral Springs ranked #1 out of 497 places as the “Best Place to Retire in Florida,” #6 of 523 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Florida,” and #33 of 523 of the “Places with the Best Public Schools in Florida;”
- Cypress Lake, Florida – located in Lee County, Florida, and a different town than Cypress Lakes, Florida. It belongs to the Cape Coral-Fort Myers Metropolitan Statistical Area. Close to both Sanibel Island and Pine Island, almost 40% of the population of approximately 13,000 are seniors aged 65 or older. Last year, Cypress Lake ranked #3 out of 497 of the “Best Places to Retire in Florida,” #100 of 523 of the “Best Places to Live in Florida,” and #106 of 523 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Florida;”
- Englewood, Florida – located in both Charlotte and Sarasota counties, Florida. The population is over 15,000 with 47% aged 65 or older. The median age in Englewood is 63 years old. Last year, Englewood ranked #8 out of 497 of the “Best Places to Retire in Florida,” #31 of 523 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Florida,” and #45 of 523 of the “Best Places to Live in Florida;”
- Pelican Bay – located in Collier County, Florida. It is located on the west side of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico and is part of the area known as “North Naples.” The population of Pelican Bay is approximately 6,500 of whom around 58% are senior citizens age 65 or older. The median home value in Pelican Bay is almost $750,000 so it is not a destination for those who are on a budget. Last year, Pelican Bay ranked #2 out of 497 of the “Healthiest Places to Live in Florida,” #9 out of 497 of the “Best Places to Retire in Florida,” and #94 out of 523 of “Places with the Best Public Schools in Florida;”
- Indian Harbour Beach, Florida – located in Brevard County, Florida. Indian Harbour is is between Indialantic and Satellite Beach. It was the first community in America that is a “NOAA Tsunami Ready community” on the East Coast. Endangered right whales calve off the city’s shoreline and West Indian manatees are often found in the canals and in Banana River. The population of Indian Harbour is approximately 9,000, of which around 25% are elderly residents, age 65 or older. Last year, Indian Harbour ranked #325 of 523 of the “Best Places to Live in Florida,” #160 out of 523 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Florida,” #42 out of 231 of the “Safest Places to Live in Florida,” and #107 out of 497 of the “Best Places to Retire in Florida;”
- Hillsboro Beach, Florida (officially called the Town of Hillsboro Beach) is in Broward County, Florida. Although Hillsboro Beach is a small town, it is part of the Miami metropolitan area which has a population of over five million people. Hillsboro Beach has a population of around 2,000 residents with 51% being age 65 or older. Last year, Hillsboro Beach ranked #1 out of 231 of the “Safest Places to Live in Florida,” #1 out of 157 of the “Safest Suburbs in Florida,” and #4 of 497 of the “Best Places to Retire in Florida;” and
- Estero, Florida – a village located in Lee County, Florida. Estero has an interesting history and was founded by Cyrus Teed who believed in “Koreshan Unity.” The population is a bit less than 20,000, with almost 41% being 65 or older. Last year, Estero ranked #10 out of 497 of the “Best Places to Retire in Florida,” and #95 out of 523 of the “Best Places to Live in Florida.”
- The top 3 counties with the highest percentage of seniors in Florida are:
- Sumter County, FL - 52.9% seniors over the age of 65
- Charlotte County, FL - 37.7% seniors over the age of 65
- Sarasota, FL - 39% of seniors over the age of 65