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Although it has not traditionally been a destination for retirees and senior living, the state of Georgia is a beautiful state with plenty of activities for people of any age. It is also well known for the many historical landmarks and tours that are available in Georgia. But, even with all the activities that are available in this Southeastern state, is Georgia a favorable destination for a senior looking to retire?
Services for a senior living in Georgia
Georgia has a surprisingly well-organized and extensive list of services available for seniors or those with disabilities. Most of these services available for older people in Georgia are coordinated by the Georgia Division of Aging Services, which coordinates with other organizations to provide the services that are needed to help aged Georgians remain in their homes and the communities. The DAS works with the Georgia Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) to administer these services.
Georgia’s Area Agencies on Aging helps older residents of Georgia. These 12 AAAs help provide the following senior services in Georgia:
- Help at Home – including the following services:
- Care Coordination;
- Consumer Help and Direction;
- Chore Services;
- Friendly Visiting;
- Home-Delivered Services;
- Homemaker Services;
- Personal Care/Support Services;
- Respite Care; and
- Nursing services that you would usually find in a nursing facility.
- Nutrition and Wellness services, which include:
- Congregate Meals served at setting such as Senior Centers;
- Counseling and Education on Nutrition;
- Health Promotion and Disease Prevention;
- Home-Delivered Meals;
- Fitness Classes; and
- Recreation for Seniors.
- Caregiver Programs, including:
- Adult Day Programs/Adult Day Health;
- Education and Support for Caregivers;
- Kinship Care;
- Mobile Day Care; and
- Respite/Out-of-Home Respite Care.
- Protecting the Rights and Safety of the senior population, including:
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman;
- Elder Rights and Advocacy;
- Elderly Legal Assistance;
- Adult Protective Services;
- Preventing Abuse of Elders; and
- Community Education.
- Other services, including:
- Aging & Disability Resource Connection (ADRC);
- Alternative Living Services;
- Employment for Seniors;
- Home Repair; and
- Mental Health Counseling.
There is also the Georgia Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC), which is intended to help streamline access to long-term care. It is part of a nationwide goal to restructure services that are provided to older adults and those who are younger with disabilities. The goal of ARDC is two-fold: to empower Georgia seniors and disabled persons so that they have the information to make informed choices and to streamline access to the long-term supportive services. Of the 12 AAA’s in the state of Georgia, there are six that currently have ARDC’s, and the goal is to have Resource Connections in every community where people can find information and assistance on the range of support services options.
The Key Functions of the ARDCs include:
- Awareness and Information: Public Education and Information on Options.
- Access: Eligibility Screening, Private-Pay Services, Assessments, and Medicaid Financial Eligibility.
- Assistance: Options Counseling, Benefits Counseling, Employment Options Counseling, Referral, and Crisis Intervention.
Costs of Assisted Living in Georgia
The average costs for Assisted Living Care in Georgia are about $3,000 per month, (almost $35,000 a year) although. Expenses for this care may be higher for Georgia seniors with dementia or those who are living in Georgia special care facilities for dementia. This is partly because individuals with dementia often require special facilities, specially trained staff, and a higher staff to resident ratio.
Assisted Living in Georgia prices are lower than the national average of $3,293 per month, which follows as Georgia is a state with a lower cost of living than the national average. Assisted living costs in Georgia are still much lower than the price of a Georgia nursing home, where semi-private rooms cost almost $70,000 per year and a private room is approximately $75,000 annually.
The average cost for Adult Day Health Care in Georgia is $1,300 per month which averages around $15,500 per year. A Home Health Aide in Georgia costs, on average $3,500 a month, a little over $41,000 per year, which is about $750 higher than care in an Assisted Living Facility. The cost of a Home Health Aide is based on a 44-hour-week, whereas Assisted Living provides 24-hour care. Furthermore, Home Health Aides usually do not provide all the services that assisted living facilities do, so you could reasonably expect to hire a housekeeper as well at a cost of approximately $41,000 per year (that $41,000 is based on a housekeeper working full-time.) It is estimated that by the year 2030, Assisted Living in Georgia will cost almost $52,000 per year – an increase of around $18,000.
Here are the assisted living costs in Georgia from lowest to highest, city by city:
- Warner Robins, GA - $2100 per month
- Albany, GA - $2110 per month
- Dalton, GA - $2600 per month
- Macon, GA - $2725 per month
- Savannah, GA - $2820 per month
- Valdosta, GA - $2900 per month
- Athens, GA - $3150 per month
- Columbus, GA - $3150 per month
- Atlanta, GA - $3253 per month
- Augusta, GA - $3375 per month
- Gainesville, GA - $3473 per month
- Brunswick, GA - $3603 per month
- Rome, GA - $3945 per month
Who pays for Assisted Living Care in Georgia?
Most Georgia Assisted Living care costs are covered privately by either the senior or their families. Many people mistakenly believe that Medicare will pay for assisted living in Georgia, but this is not the case. Medicaid is the only program that will help pay for assisted living services and you must first qualify for Medicaid in your state. The state of Georgia 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 Georgia:
- Must be an US national citizen, legal alien, or permanent resident to be considered for eligibility;
- Must be a resident of the state of Georgia;
- Must meet the financial requirements, which requires an annual household income (before taxes) below the following:
- Household size of 1 – Maximum Income per year - $29,344;
- Household size of 2 – Maximum Income per year - $39,569;
- Household size of 3 – Maximum Income per year - $49,795; and
- Household of 4 – Maximum Income per year - $60,021.
Waiver Programs available for seniors in Georgia:
- Community Care Service Program (CCSP) – the goal of this waiver is to provide either home or community-based services to older Georgia seniors and/or functionally impaired or disabled persons. It includes: case management, adult day health care, alternative living services, personal care, home-delivered meals, services provided at home, extended home health, respite care and emergency response services. Besides the requirement of Medicaid eligibility, the following must be met for enrollment in the CCSP program:
- Limitations which make performing activities of daily living for seniors or those with disabilities difficult or impossible while living independently; and
- The senior or disabled person must have health needs that can be adequately met within a community setting, as well as within the cost guidelines.
If you, or your loved one, currently has or qualifies for Medicaid, and has an income between $400 to $1,809 per month, then they may be eligible for the CCSP program and be able to live in a licensed personal care home.
There are costs associated with CCSP for which the individual is responsible. As of the beginning of this year, those who use CCSP must pay the personal care home $620/month as well as a cost share which is based on income. The process of enrolling in the CCSP Program can take as little as 2-4 months, and seniors, or disabled persons can move into the care home during the application process.
Please contact DCH Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs at (404) 656-7994 for more information on the CCSP program;
- Service Options Using Resources in a Community Environment (SOURCE) – this program helps provide services in a senior's home or community. Traditionally, these needs resulted in placement in a nursing home. SOURCE is administered by the Georgia Elderly and Disabled 1915c Medicaid Waiver to frail elderly or others who are physically disabled and who meet the Intermediate Nursing Home Level of Care.
An assessment is required to determine both eligibility as well as the level of care that a senior will need.
Pros and Cons of Senior Living in Georgia
Georgia is a relatively inexpensive state, both to live in and to retire.
Here are some things to consider when choosing where to live in Georgia:
- Weather – The state has relatively mild winters and a high number of sunny days every year, allowing retirees to explore all that Georgia has to offer. Most of Georgia has a humid subtropical climate, meaning it has mild winters and hot to extremely hot summers. However, there is a broad range of geographical variety in this state. From the ocean to the mountains in the northwestern part of the state. The winter months in Georgia usually have mild temperatures and little snowfall, whereas the northern and central parts of the state are more likely to be colder, snowier, with icier conditions rather than snow. Due to the mountainous areas in the northern part of the state, the weather there is colder while the southern part of the state, which borders Florida, has hot and humid summers. The mountain areas also are hot during the summer, but the summers are not humid. The state does receive quite a bit of rain throughout the year – ranging from about 45 inches annually in central Georgia to 75 inches in the northeastern part of the state. During hurricane season, Tropical storms can affect the area, but most of the time they do not hit Georgia directly. The state does have a heavier than average tornado season, but they are usually on the lowest part of the tornado scale and do not cause the level of destruction that we think of when we think of tornadoes. The fall months in Georgia are mild, with September and October being the driest months of the year. The first freeze usually occurs during November, except in the northern mountains when it happens in October.
- Taxes – Georgia is very tax friendly for seniors and retirees. Not only is Social Security income not taxed, but the tax exemption is raised for those over the age of 65. Seniors may also qualify for an additional property tax deduction and full-time residents of the state also receive a homestead exemption;
- Places to retire – Georgia has large senior retirement communities all over the state, as well has active retirement communities with great amenities; and
- History and Culture – there are many historic places in Georgia to visit and explore, from the history of the Civil War to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historical Sites – his birth home, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and his final resting place and many others.
The 8th most populated state in America, with an estimated 10.2 million people (last year), Georgia is the 24th largest state with an area of 59,425 square miles. The state density is 165 people per square mile, which is 18th in the country. Georgia has a relatively high number of undocumented immigrants compared to others, rating 6th in the country. It also has a relatively low percentage of senior citizens at 12.8% as of the latest census – the state with the 3rd lowest percentage in America.
The U.S. Census Bureau lists 14 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and four trading areas (Combined Statistical Areas) in the state. The Metropolitan Area of Atlanta-Athens-Clarke County-Sandy Springs (GA-AL) is the most populated in Georgia with almost 6.4 million people – Atlanta having 5.7 million people alone. This area is followed by: Augusta (GA-SC) with almost 600,000; Savannah with 380,000; Columbus (GA-AL) with 314,000; Macon (231,000); and Athens (203,000.)
The top three religious majorities recently have been: Evangelical Protestant (38%); Mainline Protestant (12%); and Historically Black Protestant (17%.) Based on number of adherents, the largest religions are: Southern Baptist Convention – 1.72 million; United Methodist Church – 570,000; and The Roman Catholic Church – 380,000. 18% of the population self-identify as non-religious while 13% identify as “nothing in particular.” English is the primary language in Georgia followed by Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, and French; however, Korean, Vietnamese, French and other languages make up less than 1% of the population each.
The racial composition of Georgia is approximately: 60% White (including White Hispanics); 31% Black; 3% Asian; and 0.3% American Indian or Alaska Native. There is an area of Georgia called the low country which is home to a language known as “Gullah,” (also known as “Sea Island Creole English” and “Geechee”) that is spoken by the Gullah people. The Gullah people – also known as “Geeches” – is an African-American community who live on the Sea Islands of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida.
Georgia imposes a state income tax on seniors and others that ranges from 1% to 6% on your taxable income. Taxable income is lower than a person’s actual income as it includes deductions and exemptions. For example, a married couple with two children and an annual income of $70,000 would have a taxable income of $53,600. Georgia’s income tax is about the national average in the nation.
The state of Georgia has the state lowest statewide sales tax in the nation, but counties can assess their own sales taxes of up to 4% and the city of Atlanta has a city sales tax of 1%. Atlanta is the only city with a separate city sales tax and the total sales taxes in Atlanta are 8%. While most products are subject to the full amount there are exceptions, including some types of groceries and cars, that when purchased anywhere in the state are subjected to a tax of 7% of the market value (not just the purchase price.)
Property taxes are quite low in Georgia, with the state assessing an average tax of 0.94%. Counties can add to this, such as Fulton County, the most populated, where the property tax is 1.16%, but it varies between 0.5% to over 1.35% depending on the county. The state has the 4th highest taxes on alcohol in the country: a 12-ounce-beer is taxed at $1.04.
Tax Benefits for Seniors Living in Georgia
Georgia is considered to be a tax friendly state for seniors, due to the following:
- Income from Social Security is not taxed;
- Withdrawals from retirement accounts are only taxed partially;
- Currently there is no estate tax in Georgia;
- Wages are taxed at normal rates; and
- Both public and private pensions are only partially taxed.
The purchasing power in Georgia is higher than the average the nation. For example, what would cost you $108.70 in Georgia is what you would expect to spend $100 on in another state. The cost of living is lower in Georgia overall than it is in other states in every category except for groceries (which is 1.6% higher). Health, housing, utilities, and miscellaneous are all below the national average.
Places of Interest for Seniors Living in Georgia
Georgia is a state full of history as well as being a state with museums and natural beauty. Here are some ideas for activities for senior citizens to do in the state of Georgia:
- The Georgia Aquarium – located in Atlanta, Georgia. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the world’s largest aquariums with six separate galleries, 70 habitats and 10 million gallons of water. There is even the opportunity to swim and dive with whale sharks and manta rays in the 6.3 million gallon worlds’ largest aquarium habitat. The aquarium is an excellent place for Georgia seniors to go alone or to take visitors;
- The World of Coca-Cola – located in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a museum which pays tribute to the soft drink. You can taste more than 100 different beverages from around the world;
- Stone Mountain – located in Stone Mountain, Georgia. This mountain has a large rock relief on the north side, which is the largest bas-relief in the world. It shows Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee - the three Confederate figures from the Civil War. There are cable cars that seniors can ride to the top of the mountain, enabling them to better see the enormous carving as well as the view from the top;
- The Fox Theatre – located in Atlanta. This theatre in Atlanta has been restored. It was originally built in the 1920s and has a 3,600-pipe organ. It now hosts ballets, movies, and other events;
- Anna Ruby Falls – located near Helen, Georgia. The falls are actually twin waterfalls located near Unicoi State Park and are accessible by a ½ mile paved trail;
- Rock City – located in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. On the top of Lookout Mountain sits Rock City, a natural occurring rock formation from which you can see seven states. There are also gardens with 400 native plant species;
- Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site – located in Atlanta, Georgia. This site contains the home where Martin Luther King, Jr. was born, the church in which he preached, and the memorial site where he is buried;
- Jekyll Island, Georgia – located on Jekyll Island, Brunswick County, Georgia. This is one of Georgia’s Sea Islands. On the island, seniors can see Driftwood Beach, Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Horton House Ruins, the Jekyll Island Museum, the historic Jekyll Wharf, and Faith Chapel;
- The Savannah Historic District – filled with historic areas, this area gets millions of visitors a year to see things like: The First African Baptist Church (the oldest African-American congregation in the U.S.), Temple Mickve Israel (the third-oldest synagogue in the U.S.), the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the U.S. Customhouse, and Rainbow Row (a collection of 13 colorful historic houses that are the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the U.S.); and
- Roosevelt’s Little White House Historic Site – located in Warm Springs, Georgia. This was the personal retreat of Franklin D. Roosevelt that he had built when he was governor of New York for treatment due to his polio. FDR died here in 1945 and it was opened to the public as a museum in 1948.
Some places to consider for Georgia Senior Living
- St. Marys, Georgia – located in Camden County, Georgia. The city is the gateway to the Cumberland Island National Seashore. The population is approximately 18,000 of which around 5% are age 65 or older. Last year, St. Marys ranked #52 of 236 of the “Best Places to Retire in Georgia,” and #41 of 144 of the “Best Suburbs to Buy a House in Georgia,”
- Greensboro, Georgia – located in, and the county seat of Greene County, Georgia. Greensboro is a rural town near the second largest lake in the state, Lake Oconee. Located near luxury resorts, golf courses, and lakeside developments. The population of Greensboro is around 3,500 of which approximately 14.5% are age 65 or older;
- Athens, Georgia – located in Clarke County, Georgia. Athens is known for being home to the University of Georgia. This town is also known for being one of the most vibrant communities in the country with students, artists and retirees making up much of the population. The population is approximately 123,000 residents, with 8% being age 65 or older. Last year, Athens ranked #46 of 208 of the “Safest Cities in America,” #115 of 223 of the “Best Cities to Retire in America,” and #112 of 223 of the “Cities with the Lowest Cost of Living in America;”
- Cartersville, Georgia – located in Barlow County, Georgia. There are quite a few interesting attractions is Cartersville, Georgia including: The Booth Western Art Museum, The Elowah Indian Mounds, Tellus Science Museum, and Rose Lawn house museum. The population of Cartersville is approximately 20,500, of whom around 14.4% are age 65 or older. Last year, Cartersville ranked #9 of 236 of the “Best Places to Retire in Georgia,” #22 of 241 “Best Places to Raise a Family in Georgia,” #37 of 143 of “Best Suburbs to Live in Atlanta Metro,” and #22 of 143 of the “Best Suburbs to Raise a Family in Atlanta Metro;”
- Cumming, Georgia – located in Forsyth County, Georgia. The “City of Cumming” is the only incorporated area in Forsyth County and is infamous for its name and racist history. In 1912, the governor of the state sent the state militia to Cumming to prevent rioting after several rapes of white women allegedly perpetrated by African-Americans. As a result, black citizens were virtually eliminated from the community. In 1987, Cumming made history again when “The Oprah Winfrey Show” held a taping there in which people were still against the segregation of the town. Last year, Cumming rated #5 of 236 of the “Best Places to Retire in Georgia,” #4 of 241 of the “Places with the Best Public Schools in Georgia,” and #32 of 143 of the “Best Suburbs to Live in Atlanta Metro;”
- Hiram, Georgia – located in Paulding County. Hiram has been experiencing a forceful growth of population since the year 2001. Hiram is home to the Silver Comet Trail, Ben Hill Strickland Park, and Hiram Ruritan, a private recreation center with fields. The population of Hiram is around 4,000 with approximately 7.5% being senior citizens 65 years of age or older. Last year, Hiram ranked #8 of 236 of the “Best Places to Retire in Georgia,” #40 of 117 of the “Safest Places to Live in Georgia,” and #31 of 68 of the “Safest Suburbs of Atlanta Metro;”
- Folkston, Georgia – largest city, and county seat of Charlton County, Georgia. Charlton County is located on the state border of Georgia and Florida. Folkston was the self-proclaimed “Marriage Capital of the World” due to Floridians who were unwilling to wait for Florida’s waiting period for marriage. Folkston, Georgia has a population of approximately 5,300 of which greater than 15% of the population are 65 years of age or older;
- Evans, Georgia – located in Columbia County, Georgia. Evans is a suburb of Augusta, Georgia and the population is around 30,000. Of those 30,000 approximately 11% are elderly residents 65 or older. Last year, Evans ranked #13 out of 236 of the “Best Places to Retire in Georgia,” #15 of 241 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Georgia,” and #32 of 241 of the “Best Places to Live in Georgia;”
- Martinez, Georgia – located in Columbia County, Georgia. The town is named for a wealthy man from Cuba who had a plantation in the County. The home, barn, and water tower from his “El Cordero Ranch” still stand today. The population of Martinez is around 36,000 of which around 7% are age 65 or older. Last year, Martinez ranked #12 of 236 of the “Best Places to Retire in Georgia,” #19 of 241 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Georgia,” and #29 of 241 of the “Best Places to Live in Georgia;” and
- Skidaway Island, Georgia – located in Chatham County, Georgia. Skidaway Island is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the nation and well known for waterfront properties and golf courses. The island is home to the “Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.” The population is approximately 9,000 residents of which nearly 40% are age 65 or older. Last year, Skidaway Island ranked #7 of 236 of the “Best Places to Retire in Georgia” and #139 of 231 of the “Healthiest Places to Live in Georgia.”