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The state of Tennessee is in the southeastern region of the United States and is bordered by Kentucky and Virginia to the north; North Carolina to the east; Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to the south; and Arkansas and Missouri to the west. Its nickname is “The Volunteer State” and it is a state that is often associated with Country Music and Elvis Presley. The capital is Nashville, but the city of Memphis has a greater population.
East Tennessee is mainly known for high mountains and rugged terrain of the Blue Ridge Mountains – which include the Great Smoky Mountains, the Bald Mountains, the Unicoi Mountains, the Unaka Mountains and Roan Highlands, and the Iron Mountains. Today, much of this area is protected by the Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Middle Tennessee is the area where most Tennesseans reside – 50% live within 600 miles of Nashville – and it includes some of the largest cities in the state, such as Nashville, Clarksville, and Murfreesboro. The historic Natchez Trace ran through this area. West Tennessee is also known as the Gulf Coastal Plain and the state line of Tennessee is the Mississippi River. Memphis is the largest city and the economic center of Western Tennessee. With a population of almost 6.65 million people, Tennessee is the 17th most populated state in the nation with a population density of 157.8 per square mile, ranking 17th in America. With an area of 42,143 square miles, Tennessee is the 36th largest state in the nation. Tennessee has the 24th highest percentage of senior citizens in the country, with approximately 15% of Tennesseans age 65 or older. However, is this beautiful and varied state a smart choice for seniors who are looking to make a move during their older years?
Costs of Assisted Living in Tennessee
The average cost of care in an Assisted Living in America is $3,863 per month. By comparison, the average cost of a month of Assisted Living care in Tennessee is $3,700 – a bit lower than the $3,863 average nationally. Assisted Living care costs vary depending on the location of the facility as well as the level of care of the residents of the facility. For example, Tennessee facilities with a high percentage of dementia residents who are often wanderers will often be more expensive due to the need for a higher staff to resident ratio, specially trained staff, and better security for the facility. Within the state of Tennessee alone, the costs of assisted living facilities vary from $2,775 per month in Jackson to over $4,700 in the Cleveland Area of Tennessee.
Nursing homes are much more expensive to run and the residents in nursing facilities have a much higher level of care, therefore nursing facilities are more expensive for residents. There are also far more regulations and state requirements for nursing facilities and the staff must be much more educated and licensed (Registered Nurses, Licensed Nurses, Certified Nurses’ Aides, Registered Dieticians, and Licensed Nursing Home Administrators.) None of these are required in Assisted Living Facilities except for Nurses’ Aides – although the regulations are expected to increase in Assisted Living Facilities and other health care settings for elderly people.
Adult Day Health Care and Home Health Aides are other options that people use to care for seniors in America. In Tennessee, Adult Day Health Care averages $1,300 per month or close to $15,500 per year. A Home Health Aide in Tennessee costs, on average $3,400 a month, or over $41,000 annually.
The overwhelming majority of elderly people wish to remain in their homes, and sometimes that is the least expensive option even if you are paying for Home Health Aide. However, you must consider that a Home Health Aide is based on a 44-hour-week and does not offer 24-hour care like Assisted Living facilities do. Additionally, while Home Health Aides are important and helpful, they are not licensed nurses, nor are there licensed nurses available if necessary which is something that is available in most Assisted Living Facilities. Home Health Aides usually do not do housekeeping that are part of the monthly payment at Assisted Living Facilities.
In Tennessee, a semi-private room in a nursing facility costs over $69,350 per year, and a private room will cost close to $76,000 annually. By the year 2030, it is estimated that the cost of Assisted Living in Tennessee will be around $54,500 per year – an increase of over $18,000. The cost of Nursing Home Care will increase to approximately $110,000 for a semi-private room and $120,000 for a private room by 2030. Also, as the regulations increase in both nursing homes and in Assisted Living facilities in Tennessee, the prices of care within these facilities will increase as well.
Within Tennessee itself, the costs of Assisted Living Care vary as well, for example, these are the latest approximate costs of a monthly stay in an Assisted Living Facility in Tennessee:
- Jackson, Tennessee - $2,775;
- Chattanooga, Tennessee - $3,193;
- Morristown, Tennesee - 3,430
- Clarksville, Tennessee - $3,469;
- Nashville-Davidson Areas- $3,559;
- Knoxville, Tennessee - $3,674;
- Kingsport, Tennessee - $4,017;
- Johnson City, Tennessee - $4,146;
- Memphis, Tennessee - $4,202;
- Cleveland, Tennessee - $4,728;
- Other areas of Tennesee: $3,703
Pros and Cons of Senior Living in Tennessee
Here are some things to consider for seniors when choosing whether to retire to Tennessee:
- Low Cost of Living – Most retirees' biggest fear is outliving their money, and Tennessee has the 2nd lowest cost of living in America, behind Oklahoma. A good reminder is from Chris Kahn of Bankrate who says “you should not plan as if you’re going on vacation. You should plan as if you’re going to be paying the bills for the next 10, 20 years";
- Weather – Tennessee is one of the sunnier states in the country, with many of the major cities having over 200 sunny days a year. The temperature in Tennessee is moderate for most of the year;
- Taxes – there is no income tax in the state of Tennessee, income from Social Security is not taxed, withdrawals from retirement accounts are not taxed and there is no death or inheritance tax. Tennessee is very tax-friendly to retirees;
- Activities – some cities in Tennessee, Nashville, and Memphis, are known for their music and are great places to hear live music. There are also 54 state parks (covering 132,000 acres) with walking paths and many Civil War battle sites retirees can visit where there are re-enactments throughout the year. There are also public lands under control of the National Park Service.
- High Crime Rate – the rate of violent and property crimes in the Volunteer State are much higher than the national average with Memphis having the nation’s second-highest violent-crime rate. In fact, Tennessee has the 3rd highest crime rate in the country with 608.4 crimes per 100,000 people;
- Air-Quality – according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air quality in Tennessee is worse than the national average, although the water quality is better than the national average.
Financial Information for Tennessee Seniors
Tennessee has an income tax that does not apply to salaries or wages. Income from stocks, bonds and notes receivable are taxed at a flat rate of 6%. However, for a single-filer, the first $1,250 is exempt and for joint-filers the first $2,500 is exempt. Senior citizens over 65, who file singly and who have a total income of less than $37,000 annually or joint-filers with an income less than $68,000 annually are also exempt.
The state sales tax in Tennessee is 7% for most purchases; however, food items are taxed at 5%. Local communities can add up to 2.75% if they desire.
The state of Tennessee does not have a homestead exemption, but there is a property tax relief program that is available to the elderly, disabled, and veterans. Property taxes are based on the actual or potential use of land:
- Residential property – 25%;
- Farm property – 25%;
- Commercial/Industrial property – 40%;
- Public utility property – 55%; and
- Business personal property – 30%.
Tennessee has not had an inheritance tax since 2015 and the estate tax is not imposed on estates of those who died in 2005 or later.
Tennessee is a tax-friendly state for seniors, due to the following:
- Income from Social Security is not taxed;
- Withdrawals from retirement accounts are not taxed;
- Wages are taxed at normal rates, in Tennessee this is 0%;
- Public pension income is not taxed; and
- Private pension income is not taxed.
Tennessee is a lower-price state than the national average. For example, what you could purchase for $100 in Tennessee is what you would expect to spend $110.86 on in another state. In addition, the cost of living is lower in Tennessee than it is in other states with housing being the biggest difference. Out of 100 points, Tennessee came in with a cost of living of 87.60. Tennessee rated lower overall (88), grocery (94.4), transportation (94), health (92), housing (73), utilities (91), and miscellaneous (96.)
Places of Interest for Seniors Living in Tennessee
There are many things that might be of interest for senior citizens in Tennessee State. Some the more interesting things that Tennessee elderly residents can take advantage of include:
- National Civil Rights Museum – Lorraine Motel, located in Memphis, Tennessee. This is the location where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in April 1968. The museum illustrates the American Civil Rights Movement through exhibits, oral histories, and first-hand experiences. The museum is very emotional, engaging and interactive;
- Sam Davis Home and Plantation – located in Smyrna, Tennessee. It is a National Historic Landmark set on 168-acres in Smyrna, Tennessee. It is open from February through December for tours, field trips and other special occasions. Sam Davis is called the Boy Hero of the Confederacy. He was a Confederate Army courier who was captured in November of 1863 and executed due to espionage. He refused to give up the names of any of his contacts and reportedly said “I would rather die a thousand deaths than betray a friend.” Seniors can tour his boyhood home from Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm;
- Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage – located in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the home of President Andrew Jackson and one of the largest and most visited presidential homes in America. It has been named the #1 historic house in the state. The Hermitage is a 1,120-acre estate with over 30 buildings on it and it is a National Historic Landmark. Jackson is known for the “Trail of Tears” which removed Native Americans from their home lands to the West, to Oklahoma. After Jackson’s two terms as President he went back to his Hermitage Plantation in 1837. He married Rachel Donelson Robards (although she was still married at the time.) Oddly, Jackson had three adopted sons – Theodore, an Indian about whom little is known, Andrew Jackson Jr., (the son of Rachel’s brother), and Lyncoya who was a Creek Indian Orphan that Jackson adopted after the Creek War. To say he was an interesting man would be an understatement;
- Ryman Auditorium – located in Nashville, Tennessee – this is one of the most famous concert halls for country music and it still hosts live music events;
- Chattanooga Duck Boat Tour – located in Chattanooga, Tennessee – this is an unusual and educational attraction that is celebrating 20 years. It’s an adventure aboard a restored WWII landing craft that was built for the D-Day invasion. Your tour guide will be an experienced U.S. Coast Guard Licensed Captain and you should dress for comfort. Seniors should call ahead for this attraction;
- Graceland – located in Memphis, Tennessee – a mansion on a 13.8-acre (5.6 ha) estate that belonged to musician Elvis Presley. Senior citizens should not miss this 17,552-square feet mansion with a total of 23 rooms, including eight bedrooms and bathrooms and was purchased by Elvis Presley on March 19, 1957 for $102,500. Elvis died at Graceland on August 16, 1977 and laid in state just inside the foyer. Elvis, his parents Gladys and Vernon, and his grandmother are buried on the property in the Meditation Garden. There is also a memorial gravestone for Elvis’ stillborn twin brother, Jesse. It became the property of Elvis’ daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, in 1993 upon her 25th birthday, but has been open to the public since June 7, 1982. Graceland became listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 7, 1991 and was declared a National Historic Landmark on March 27, 2006. It was the first site related to rock and roll to be entered in to the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the most-visited private homes in America with more than 650,000 visitors a year, only behind the White House.
- Beale Street – located in Memphis, Tennessee – a street in downtown Memphis that runs from the Mississippi River to East Street. In the 1860s, black traveling musicians began performing on Beale Street. Today, the street is known for its Blues Music, food, and many stores. Some of the stores or attractions on Beale Street are: Hard Rock Café, Blues City Café & the Band Box, B.B. King’s Blues Club, Memphis Music, Tater Red’s, The Pig, Beale Street Tap Room, The Black Diamond, Rum Boogie Café, Silky O’Sullivan’s, Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, Beale Street Blues Gifts, Historic Daisy Theatre, The New Daisy Theatre, Wet Willies, and W.C. Handy Historic Home – this is not an exhaustive list. During the first weekend in May the Beale Street Music Festival is held and is the beginning of what is known as “Memphis in May;”
- Racoon Mountain Cavern – located in Chattanooga, Tennessee – less than 10 miles from Downtown Chattanooga where the Raccoon Mountain Caverns are located. Seniors visiting the Cavern can see the cave in its natural state and the 45-minute tour allows people to see the stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, flowstone, rimstone pools, natural bridges, and the natural rare shield formation. Also offered are wild cave spelunking expeditions which allow people to travel deeper into the mountain. The Waterfall Dome is the area's tallest underground, natural flowing waterfall;
- Stones River National Battlefield – located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee – the scene of a Civil War Battle in 1862 in which 81,000 soldiers fought for control of Middle Tennessee. The Stones River National Cemetery is here as well, honoring those who died in the Civil War;
- Dunbar Cave State Park – located in Clarksville, Tennessee – this state Park is situated around Dunbar Cave which is the 280th largest cave complex in the world. In March of 2010, the cave was closed to tours due to bats that were infested with White nose syndrome, but as of August 2015, it was reopened and tours were available again.; and
- Grand Ole Opry – located in Nashville, Tennessee – the Grand Ole Opry is Nashville’s number one attraction and is an American icon. It is one of country music’s greatest attractions and greatest honors with live shows and unforgettable moments happening often - something that seniors living in Tennessee should not miss.
Some cities to consider for Tennessee Senior Living
Here are some cities or towns that have ranked highly in different categories that are helpful to seniors:
- Sweetwater, Tennessee – located in Monroe and McMinn Counties, Tennessee. It is the most populous city it Monroe County. Sweetwater is the home of Craighead Caverns which is where the “Lost Sea” can be found – the world’s largest underground lake. The population is approximately 6,000 with almost 21% seniors age 65 or older. Last year, Sweetwater ranked #10 out of 121 of the “Best Places to Retire in Tennessee,” #63 of 122 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Tennessee,” and #55 of 103 of the “Safest Places to Live in Tennessee;
- East Ridge, Tennessee – located in Hamilton County, Tennessee. East Ridge is bordered by Chattanooga to the north, east, and west, and the Georgia state line to the south. It is part of the Chattanooga, TN-GA Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population of East Ridge is approximately 21,500 of which 19% are senior citizens age 65 or older. Last year, East Ridge ranked #78 out of 121 of the “Best Places to Retire in Tennessee,” #26 of the 121 “Healthiest Places to Live in Tennessee,” and #30 out of 122 of the “Best Places to Live in Tennessee;”
- Germantown, Tennessee – a city in Shelby County, Tennessee. It is a wealthy suburb of Memphis and has no heavy industry in the town. The population of Germantown is around 40,000 with around 16% of the population who are older residents age 65 or older. Last year, Germantown ranked #4 out of 121 of the “Best Places to Retire in Tennessee,” #6 out of 122 of the “Best Places to Live a House in Tennessee,” and #3 of 15 of the “Best Suburbs to Live in Memphis Metro;”
- Red Bank, Tennessee – located in Hamilton County, Tennessee. It is an enclave and is completely surrounded by the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Red Bank has a population of approximately 12,000 around 15.5% of whom are the elderly age 65 or older. Last year, Red Bank ranked #59 out of 121 of the “Best Places to Retire in Tennessee,” and #18 out of 121 of the “Healthiest Places to Live in Tennessee;”
- Signal Mountain, Tennessee – a city located in Hamilton County, Tennessee. Signal Mountain is a suburb of Chattanooga and is located on Walden Ridge, a land mass that is often mistakenly called “Signal Mountain” itself, when in fact Signal Mountain is the name for the part of the Walden Ridge close to the town. The population of Signal Mountain is estimated to be 9,000 of which around 21% are age 65 or older. Last year, Signal Mountain ranked #95 out 121 of the “Best Places to Retire in Tennessee,” #6 out of 122 of the “Best Places to Buy a House in Tennessee” and #11 out of 120 of the “Best Places to Raise a Family in Tennessee;”
- Piperton, Tennessee – located in Fayette County, Tennessee. Beware though, in 2007 Piperton was rated as one of the worst cities for speeding tickets across the USA. The population of Piperton is estimated to be around 1,700 people with approximately 27% who at least 65 years old. Last year, Piperton ranked #1 out of 121 of the “Best Places to Retire in Tennessee,” #3 out of 103 of the “Safest Places to Live in Tennessee,” and #1 out of 15 of the “Safest Suburbs to Live in Memphis Metro;”
- Fayetteville, Tennessee – located in, and the county seat of Lincoln County, Tennessee. There are some famous landmarks in Fayetteville, including the “Old Stone Bridge,” the “Lincoln County Courthouse,” and the “Camp Blount Monument.” Additionally, the Lincoln County Fairgrounds are in the city of Fayetteville. The population of Fayetteville is estimated to be around 7,500 of which almost 26% are 65 years of age or older. Last year, Fayetteville ranked #3 out of 121 of “Best Places to Retire in Tennessee,” #20 of 122 of the “Most Diverse Places to Live in Tennessee,” and #56 out of 122 of the “Best Places to Live in Tennessee;”
- LaFollette, Tennessee (also called La Follette) – a city in Campbell County, Tennessee. It is the principal city of the LaFollette, Tennessee Micropolitan Statistical Area which is a component of the Knoxville-Sevierville-LaFollette Combined Statistical Area. The population of LaFollette, Tennessee is approximately 7,500 residents, with around 21% seniors age 65 or older. Last year, LaFollette ranked #33 of 121 of the “Best Places to Retire in Tennessee,” and #81 out of 103 of the “Safest Places to Live in Tennessee,”
- McMinnville, Tennessee – located in, and the county seat of Warren County, Tennessee. McMinnville is about 35 miles south of Cookeville and 70 miles northwest of Chattanooga. The elevation of McMinnville is 968 feet and it sits along the Eastern Highland Rim near the base of the Cumberland Plateau. The population of McMinnville is approximately 14,000 with 18% of whom are age 65 or older. Last year, McMinnville ranked #12 out of 121 of the “Best Places to Retire in Tennessee,” and #58 out of 103 of the “Safest Places to Live in Tennessee; and
- Elizabethton, Tennessee – located in, and the county seat of Carter County, Tennessee. It is the historical site of the first independent American government (the Watauga Association created in 1772) located west of the Eastern Continental Divide and the original thirteen colonies. It is also the site of the Transylvania Purchase which was a major site during the American Revolutionary War for the Battle of Musgrave Mill in 1780 and the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780. The population of Elizabethton is approximately 14,000 with 21% of that belonging to the senior community age 65 or older. Last year, Elizabethton ranked #6 out of 121 of the “Best Places to Retire in Tennessee,” #41 out of 121 of the “Healthies Places to Live in Tennessee,” and #43 out of 122 of the “Best Places to Live in Tennessee.”