Washington state has over 1 million residents aged 65 or older. Is “The Evergreen State” an overlooked gem for those searching Washington senior living communities or assisted living facilities during their retirement?
Washington is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. In fact, it is the northern-most state of the contiguous United States, with its northern border roughly following the 49th parallel, although marine boundaries are through the Strait of Georgia, Haro Strait, and Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is west of Idaho, north of Oregon, and on the southern part of the Canadian province of BC. It also has the Pacific Ocean on its eastern coast. The state was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States, and was admitted to the Union in 1889 as the 42nd state. Although the unofficial nickname is “The Evergreen State,” it is most often called “Washington State” to distinguish it from Washington D.C.
Washington state has a population of approximately 7,288,000 which is the 13th highest in the nation, with a total of 71,362 square miles and the population density of 103 people per square (25th in the United States). Washington is the second most populous state on the West Coast as well in the Western United States, only California being greater in population. Washington’s capital is Olympia; however, Seattle is the largest city with a population of over 650,000 residents and almost 60% of Washington state residents live in the Seattle Metropolitan Area.
Washington is also a state with beautiful and diverse geography. The Cascade Mountain Range runs north-south and bisects the state into what residents’ call “Eastern Washington” and “Western Washington.” The Cascade Range also contains several volcanoes, Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams. These are all active volcanoes, and Mount Rainer, the tallest mountain in the state at 14,411 feet, is only 50 miles from Seattle and the biggest threat to the Seattle Metropolitan Area. West of the Cascade Mountains, on the Olympic Peninsula, are the Olympic Mountains. There are deep rainforests located in the Western part of the Washington state. Eastern Washington, on the other hand, is much drier than the western side and includes deserts that lie within the shadow of the Cascades. As one continues east, toward the Washington/Idaho border, the rainfall increases.
Forests cover 52% of the state’s land – usually west of the Cascades – and of that 52% almost 2/3rds is publicly owned including 64% of federal land. Washington has quite a few National Parks, including the “Alta Lake State Park,” “Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area,” and “San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge.” There are also three national parks, the “Olympic National Park,” “North Cascades National Park,” and Mount Rainier National Park.” There are 143 state parks and nine national forests. The state also has over 1,000 dams, including the “Grand Coulee Dam” which is used for numerous purposes.
Costs of Assisted Living in Washington
A month of care in an Assisted Living Facility in the state of Washington costs, on average, $4,500 which is around $900 more than the medium nationwide monthly cost of $3,628. This difference is due, in part, to the cost of living, housing, and health-care costs being higher in Washington than in many other states. Assisted Living facility costs also fluctuate across the state of Washington quite a lot, with the costs of assisted living facilities in the Longview, Washington costing $3,415 while those in the Olympia Area are more expensive at around $5,125. Assisted living costs in Washington may vary within the same city, or even the same facility, depending on the needs of the residents as a group or the level of care that one resident may require. For instance, Alzheimer’s and Dementia care in Washington may be more expensive than when memory care isn’t required.
Adult Day Health Care as well as Home Health Aides are also used to care for Washington senior citizens who need help with daily living. However, fees for both of those senior living options can be quite high – especially for HHAs. A Home Health Aide in Washington, costs, on average, almost $4,400 a month – almost $53,000 per year. Adult Day Care in Washington costs on average $2,320 or almost $28,000 annually.
Nursing Facility Care in Washington is essential when a senior citizen needs 24-hour nursing care. A semi-private room in a Nursing Facility in Washington costs around $9,000 per month – over $107,000 per year, and a private room will cost over $10,000 monthly – over $124,000 annually. Experts project that the costs of Nursing Facility care go up anywhere between 3%-4% in the next five years.
As more people go into retirement and become senior citizens in Washington, the regulations for assisted living facilities and nursing facilities will likely increase. Moreover, the wages will increase as well. In 2030, the estimated cost associated with Assisted Living in Washington will be close to $93,100 per year, and the fees associated with skilled nursing facilities will go up to almost $163,200 for a semi-private room and over $187,000 for a private room (though, luckily, nursing home fees can generally be covered by Medicare/Medicaid). The fees associated with Adult Day Care will be $42,100 and a Home Health Aide cost will go up to almost $80,000 annually.
So, what is the cost of assisted living in Washington? Different areas and facilities in Washington carry different fees. The city-by-city break down of assisted living costs in Washington is as follows:
- Longview, Washington - $3,415;
- Bellingham, Washington - $3,500;
- Walla Walla, Washington - $3,849;
- Spokane Area, Washington - $4,095;
- Mount Vernon Area, Washington - $4,419;
- Seattle Area, Washington - $4,500;
- Bremerton Area, Washington - $4,500;
- Kennewick Area, Washington - $4,500;
- Yakima, Washington - $4,650;
- Wenatchee, Washington - $4,875; and
- Olympia Area, Washington - $5,125;
Pros and Cons of Senior Living in Washington
Here are some important things to consider for seniors when choosing senior living communities or assisted living facilities in Washington, especially for those who are out of state and are thinking about relocating for retirement:
- Cost of Living - Washington has a higher cost of living than most other states, with housing as the biggest factor in the cost of living difference. Out of 100 points, Washington ranked higher than the national average with a cost of living of 120.50. Washington rated higher than the average overall (121) and in the categories of: health (113), groceries (103.8), housing (157), transportation (105), utilities (96), and miscellaneous (103.) Only in the category of utilities (88) did Washington rank lower than the national average.
- Crime Rate – the rate of violent crimes in Washington State is lower than the national average, while it is higher than the average for property crimes. The crime rate for violent crimes is 2.84 and for property crimes it is 34.64, while the United States average is 3.8 for violent crimes and 26 for property crimes. The chances of become a victim of a violent crime in Washington is 1 in 352 and 1 in 29 for property crimes. Washington has a crime rate of 56 crimes per square mile, which is far higher than the national median of 32.85;
- Taxes – Washington is very tax-friendly towards seniors. There are no taxes on retirement income, public or private pension, or on any earned income, but the estate taxes are very high if you have an estate larger than $2 million.
- Unemployment – Washington has an unemployment rate of 5.6% and job growth is 1.98%. Over the next ten years it is predicted that job growth will be over 38%. While the unemployment rate is higher than the average nationally, the recent and future job growth are also greater;
- Health – Washington state has an average of 212 physicians per one hundred thousand residents while the US average is 210. Other health indices that are rated (with 100 being the best): Air quality – 47.5 in Washington, 58.4 nationwide; Water Quality – 48 in Washington, 55 nationwide; Superfund sites – 82.5 in Washington, 86.9 nationwide; and Health Cost – 113.1 in Washington, 100 nationwide; and
- Weather – we are used to thinking of the Pacific Northwest as being rainy, dreary, and cold; yet Washington has less rainfall and snowfall than the United States average and less days of precipitation (although it has fewer sunny days.) The “comfort index” is 74 in this state while the national average is 54.
Places of Interest for Seniors Living in Washington
Washington has many things for senior citizens to do. Here are some ideas of things that senior citizens may enjoy during their retirement in Washington:
- Chihuly Garden and Glass – located in Seattle, Washington. This permanent exhibition has eight galleries inside and an outdoor garden which showcase the work of Dale Chihuly, a premier American glass sculptor who is known around the world. He has exhibits at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Chihuly was born in Washington and this is his most significant series of work.
- Space Needle – located in Seattle, Washington. It is an observation tower that was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. It is one of the tallest structures west of the Mississippi River at 605-feet-high. There is a restaurant at the top which makes a 360° turn every hour.
- Hands On Children’s Museum – located in Olympia, Washington. A great place to bring your grandchildren, the Hands On Museum teaches children through interactive exhibits.
- Mount St. Helens Visitor Center – located in Castle Rock, Washington. This facility of the United States Forest Services provides an overview of the volcanic activity in the Cascade Mountains and the events before and after the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980;
- Wild Horse Monument – also known as “Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies” – located in Ephrata, Washington. The most-seen public artwork in Washington state, this sculpture was created by David Govedare between 1989-1990 near Vantage and Ephrata, Washington. It shows 15 life-size steel horses that look as if they are galloping across the ridge above the Columbia River. The sculpture can be seen from many different locations but is available by foot by using a path from I-90 near Vantage, Washington;
- Admiralty Head Lighthouse – located in Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington. Here, seniors will find a deactivated lighthouse at Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island in Washington. It was the companion light to the Point Wilson Lighthouse, four miles away.
- Hiram M. Chittenden Locks – also known as the Ballard Locks – located in Seattle, Washington. These locks carry more boat traffic than any other in the United States and connect the neighborhoods of Ballard and Magnolia. The locks, and the salmon ladder that is connected to them, are close to the “Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens” and attract more than one million visitors yearly. The locks were added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 14, 1978 and are on the list of the “American Society of Civil Engineers Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks.”
- Union Station – located in Tacoma, Washington. It was built when rail travel was the law of the land in 1911. This building now serves as a courthouse for the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. The copper dome and unique architecture make this building a landmark in the area and a great place for senior citizens to visit;
- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Center Visitor Center – located in Seattle, Washington. This free space is open to the public, where you can see and learn about the work and progress of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a private foundation founded by the Gates’ and the goals are to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty globally, and in America, to expand the opportunities to education and access to technology; and
- LeMay Museum – America’s Car Museum, located in Tacoma, Washington. This is a tourist attraction adjacent to the Tacoma Dome that opened on June 2, 2012 that is known for its 350-car gallery which showcases cars that are important to the auto industry due to their design, speed, technology, and importance to the car culture. The building contains the museum, gift shops, restoration shops, galleries, lecture halls, a banquet room, and a café.
Some cities to consider for Washington Senior Living
Here are some cities or towns that have ranked highly in different categories and are perfect for seniors who are searching for the best senior living communities in Washington state:
- Milton, Washington – a city in both King and Pierce Counties in the state of Washington. The population of Milton, Washington is approximately 7,750 residents, of which around 12% of residents are age 65 or older;
- Port Townsend, Washington – a city in, and the county seat of, Jefferson County, Washington. Port Townsend is also the only incorporated city in Jefferson County. Located at the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula, the city has a beautiful water view and is full of Victorian buildings that remain from the late 19th century heyday of the city. The Port Townsend Historic District is a U.S. Historic Landmark District. The population of Huron is approximately 13,500 residents, of which around 17.9% belong to the 65 or older senior living community;
- Kirkland, Washington – a city in King County, Washington. Kirkland is home to the Seattle Seahawks and the chain Costco had its headquarters there (the Costco brand name is named “Kirkland” after the city, and Google has development office in Kirkland). It was incorporated in 1905, and has grown approximately 12 times its original geographic boundaries – doubling in size during the 1940s and 1950s alone. There are three buildings that are designated at city landmarks, Heritage Hall, the Kirkland’s Women’s Club and the Peter Kirk Building. The population of Kirkland, Washington is estimated at approximately 87,300 residents, of which almost 11% belong to the 65+ senior living community;
- Sequim, Washington – a city located in Clallam County, Washington. Sequim is situated along the Dungeness River near the base of the Olympic Mountains. Although Sequim is close to the wettest temperate rainforests in the United States, it receives around the same amount of rain as Los Angeles, California and has therefore given itself the nickname “Sunny Sequim.” Due to the unique climate, the city and the surrounding area is perfect for the commercial cultivation of lavender, making Sequim the “Lavender Capital of North America” and is rivaled only by the lavender production in France. The area is also known for its Dungeness Crab. The town was officially incorporated on October 31, 1913. Every May, since 1895, the town has held an “Irrigation Festival” which is the longest continuously running festival in the state. Other attractions in Sequim include: the Sequim Lavender Festival Weekend (held the third weekend in July); The “Museum and Arts Center”; “The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge” which is north of the city near the mouth of the Dungeness River and includes the “Dungeness Spit”; a herd of Roosevelt elk which call Sequim home; “Sequim Bay State Park” which is located in Sequim Bay, a four-mile long inlet from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the inlet has become a popular bird watching area; and “The George Washington Inn” which is along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and is a replica of George Washington’s home. The population of Sequim, Washington is estimated to be around 7,000 residents, of which the 65+ senior living community comprises approximately 40.5%. It should be noted that there are over 28,000 residents within Sequim’s zip code of 98382, although most live outside of the city limits in Clallam County. The population has been increasing rapidly in recent years due to the number of retirees moving from all over, especially Puget Sound and California;
- Freeland, Washington – a census-designated place (CDP) on Whidbey Island, Island County, Washington. The town was named based on its origins as a socialist commune in the early 1990s. There are many outdoor recreational activities available for senior citizens including the “Double Bluff State Park,” “South Whidbey Island State Park,” “Freeland Park,” and the Holmes Harbor Golf Course which is an 18-hole, par 64, executive public golf course with a view of Holmes Harbor. The population of Freeland, Washington is approximately 2,100, with approximately 15% of residents that make up the 65+ senior living community;
- Wenatchee, Washington – a city in, and the county seat of, Chelan County, Washington which is in north-central Washington. It is the largest city in Chelan County. Wenatchee is the main city of the Wenatchee-East Wenatchee, Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area which contains a population of more than 110,000 people. The area that is referred to as the “Wenatchee Valley Area” usually means the land between Rocky Reach and Rock Island Dam on both banks of the Columbia River and includes East Wenatchee, Rock Island, and Malaga. Orchards, especially apple orchards, are especially plentiful in this area and Wenatchee is known as the “Apple Capital of the World.” Senior who are art lovers will be pleased to know that Wenatchee is home to many performing arts groups, including: The Performing Arts Center of Wenatchee, Wenatchee Big Band, the Wenatchee Valley Symphony, Wenatchee Valley Appleaires, Columbia Chorale, and the Apollo Club. There are sports and recreational activities available for all ages and all seasons, including a tennis club, an ice arena, Olympic-sized swimming pool, 18-hole and nine-hole golf courses, baseball diamonds, two skateboard parks, and soccer fields. The nearby Columbia river allows for active seniors to take advantage of kayaking, windsurfing, and water-skiing, while whitewater rafting and tubing are activities that are more suited on the Wenatchee River. The nearby mountains allow for snowmobiling and sledding during the winter. There are parks and paved trails throughout the city known as the “Apple Capital Recreational Loop Trail,” which is a ten-mile loop along both banks of the Columbia River and there are plans to expand this trail. There is also the “Wenatchee Youth Circus” which is a live circus, minus the animals, for performers between the ages of 6-18, which travels and performs during the summer months. The population of Wenatchee is approximately 34,000 with approximately 15% of the residents who belong to the senior living community aged 65 or older;
- Yakima, Washington – a city in, and the county seat of, Yakima County, Washington which is about 60 miles southeast Mount Rainier is southcentral Washington state. Yakima is the state’s eleventh largest city population-wise, with the city having population of over 91,000 and the metropolitan area having almost 245,000 residents. Yakima sits in the center of Yakima Valley, which is an agricultural reason known for its apple, wine, and hops production. In fact, the Yakima Valley produces 77% of all hops that are grown in the United States. Yakima is surrounded by bodies of water, the Yakima River which runs through the center of the city, the Columbia River, Lake Keechelus, the Naches River, Lake Aspen, Myron Lake, Rotary (or Freeway) Lake, and the private Bergland Lake. Each year the Yakima Valley Museum holds exhibits that are related to the area’s cultural and natural history as well as other exhibitions periodically. The town also has the “Capitol Theatre,” the “Allied Arts Center,” Seasons Performance Hall,” “Larson Gallery,” and the “Yakima Symphony Orchestra.” Fairs and festivals that are held annually include the “Central Washington State Fair” in September, the “Yakima Folklife Festival” in July, “Fresh Hop Ale Festival” in October, and “A Case of the Blues and All That Jazz” in August. In both 1994 and 2015, Yakima received the “All-America City Award” which is an honor given to ten cities in the United States per year. Yakima, Washington has approximately 94,000 residents, with around 13% of residents who belong to the 65+ senior living community;
- Pullman, Washington – a city in Whitman County, Washington in the southeastern corner of the state. Pullman is the largest city in Whitman County and is in the area known as the Palouse region of the Pacific Northwest. Originally called Three Forks, Pullman is in a fertile agricultural area and is contains many miles of rolling hills which is responsible for producing wheat and legumes. Washington State University is in Pullman as well as the international headquarters of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. Pullman is only eight miles from the Idaho border and the city of Moscow, Idaho where the University of Idaho is located. In 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek chose Pullman as the “Best Place to Raise Kids in Washington” and Moscow, Idaho received the same recognition for the state of Idaho. These cities were chosen based on factors that included affordability, safety, family-friendly, quality of the public high school, and the natural beauty of the area. The population of Pullman, Washington is approximately 33,900 residents, with just 4.7% being age 65 or older;
- San Juan Islands, Washington – a group of small islands (an archipelago) in the northwest corner of the United States between the mainland of the United States and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The San Juan Islands are in San Juan County, Washington and although there are over 400 islands in total, around 135 are named and only four have ferry access – Lopez Island, San Juan Island, Orcas Island, and Shaw Island. San Juan County is the only county in Washington State with no highways and is the smallest county in the state by land area and the fourth-smallest by total area. San Juan County has the highest per capita income in the state of Washington, although Waldron Island with around 100 residents total is one of the poorest parts in the state. The population of the San Juan Islands is approximately 16,500 residents with 19% of residents who are part of the senior living community of 65 years old or older;
- Kingston, Washington – a census-designated place (CDP) in Kitsap County, Washington. Kitsap is found along the shores of Appletree Cove and the Puget Sound and is linked to Edmonds by the Washington State Ferry. Kingston is the economic and social center of the Kitsap Peninsula. The population of Kingston is approximately 1,700 residents with around 15% of the residents who are senior citizens 65 or older.