Senior Guidance

Wisconsin Senior Living

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There has been an increase in senior population in Wisconsin as well as the numerous new facilities for senior living in the America’s Dairyland. Wisconsin is a large state with a total area of 65,498.37 square miles – the 23rd largest state in The United States of America. The population is almost 6 million people and it is ranked 20th in the nation. With a variety of small towns, rural areas, and big cities, over 15% of this state’s senior population is the age of 65+. Does the recent increase in the senior population mean that Wisconsin a great choice for retirement?

Costs of Assisted Living in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Senior LivingThe cost for Assisted Living Care in Wisconsin state averages almost $3,600 per month, (close to $43,000 a year). The costs vary greatly from city to city - for example, Assisted Living in the Battle Creek, Wisconsin costs $2,500 monthly, while facilities in Midland cost almost $5,000 per month. The costs also may fluctuate from facility to facility for Wisconsin seniors with dementia and Alzheimer's.

The U.S. average cost for Assisted Living is $3,293 per month, and Wisconsin's assisted living is relatively comparable to that, although a bit more expensive at $3,563. Nursing homes in Wisconsin are much more expensive than assisted living facilities - with semi-private rooms costing over $91,000 per year, and a private room carrying a cost of over $98,000 annually.

Adult Day Health Care in Wisconsin averages $1,700 per month or around $21,000 per year. A Home Health Aide in Wisconsin costs, on average $4,000 a month - over $48,000 annually. This is almost $6,000 more than the cost of an Assisted Living Facility in Wisconsin. The cost of a Home Health Aide is based on a 44-hour-week, whereas Assisted Living provides 24-hour care. To receive comparable care at home you would need 3.8 Home Health Aides per week which would cost around $15,200 every month. Home Health Aides usually do not do housekeeping nor do they come with licensed nurses that you find in Assisted Living Facilities. It is estimated that by the year 2030, Assisted Living in Wisconsin will cost almost $65,000 per year – an increase of around $18,000.

Within Wisconsin 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 11 of the top cities in Wisconsin:

  • La Crosse Area, WI - $2,400 per month. This is almost $2,000 less than the cost of a monthly stay in an Assisted Living Facility in Appleton, Wisconsin;
  • Eau Claire, WI - $3,707 per month;
  • Fond du Lanc, WI - $3,550 per month;
  • Janesville, WI - $3,550 per month;
  • Green Bay, WI - $3,588 monthly;
  • Racine, WI - $3,825 monthly;
  • Madison, WI - $3,950 monthly;
  • Sheboygan, WI - $4,150 monthly;
  • Wasua, WI - $4,163 per monthly;
  • Milwaukee, WI - $4,225 monthly
  • OshKosh, WI - $4,350 per month;
  • Appleton, WI - $4,390 per month;

Who pays for Assisted Living Care in Wisconsin?

Generally speaking, Wisconsin Assisted Living care costs are paid for by Wisconsin elderly or their families. The state of Wisconsin has quite a few waiver programs for Home and Community Based Services (HBCS) and Long Term Care Facility Services (LTC) for both older adults and those with disabilities. Elderly clients of these waiver program must have a medical need for long term care services and can choose which programs they wish to participate in, as long as they meet the non-financial as well as the financial medical assistance eligibility requirements.

The state of Wisconsin has quite a few waiver programs for not only those of a certain age, but also for those with disabilities and physical or emotional impairments. We will briefly mention those that are not age-specific, but will spend more time on the programs that have an age requirement.

  • Community Options Program – a program that serves individuals who need long-term care support, regardless of age or type of disability, meet nursing level care criteria, and yet wish to be treated in their homes or in another community-based setting.
  • Community Integration Program – a Medicaid waiver for adults with development disabilities.
  • IRIS – a Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver that allows the individual to self-direct long-term supports. IRIS stands for Include, Respect, I Self-Direct. This program is available to residents of Wisconsin who are financially eligible for Medicaid, in need of care that is typically found in a nursing home, or for those with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/IID) needing an intermediate level of care, and they live in a county (see the map to the left) where managed long-term care and IRIS are available. Those who are eligible can chose IRIS or a managed care program through their local ADRC. Regarding the acronym IRIS:
    • I - Include – Wisconsin’s elderly who are frail, adults with physical disabilities, adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities who have needs that are long-term, are Medicaid eligible, are included in the program and can stay part of their community;
    • R – Respect – those elders who participate can choose their living setting, work, relationships, and involvement and participation in the community;
    • I SELF-DIRECT – in the IRIS program the participant is in charge of Individual Services and their Supports plan within a budget. The client able to design a cost-effective and personal plan.

For more information on IRIS you can follow the previous link or call 1-888-515-4747.

  • Family Care Program – a long-term care program that assists frail older people and those with disabilities in getting services that they need to stay in their residences. The goals of this program are: Access – improve access to services for those Wisconsin residents who need them; Choice (allowing individuals to make choices about services and supports that will enable them to meet their needs); Cost-effectiveness – creating a more cost-effective long-term care system; and Quality – improve the quality of long-term care by concentrating on health and social outcomes;

Programs for Seniors & Senior Living in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has quite a few programs to help seniors so that they can remain in their homes or in the community. In this state, the Wisconsin Aging & Disability Resource Centers (ARDCs) are the place to go for information and assistance by either the ARDCs or with providers that they contract with to provide needed services. There are also Regional Area Agencies on Aging who are there to help those Wisconsin elderly who are aged 60 and over. In the state of Wisconsin there are only three agencies – Dane County Area Agency on Aging, Milwaukee County Area Agency on Aging, and the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources. The other 70 counties as well as the 11 federally recognized Indian Tribes are served by the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources as the agency in charge of oversight and the contract of services. There are also Wisconsin tribal agency offices that service those who are part of the Native-American tribes of Wisconsin.

There are numerous Wisconsin senior services available to older adults who live in the state. They are as follows:

  • Resources for Dementia and Family Caregiving – includes links to local Alzheimer’s Associations, a 24-hour-helpline, and resources for caregivers;
  • Benefits specialists - these specialists help people with questions and issues related to Medicare, Medicaid, FoodShare, and health insurance. There are Disability benefits specialists, Elder benefits specialists, and work incentive benefits specialists.
  • Music and Memory Program – founded after seeing a video on YouTube where a man hears music from his era and how it affects his life. This program now funds over 300 nursing homes to become certified MUSIC & MEMORYSM and provides equipment for over 3,500 residents of nursing homes. The program has expanded to Assisted Living Facilities in Wisconsin and other health care facilities;
  • Adult Protective Services – provides services for Wisconsin elderly adults who are physically and/or mentally impaired.
  • Falls Prevention for Older Adults – a service that provides information regarding injuries caused by unintentional falls as well as the best practices to prevent falls;
  • Nutrition Programs – a program which served almost 1.7 meals to Wisconsin’s elderly and where almost 2.1 million meals were delivered to homebound seniors. Whether the meals are served in a Senior Center or home-based, they are available to all people over the age of 60 regardless of income. No fee is charged; however, donations are accepted and encouraged. Meals must provide 1/3 of the nutritional needs for an aged adult and follow the most recent updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans. There are two components to this program:
    • Community Dining Centers – with almost 515 Senior Dining Center locations in Wisconsin, those who are in need should not have any problems finding a location. Most meals are served Monday-Friday around noon, but times may vary. Some locations require reservations.
    • Home-delivered meals – available to older adults who are homebound or unsafe to leave their houses.
  • Wisconsin Senior Employment Program (WISE) – an employment training program for low-income, unemployed people aged 55 and over. To get assistance with this program contact a Wise Program Coordinator in your area.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • Legal resident of Wisconsin;
  • 55 years of age or older;
  • Unemployed; and
  • Income of no greater than 125% of the federal poverty level.

Pros and Cons of Senior Living in Wisconsin

Here are some things to consider for seniors when choosing where to retire in Wisconsin:

  • Housing Prices – houses in Wisconsin are more affordable than a comparable house in another state. However, Wisconsin has one of the highest state income taxes in the country, the 11th highest personal income tax in the nation;
  • Taxes – Social Security income is not taxed, but pensions are;
  • Recreation and Outdoorsy Activities – the state has four definite seasons and is close to the Great Lakes. It is a popular state for hunters with over 5 million acres of public hunting lands available all year.
  • Natural beauty – Wisconsin has 15,000 inland lakes, two Great Lakes, and over 33,000 miles of streams and rivers within the state. In fact, the state of Wisconsin has 11,188 square miles of water – more than all but Alaska, Michigan, and Florida;
  • Golfing – if golfing is a sport that you enjoy, this state has numerous courses that are ranked highly. The state has several championship courses such as Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run; and
  • Higher Education – this state is known for its many colleges and universities. There are 26 campuses in the University of Wisconsin System – the most famous being the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There is also a 16-campus Wisconsin Technical College System and private colleges and universities including: Beloit College, Carroll University, Carthage College, Concordia University Wisconsin, Edgewood College, Lakeland College, Marquette University, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Ripon College, and many others.

Financial Information for Wisconsin Seniors

Wisconsin has reduced both the tax rate and the number of tax brackets beginning in 2013; however, the income taxes are still under a graduated rate.

The sales tax in Wisconsin is 5%, yet 62 counties have an additional sales tax of 0.5%.

Property taxes for residents of Wisconsin are taxed on the real property tax or the residential property tax. There is no property tax on vehicles, but there is an annual registration fee. The Division of State and Local Finance is responsible for assessing and collecting taxes.

There are two programs to help people with their property taxes: the homestead credit and the Property Tax Deferral Loan Program for senior citizens living in Wisconsin, to help offset the property tax rate. The homestead credit program is a program which helps lessen the impact of property taxes and rent for those with lower incomes. The following groups may receive assistance from the homestead credit program: homestead, farm, household, household income.

The Property Tax Deferral Loan Program is operated by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). They provide loans to qualifying elderly homeowners to assist them in paying for their property taxes.

Wisconsin does not have an Inheritance Tax nor does it have an estate tax. And the state maintains an on-line listing of delinquent taxpayers.

Vacation homes are not eligible for a property tax credit nor are homes used for income property. Those with low-income may be eligible for the home heating credit.

Wisconsin is moderately tax-friendly state for seniors, due to the following:

  • Income from Social Security is not taxed;
  • Withdrawals from retirement accounts are fully taxed;
  • Wages are taxed at normal rates, with the marginal state tax rate at 5.8%;
  • Public pension income is not taxed; and
  • Private pension income is fully taxed.

Wisconsin is a low-price state. For example, what you could purchase for $100 in Wisconsin is what you would expect to spend $107.07 on in another state. The cost of living is lower in Wisconsin overall, at 96.10 out of 100, compared to other states. Housing is the biggest difference at 85, but other categories lower than 100 include groceries at 97.9. Wisconsin rated higher in transportation at 102, utilities 105, health 109 and miscellaneous at 100.

Wisconsin Medicaid eligibility is dependent upon your income, your resources, and other eligibility requirements. There are different categories, but when it comes to the elderly, Wisconsin seniors are eligible when they are at least 65 years old, have blindness and disability. (this group is classified as related to SSI) or have Special Medical Assistance conditions. There are also specific income requires that seniors must meet to qualify.

Places of Interest for Seniors Living in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a state full of diverse geography and, although its official state name is the “Badger State” it is also known as “America’s Dairyland” due to the number of dairy producers in the state. You may be surprised to find out that Wisconsin produces almost a quarter of American cheeses, is second in milk production only to California, and ranks first in the nation for the production of cranberries, ginseng, and snap peas. Tourism is now the state’s 3rd largest major industry.

Additionally, Wisconsin has many schools and universities, both public and private, throughout the state and Wisconsin State University has the 8th largest campus population of any U.S. school. Seven of those schools – Central Wisconsin University, University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin State University, Wisconsin Technological Institute, Oakland University, Wayne State University, and Western Wisconsin University are classified as research institutes by the Carnegie Foundation.

There are many things that might be of interest for senior citizens in Wisconsin State. Some of the more interesting things that seniors may enjoy in Wisconsin include:

  • The House on the Rock – situated between Spring Green, Wisconsin and Dodgeville. It opened in 1959 and is a complex that contains different streets, rooms, shops and gardens designed by Alex Jordan, JR. The “house” is on top of Deer Shelter Rock, which is a combination of rocks of various sizes.

There are exhibits such as “The Streets of Yesterday,” “The Heritage of the Sea, “The Music of Yesterday,” and the world’s biggest indoor carousel.

For the winter, it turns into a Winter/Christmas wonderland.

Additionally, there is a hotel, a golf course, and a spa on-site;

  • Wisconsin Veterans Museum – an educational museum that celebrates the role of Wisconsin citizens in the American military history, past, and present. Hours of operation are: Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 to 4:30 pm and Sunday from 12:00-4:00. Admission is free;
  • Olbrich Botanical Gardens – 16 acres of outdoor gardens. You can see the tropics in the Bolz Conservatory, and the Outdoor Gardens are open daily and are free. Other parts of the Botanical Gardens are open from: April – September 8:00 am-8:00 pm, October – 9:00 am – 6:00 pm, and November-March from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.

The admission price is $2, but it is free to those who are members of the Olbrich Botanical Society. Service Animals are welcome and the Conservatory is wheelchair and stroller accessible.

There is also a tram for those who need assistance getting around the gardens;

  • Rock County Historical Society – located in Janesville, Wisconsin. The mission is to preserve the campus of five historical sites that are north of downtown Janesville which show the history of Janesville and Rock County, Wisconsin.

Venues include: The Lincoln Tallman House (1857); Helen Jeffris Wood Museum Center (1915); Charles Tallman Archives & Research Center (1912); Tallman Carriage House (1857); Wilson King Stone House (1842); and the Frances Willard Schoolhouse (1853.)

You can make an annual gift, become a member, or join the legacy circle. You can also purchase a membership which is $25 for Senior Citizens;

  • The Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts – located in Menomonie, Wisconsin. This theater was built as a memorial for Mabel Tainter and is one of the nicest in the world. The theater offers shows like: “The Crucible,” “The Secret Garden,” “The Mousetrap,” and “The Lake Wobegon Brass Band.”
  • Madeline Island Museum – located on Madeline Island in Lake Superior. It includes the original museum as well as a modern expansion. It is the only building that is still standing from the American Fur Company complex built at La Porte in 1835 – it’s the oldest structure on Madeline Island. You can also see the Old Jail, the Pioneer Barn, Casper Center, Old Sailor’s Home, and the Walkway Gallery.

Members of the Wisconsin Historical Society receive free admission to all 12 historical sites throughout the state of Wisconsin at a price of $55. There is also a Senior Citizen discount for those 65 and over which costs $7;

  • The Basilica of Saint Josaphat – located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is a ministry of the Conventual Franciscans in the Historic Lincoln Village. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm for visits and tours although you should contact them before you plan a visit.
  • Butterfly Gardens of Wisconsin – located North of Appleton in the Town of Center. It is the World’s Largest Butterfly House and Maze and the grounds have a wedding chapel, Butterfly Bridge and Maze and many plants that serve as host plants for Female Butterflies. The cost is $5.25 for those aged 18 and over;
  • Bookworm Gardens – located in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. It is a 35-acre botanical garden that is inspired by Children’s Literature. The Gardens are free to the public, but you can choose to purchase a membership which ranges between $35 and $750; and
  • Harley-Davidson Museum – located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is located on 20 acres in downtown Milwaukee on Monday – Wednesday from 10-8:30, Thursdays from 10 am – 8 pm, and Friday-Wednesday from 10 am – 6 pm. The Museum is handicapped accessible and service dogs are allowed in the Museum. You can purchase tickets online and they do offer a Senior Citizen discount for those over 65+, with the cost being just $14.

Some cities to consider for Wisconsin Senior Living:

  • Menomonie, Wisconsin – located in the western part of the state of Wisconsin. This small college town is home to the University of Wisconsin-Stout as well as a campus of Chippewa Valley Technical College. The total population is a little over 16,000 with a population density of 1,188 people per square mile. 21.7% of the population had someone living with them over the age of 65 and the percentage of elders in Menomonie is around 20%. The county has a major hospital, adult communities, assisted living, nursing homes, RV parks, and group homes. Furthermore, the city offers assistance to seniors in need such as: elder-care facilities, home-based care, meals on wheels, senior center, van services for seniors, and visiting nurses;
  • Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – located in Walworth County near the border of Illinois, Lake Geneva is a resort city that is frequented by Chicagoans and Milwaukee residents. Lake Geneva has a low unemployment rate compared to the national average (4.5% to 5.2%), and the cost of living is 7.70% lower than the national average. On a scale from 1 to 100, the violent crime in Lake Geneva, WI ranks 17, compared to the US average of 41.4; however, the property crime rate (burglary, larceny, arson, and theft of automobiles) is a relatively high 51, while the average in the nation is 43.5. The population is less than 8,000 people with 15% of households having someone who is 65 or older. The percentage of senior citizens is around 15%;
  • Rhinelander, Wisconsin – located in Oneida County, Wisconsin, Rhinelander is the county seat. There are 232 lakes within 15 minutes of the rural area of Rhinelander and it is close to the Nicolet National Forest. There are also two major hospitals – Ministry St. Mary’s and Aspirus Family Clinic. Rhinelander is a town that provides an array of healthcare options to those in the Northwoods with ambulatory, in-home, rehab, and hospice service. The YMCA is located here and there are multiple assisted living facilities. Additionally, there are elder-care facilities, Meals on Wheels, van services for the aged, and in-home care. 19% of Rhinelander citizens are over the age of 65, out of a total population of less than 8,000;
  • Waupuca, Wisconsin - located in the center of the state, Waupuca is the county seat of Waupaca County. The population is less than 7,000 people with a population density of 947 people per square mile. Although the median age is 36 years, over 20% of the population is over the age of 65. Regarding crime, Waupaca rates 36 while the average is 41.4, and property crime in Waupaca is a 50, with the national average being 43.5. There are only 87 physicians per 100,000 while the U.S. average is 210. The air quality is 77 out of 100 (the higher the better), water quality is 60, and the Superfund index – the EPA’s program that is responsible for cleaning up contaminated land – rates very high at 95. The health costs are 113.9 while the national average is 100;
  • Ripon, Wisconsin – located in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. This small town has a population of less than 8,000 people and the percentage of those over the age of 65 is approximately 17.5%. The population density is 1,555.9 people per square mile. Some of the pros of Ripon are: nearby recreation, small-town feel, and diverse economy. The cons are: lack of entertainment, low ethnic diversity, and harsh winters. Violent crime in Ripon rates at 31, below the national average of 41.4, and property crime (burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) rates at 23.8 while the average in the United States 43.5. There are 160 doctors for every 100,000 people in Ripon which is a rather low amount. The air quality – on a 100-point scale with 100 being the best – is 81. The Superfund index is a decent 86 out of 100. The concerning numbers are the water quality – 23 on a 100-point scale, and the health care cost which is 104.8, while the national average is 100;
  • Bayfield, Wisconsin – located in Bayfield County, Wisconsin. It is the main gateway to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. It is close to Madeline Island which is the largest of the Apostle Islands and the only one with private residences. The population is less than 500 with a population density of 566.3 people per square mile, yet almost 27% of the population is 65 or older. It is thought of as a haven for artistic types and the town is described as “lake-living.” The unemployment rate is higher (6.5%) than it is nationally; however recent job growth has been positive. The cost of living in Bayfield, Wisconsin is 4.5% higher than the national average. On a scale from 1-100, violent crime is at 24, far below the U.S. Average and property crime is 57, which is above the average in America. There are 53 doctors for every 100,000 people in Bayfield and, on a scale of 1-100, Bayfield rates as follows:
    • Air Quality – 92 out of 100;
    • Water Quality – 76 out of 100;
    • Superfund Index – 96 out of 100;
    • Health Costs – 113.9 out of 100;
  • Beloit, Wisconsin – located in Rock County, Wisconsin, the city of Beloit is on the state line between Wisconsin and Illinois. This college town has a population of less than 40,000 with approximately 12% over the age of 65. It is the home to Beloit College, a private school with around 1,300 students as well as a campus of Blackhawk Technical College, and National Louis University. Possibly due to the college feel, there are plenty of cultural opportunities, including: The Angel Museum, Beloit Civic Theatre, Beloit International Film Festival, Logan Museum of Anthropology, Rock River Philharmonic, Turtle Creek Chamber Orchestra, and the Wright Museum of Art. It is the only town in Rock Country to have been named an All-America City and was one of Travel + Leisure’s top 20 Greatest American Main Streets. The pros of living in Beloit include: small-town atmosphere, attractive setting, and close proximity to Chicago; the cons are the cold winters, economic cycles, and the arts and culture. The unemployment rate in Beloit is 6.30% - higher than the U.S. average, yet there have been recent increases in the growth of jobs. The cost of living in Beloit is 17.60% which is lower than the U.S. average. The violent crime rate is 31.9 out of 100, with the national average being 31.1, and the property crime is 48.3 compared to the U.S. Average of 38.1. There are 156 doctors per 100,000 people in Beloit – below the U.S. average of 210. Other health factors rate as follows (based on a 100-point scale):
    • Air quality – 62;
    • Water quality – 55;
    • Superfund Index – 79;
    • Health Care Costs – 105.9.

Wisconsin is a beautiful state to retire in, with many things to do and enjoy – especially in the outdoors. You can choose to live in a city, a rural area, or on an island. However, beware of the tax burden as it is very high.

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

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