The uncertain realities of the future of retirement living


Hacienda at the River, alongside other assisted living centers, are constantly growing here in Arizona. Carly Rashoff / Arizona Sonora News

The amount of retirement facilities in Arizona are growing due to the increasing demand of aging seniors  in Arizona.

Retirement facilities can be costly and pose a financial burden on the individual trying to get the appropriate care. According to the, the national average cost for assisted leaving is approximately $3,600 a month. However, patients who have Alzheimer’s or dementia can pay up to $4,800 a month.

In the U.S. in 2014, 46.2 million people were 65 years or older. By 2060, there will be about 98 million, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The demand for assisted living will skyrocket.

James Knickman, author of “The 2030 Problem: Caring for Aging Baby Boomers” analyzes how by 2030, the Baby Boomer generation will be 66 to 84 and number about 61 million.

“Long term care is an expensive item that most middle-class families are not prepared to pay,” said Knickman.  A large number of seniors are not insured, posing a nationwide problem as to who will care for them and at what cosyt.

Medicaid and government insurance programs will help out financially with people but will it be enough? Is the millennial generation ready to pay senior care?

Dr. Andrew Scharlach, a professor of aging at UC Berkeley, has published more than 75 articles on the issue. Scharlach believes  that economic, environmental and technological forces come into play when looking at this generation.

“There is a tremendous need for looking at how to make the physical environments more conclusive to aging and the need for assisted living facilities are largely driven by the adequacy of our existing neighborhoods and good places to age,” said Scharlach.

With the increase of people moving into assisted living care, he believes there needs to be research on why people choose to live in certain areas and where they feel comfortable.

According to, using public data from the U.S. government, senior couples bringing home $42,000 per year from Social Security will need $18,000 more per year to cover their expenses.

“There are people who can afford to live in assisted living facilities, people who can afford to live at home and can pay for the support, and then you have a lot of folks who can’t afford to move, but also can’t afford to get the care they need,” said Scharlach.

New technological advances can be a vital part to the future of assisted living nationwide. “As telemedicine, robots, social networking, community networking, and self driving machines become more prevalent, there could be less of a demand in the future for age segregated facilities,” said Scharlach.

Entrepreneurs are seeing potential in providing the services seniors will need.

Watermark Retirement Communities manages 39 retirement communities is headquartered in Tucson. The Fountains at La Cholla is owned by Watermark Retirement Communities in Tucson and has 414 total residencies. The average rate for assisted living in this community is $3,580 per month.

Rich Howell, managing director of operations at Watermark, acknowledges that Tucson is a good market to retire and it will continue to be.

“We ourselves are a growing company and growing more places. It is a balance between insuring that the feasibility exists now for when that age range comes in. So you have to get the timing just right. Can’t build buildings and let them sit,” said Howell.

Acknowledging the changes within senior living is a progressive movement that Tucson is taking seriously.  “We do a market study and we see what the demand is currently and see what the projected demand is over time,” said Howell.

Watermark Retirement Communities is assessing these higher demands.“In Tucson specifically we have one community opening and operating, one just about to open and two starting construction, it is a good market already and it will continue to be,” said Howell. “It is a good place to be a retiree.”

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