Guide to Independent Living in California

With an average of 258 sunny days each year and a pleasant climate, California is an ideal retirement destination for seniors who enjoy outdoor activities. From museums and theme parks to vibrant cities and laid-back beach towns, California’s diverse regions offer plenty of recreational options. The state is home to more than 39.5 million residents, and almost 15% of the population is made up of seniors aged 65 or above. California is a member of the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. While the higher costs of living and tax rates may deter some lower-income retirees, Social Security income is not taxed, and there are plenty of employment opportunities for seniors who want to continue working.

California has many independent living options for seniors who can live alone unassisted. Independent living communities provide a convenient lifestyle and easy access to medical care and dining options. Communities may offer hospitality services, such as housekeeping and laundry, and often feature diverse on-site amenities. Independent living in California costs $3,413 on average per month although prices vary significantly depending on location and amenities.

This guide covers the cost of independent living across California as well as comparisons with nearby states and other types of residential care. It also contains useful resources for seniors.

How Much Does Independent Living Cost in California?

Note: There currently isn’t authoritative data on the average cost of Independent Living Facilities nationwide, so instead, we use the cost of Assisted Living to estimate it. Since the cost of Independent Living is typically 30-40% lower than the cost of Assisted Living, the numbers below were calculated by subtracting 35% from the cost of Assisted Living as reported in the 2021 Genworth Cost of Care Survey.

The cost of independent living in California is around $3,413 per month, which is higher than the national average of $2,925. Independent living communities are generally more expensive in California than in the neighboring states of Oregon, Nevada and Arizona where respective average fees are $3,279, $2,438 and $2,600.

The Cost of Independent Living in California’s Top Cities

Independent living costs vary significantly across California. At $2,243, Visalia is among the most affordable destinations for independent living. At the opposite end of the scale, Santa Rosa communities have the priciest fees. Seniors there can expect to pay around $4,581 each month. San Francisco and Napa are also on the higher side for independent living costs with monthly averages of $4,107 and $4,095 respectively. In the state capital of Sacramento, independent living runs around $3,396 per month. At $3,413, Los Angeles is on par with the state median, while San Diego is a little more costly at $3,559.

The Cost of Independent Living vs. Other Types of Care

When considering long-term care, it’s important for seniors to understand the various options and their associated costs. Costing around $1,842 per month, adult day health care is the most affordable option for senior care in California. This type of care provides a safe environment with diverse daytime activities that are designed to provide support and companionship while a loved one is at work. The next cheapest care type is independent living, which costs around $3,413 each month followed by assisted living at $5,250.

Seniors who prefer to remain in their own home can choose home health aide or homemaker services, which cost approximately $6,101 per month. The priciest and most care-intensive option is a nursing home where a semiprivate room costs $9,794 on average.

Does Medicare or Medicaid Cover Independent Living in California?

The short answer is no, Medicaid and Medicare do not cover the cost of living in an independent living community. That being said, those who need help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), may be able to take advantage of financial assistance programs in California to partially or fully cover the cost of care in Assisted Living. For more information about financial assistance for those who need help with ADLs, read our guide to Assisted Living in California.

For more information about other ways to make Independent Living more affordable, such as retirement funds, the sale of a home, etc, read the section below.

How to Make Independent Living More Affordable in California

There are several ways seniors can pay for independent living services. Cash and savings are obvious options, but many life insurance policies allow for early cash-outs to free up funds. Long-term care insurance may cover the cost of certain services, such as housekeeping and meals. Senior homeowners may be able to pay for care using a reverse mortgage, which is a loan available to seniors aged 62 or older that uses a home as collateral to establish an equity line of credit. Regular scheduled payouts from annuities provide another possible option to pay for long-term care.

Free Independent Living Resources for Seniors in California

Various government and nonprofit organizations in California offer free and low-cost resources to help seniors with diverse aging-related needs and interests.

Area Agencies on Aging(800) 510-2020There are more than 30 Area Agencies on Aging across California that provide a wide range of support and services for senior citizens aged 60 and above. The centers are valuable sources of information and referrals, and programs include in-home care, nutrition guidance, transportation services, benefits counseling and senior employment training. AAAs also support a wide network of senior centers where older people can enjoy various recreational activities and social events with peers.
California Department of Insurance Senior Information Center(800) 927-4357The Senior Information Center of the CDI seeks to educate seniors to make safe and informed choices related to insurance and provides comprehensive information on avoiding scams.
California State University(857) 304-2087California seniors aged 60 and above can apply for fee waivers for state-supported classes at California State University. Waivers apply to admission, tuition and health services with heavily discounted rates for other fees. The university offers a range of programs across its many statewide campuses.
HandsOn Central California(559) 237-3101Active seniors who are at least 55 years old and live in Central California can benefit from a range of volunteering opportunities via HandsOn Central California. Working in partnership with RSVP, the organization matches volunteers with community projects, such as supporting the police and veterans, helping in animal shelters and schools, emergency preparation and companionship for isolated seniors.
California Department of Veteran Affairs(800) 952-5626Senior men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces can obtain advice, support and assistance from the California Department of Veteran Affairs. Programs include VA claims assistance, advocacy, housing and health care.
AARP California(866) 448-3614A nationwide nonprofit membership organization for the elderly, members in California can join local events, attend free webinars and access information on various senior-focused topics. Members also enjoy an array of discounts on products and services.
California Commission on Aging(916) 419-7591Acting as an advocate for California’s aging population, the California Commission on Aging publishes articles of interest as well as updates on commission meetings.

COVID-19 Rules and Restrictions for California Independent Living Communities

The following rules and guidelines were obtained from, as well as other state-level government sites. Among others, these rules apply to independent living communities and assisted living facilities.

This data has been most recently updated on 2/2/2022, but keep in mind that COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving crisis, so all of the below information can change at any time. For additional questions and up-to-date information, you can contact your loved one’s senior living facility or your local Area Agency on Aging.

Visiting Loved Ones

Can I visit my relative in person if he/she wants emotional support from me?Yes (Conditions Apply)
Can I visit my relative in person for end-of-life compassion care?Yes
Will my loved one be required to self-quarantine after I visit him or her?No (Conditions Apply)
Do I need to wear PPE and/or a cloth mask if I do visit my relative in person?Yes
Are Hairdressers and other non-medical contractors still allowed in senior living facilities?Yes (Conditions Apply)
Does the state recommend or require that senior living facilities assist families with setting up virtual visit alternatives?Yes
Are visitors being screened for elevated temperatures?Yes
Are visitors being asked questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?Yes

Outings and Group Activities

Are residents allowed to leave the facility for non-medical reasons?Yes
Are residents of senior living facilities who leave and return required to self-quarantine?No (Conditions Apply)
Are senior living facilities required to cancel all group outings?Not Available*
Are residents still eating together in the dining hall?Yes (Conditions Apply)
Are facilities still allowed to host group activities within the community?Yes (Conditions Apply)

*NOTE: This information was not available for this state, contact your local area agency on aging or senior living facility for more information.

Safety Measures for Staff & Contractors

Are staff members and contractors being screened for elevated temperatures?Yes
Are staff members and contractors being tested for Coronavirus?Yes
Are staff members and contractors being asked questions about health, travel, and potential virus contact?Yes

Safety Measures for Residents

Are staff members required to regularly screen residents for coronavirus symptoms?Yes
Are residents relied on to screen themselves and self-report potential coronavirus symptoms?No
Are staff members required to take residents’ temperatures?Yes
Are residents being tested for coronavirus?Yes (Conditions Apply)
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