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Guide to Senior Living in Pennsylvania

A spacious state in the mid-Atlantic region, Pennsylvania is home to major metro areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as well as sprawling rural areas. With such varied residential opportunities, seniors in Pennsylvania can choose an area to call home from many different regions across the state with variable costs of living. Those over the age of 65 make up around 18% of the population of Pennsylvania, or roughly 2.3 million people — a substantial portion of the population. The senior community in Pennsylvania is likely to grow as well; growth of 13.5% was expected from 2010 to 2020.

Despite high costs of living in the major metro areas of Pennsylvania, the cost of assisted living care on a monthly basis is relatively affordable, averaging $3,913. For those who need financial assistance paying this amount each month, however, resources are available across the state to make care more affordable. This guide covers many topics related to senior living in Pennsylvania, including the average cost of care across the state, available resources, and the programs and agencies that can support seniors in need.

The Cost of Senior Living in Pennsylvania

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.

Note: Memory care is typically provided in communities licensed as assisted living facilities, and in general, costs 20-30% more than standard assisted living services. No authoritative cost data is available for this type of care, so we estimated memory care rates by adding 25% to assisted living fees in the Genworth 2021 Cost of Care Survey.

Seniors in Pennsylvania can choose from several long-term care options depending on their needs, preferences and budget. Independent living is the most affordable option at $2,665 since it only includes housing, maintenance and recreational activities. Assisted living facilities that provide 24-hour personal care typically charge $4,100 per month. Rates increase to $5,125 for memory care due to enhanced staffing and additional safety features.

Skilled nursing facilities cost about 2.5 times more than assisted living. According to Genworth Financial’s 2021 Cost of Care Survey, nursing homes in Pennsylvania charge $10,403 per month for a semiprivate room. These facilities provide the most comprehensive level of care available outside a hospital, and median prices reflect this.


Assisted Living


Independent Living


Memory Care


Nursing Home Care (semiprivate room)

The Cost of Assisted Living in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is an affordable location for assisted living. Its average of $4,100 is $400 lower than the U.S. median. Prices are also lower than in neighboring states. Seniors in West Virginia pay about $60 more per month, and rates increase from there. New York’s median is slightly higher than the national average at $4,580. Ohio seniors pay $4,635. Maryland’s prices are $800 higher, and seniors in New Jersey pay almost $6,500 per month, an increase of $2,395. 




The United States




New York


New Jersey




West Virginia

The Cost of Nursing Home Care in Pennsylvania

Nursing home prices in Pennsylvania are almost $2,500 higher than the national average at $10,403 versus $7,908. However, prices are about average for the region. Ohio is the most affordable neighboring state with a median of $7,300, and seniors in Maryland save about $60 per month. Prices in New Jersey are $850 higher at $11,254. West Virginia residents pay $11,619 per month, and seniors in New York pay $12,775 per month, an increase of $2,372 over Pennsylvania. 




The United States




New York


New Jersey




West Virginia

Can You Use Medicaid to Pay for Senior Living in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program, known as Medical Assistance, is available to adults and children who cannot afford the medical care that they need. It’s also a lifeline for seniors who require ongoing medical care and personal support. Seniors who have limited income and assets and spend most of their money on medical care and essential expenses may qualify for help through this program.

Eligibility for long-term care is determined by the applicant’s physical and medical needs. This includes nursing home care and community-based alternatives that are covered by Medicaid waivers. Programs such as Community HealthChoices cover the cost of personal care, meals, therapy, transportation and other supports to help seniors maintain their independence. Services may be provided at home or in a licensed residential care facility. However, if supports are provided in a facility, beneficiaries are still responsible for the cost of room and board.

Unfortunately, Medicaid doesn’t cover the cost of independent living since these communities cater to seniors who are healthy and don’t require help with medications or activities of daily living. Seniors who need help paying for housing or utilities may qualify for other programs offered by the Department of Human Services.

Medicaid Coverage LevelType of Medicaid CoverageEntitlement?* 
Assisted LivingPartialMedicaid WaiversNo
Independent LivingNoneN/AN/A
Memory CarePartialMedicaid WaiversNo
Nursing Home CareFullMedicaidYes

*Note: Entitlement programs mean that everyone who qualifies will receive coverage and be accepted into the programs. If the program is not “entitlement,” then participant caps could be in place, and there may be a waiting list. 

Medicaid’s Coverage of Assisted Living & Memory Care in Pennsylvania

Home and Community-Based Services waivers allow Medicaid beneficiaries to receive personal care services in a residential setting of their choice. These services aren’t usually covered by Medicaid, but the state has received a waiver from the federal government that allows them to offer additional benefits. Pennsylvania has two waivers that may cover assisted living or memory care.

Community HealthChoices (CHC) Waiver

Pennsylvania’s CHC Waiver is available to adults aged 21 or older who are disabled and require a nursing home level of care. This program allows beneficiaries to live in their own home or another community-based setting, such as an assisted living facility or memory care unit. It covers a complete range of services designed to help adults maintain their independence. Here are a few of the items it covers.

  • Personal assistance services
  • Daily living services
  • Assistive technology
  • Emergency response systems
  • Respite care
  • Counseling
  • Delivered meals
  • Transportation
  • Care transitions
  • Home health care
  • Skilled therapy

Seniors who need help with daily activities can contact their Area Agency on Aging or the Office of Long-Term Living Bureau of Participant Operations at (717) 787-8091 to learn more about this waiver. Individuals must apply for Medicaid through COMPASS or their County Assistance Office to be considered for this program. 

Living Independence for the Elderly (LIFE)

LIFE is a long-term care waiver available to adults aged 55 and older who are eligible for Medicaid and Medicare and require a nursing facility level of care. This waiver is based on the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, an integrated care model that’s available in select communities nationwide. With PACE, medical services and long-term care are, including assisted living or skilled nursing, coordinated by a single provider. It also covers these services.

  • Primary care
  • Physical therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Dental
  • Optometry
  • Prescription drugs
  • Diagnostic services

Seniors can call the PA CHC Helpline at (844) 824-3655 or locate a provider in their area to learn more. Services may not be available in all communities.

Medicaid’s Coverage of Nursing Home Care in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s Medical Assistance program covers long-term care facility services for individuals who have medical and financial needs. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid covers two out of three of the state’s 73,000 nursing home residents, or about 48,000 beneficiaries. To qualify, seniors must apply for Medicaid, satisfy income and asset limits and provide documentation from a medical provider. This recommendation will be reviewed by the Department of Human Services to determine which benefits the applicant is eligible to receive. Seniors should contact their County Assistance Office to learn more about the application process.

Eligibility for Medicaid in Pennsylvania

Medicaid is a safety-net program available to low-income families. It also provides benefits to individuals, including seniors and disabled adults, who have considerable medical expenses or health care needs. For 2022, seniors who need long-term care can have up to $2,523 in monthly income, which is approximately three times the limit for regular Medicaid. However, most of these funds must be spent on long-term care. Assets are limited to $2,000, but there are exclusions for certain items. If only one spouse needs assistance, the non-applicant may be entitled to up to $137,400 in assets and part of the household income. A home and a vehicle may also be excluded.

2022 Pennsylvania Medicaid Income Limits

Income Limits*Asset Limits
Single Person$30,276$2,000
Two-Person Household
(Only one applicant) 
$30,276 for applicant$2,000 for applicant
$137,400 for non-applicant
Two-Person Household
(Two applicants) 
$60,552$2,000 per applicant

*per year

Medical Assistance is available to individuals who:

  • Reside in Pennsylvania
  • Are U.S. citizens or legal aliens
  • Need health care or health insurance
  • Have limited income and assets
  • Are disabled or live with a disabled adult

Applying for Medicaid in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania offers several application options for seniors who want to apply for Medical Assistance, long-term care and other benefits. You can apply online quickly and easily using the state’s COMPASS application portal. The Consumer Service Center for Health Care Coverage is available to process phone applications at (866) 550-4355. Alternatively, you can apply for benefits in person at your County Assistance Office. Paper applications can also be mailed to your CAO.

Individuals must complete the Health Care Coverage Application or the Pennsylvania Application for Benefits. Seniors and disabled adults who need help with long-term care, including services provided at home or in the community, must complete the Medical Assistance Financial Eligibility Application for Long-Term Care, Supports, and Services, as well.

Before You Apply

Pennsylvania’s Medical Assistance application asks for a variety of information about you, your household, your finances and your needs. Be prepared to provide the following information as well as supporting documentation.

  • Social Security numbers
  • Household information
  • Health or disability status
  • Long-term care needs
  • Insurance policy numbers
  • Proof of income and assets
  • Tax filing status and deductions
  • Property transfers in the past 5 years 

How to Get Help 

Medicaid benefits in Pennsylvania are administered by the Department of Human Services, so most inquiries should be directed to this agency. For help with specific issues, call one of the helplines listed below. 

 ResourceContactWhat You Should Know
Consumer Service Center for Health Care Coverage(866) 550-4355If you’re ready to apply for Medicaid, you can contact the Customer Service Center to begin your application. Make sure to have the necessary documents ready when you call.
County Assistance OfficesSee Local ListingsIn-person assistance with Medicaid and other benefits offered by the Department of Human Services is available through County Assistance Offices. You can schedule an appointment or mail your application to these local offices.
COMPASS/Benefits Helpline(800) 692-7462COMPASS is a one-stop-shop for help with Medicaid, food stamps, utility bill assistance and long-term care referrals. If you currently receive benefits, you can contact this agency to report changes that may affect your eligibility.
Estate Recovery Program(800) 528-3708Seniors who receive financial assistance through Medicaid may be required to repay the government for these services. The Estate Recovery Program provides more information about these policies, including provisions for surviving spouses.
Bureau of Program Integrity(844) 347-8477The Bureau of Program Integrity is the agency to call if you have questions about Medicaid billing concerns, fraud or waste. Agents at this tip line can document your concerns and investigate the issue.

Can You Use Medicare to Pay for Senior Living in Pennsylvania?

Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted living, independent living, or memory care. Unlike nursing homes, these care types are not considered to be “clinical settings” and so are not eligible for Medicare coverage. That being said, those who live in these communities can still use Medicare to cover the cost of approved medications, doctor visits, medical equipment, etc.

When it comes to nursing home care, it gets much more complicated. Medicare does provide limited coverage for a qualified stay in a nursing home,but there are strict rules and requirements of which you should be aware. This benefit is available to seniors who have been hospitalized for at least three days, excluding the date of discharge.

Once you’ve met the hospitalization requirement, Medicare will pay for up to 100 days in a skilled nursing facility (per benefit period). While the first 20 days are covered in full, there is a daily coinsurance rate that must be paid starting on day 21. After day 100, seniors are responsible for the entire cost.

Medicare CoverageMedicare Coverage DurationCoinsurance Requirement?
Assisted LivingNoneN/AN/A
Independent LivingNoneN/AN/A
Memory CareNoneN/AN/A
Nursing Home CareLimited100 Days Per Benefit PeriodYes – After 20 Days

What Nursing Home Care Services Does Medicare Cover?

Medicare covers a number of specific services, including:

  • Meals
  • A semiprivate room
  • Medications
  • Skilled nursing services
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Audiologist care
  • Medical supplies
  • Medical social services
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Ambulance transportation

What Nursing Home Care Services Aren’t Covered by Medicare?

Medicare does not cover long-term custodial care that addresses seniors’ day-to-day needs. This includes help with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing and using medical equipment.

Medicare Support & Resources in Pennsylvania

Medicare is a complex health insurance system that involves the federal government and private insurers. If you have questions about your coverage or need help managing your benefits, the following agencies can help. 

ResourceContactWhat You Should Know is the government’s official website for all things related to Medicare. It provides a detailed look at the program, eligibility requirements and enrollment options. Personalized help with benefits and billing questions is available over the phone, and the agency’s chat line is open 24/7.
Medicare Cost-Savings Programs(800) 783-7067Paying for Medicare can be challenging for individuals who have limited income or significantly limited needs. Fortunately, the government provides several financial assistance programs. Extra Help covers prescription drug costs and several Medicare Savings Programs are available to help residents with their premiums and copays.
PA MEDI(800) 783-7067Pennsylvania Medicare Education and Decision Insight (PA MEDI) is a free, confidential insurance counseling program sponsored by the state and federal government. It helps new and existing beneficiaries understand all of their Medicare options and select the best plan for their needs.

Are There Other Financial Assistance Options for Senior Living in Pennsylvania?

Depending on your unique situation, there may be other financial assistance options to partially or fully cover the cost of senior living in Pennsylvania. Below, we cover some of the common ways that seniors can make senior living options such as assisted living or memory care more affordable.

How to Get StartedWhat You Should Know
Aid and AttendanceApply online at you are a veteran and you receive a VA pension, you may also be eligible for the Aid and Attendance benefit. This benefit takes the form of a monthly cash allowance that you receive in addition to your standard pension. This benefit is used by veterans who need long-term care services, including care received at an assisted living facility.
Reverse MortgagesResearch and learn about the different types at you own a home, you may be able to use a reverse mortgage to access some of the equity in your home. Like traditional loans, reverse mortgages do need to be repaid with interest, typically within 12 months, so seniors should carefully weigh this option alongside other financing methods.
Long-Term Care (LTC) InsuranceLearn about how to receive LTC insurance benefits at those who currently need assisted living will typically not be eligible, if you purchased an LTC insurance policy in the past, you may be able to use it to help pay for assisted living. While most policies cover at least a portion of the cost, you still need to check the specific terms of your policy.

Free Senior Living Resources for Seniors in Pennsylvania

Seniors in Pennsylvania have access to many free age-related resources sponsored by the state and federal government and local nonprofits. If you have questions about healthy aging, contact the following agencies for assistance. 

ResourceContactWhat You Should Know
Pennsylvania Area Agencies on Aging(717) 541-4214Pennsylvania supports 52 Area Agencies on Aging that serve residents in all 67 counties. These agencies provide free and low-cost services at the local level, including long-term care needs assessments and options counseling. They also offer health and wellness services to help residents maintain their independence. The state’s AAAs serve residents aged 60 and older and adults with disabilities.
Pennsylvania Department of Aging(800) 753-8827The Pennsylvania Department of Aging administers a long list of programs and services that benefit the state’s older adults. Its areas of focus include nutrition, fitness and chronic disease management. It also sponsors the PACE prescription drug assistance program. You can access many of these resources through your Area Agency on Aging.
Center for Advocacy for the Right & Interests of the Elderly(800) 356-3606Based in Philadelphia, CARIE is a statewide nonprofit that’s been serving seniors since 1977. Its flagship service is CARIE LINE, a free telephone hotline that provides one-on-one advice regarding long-term care, housing, health insurance and many other age-related issues. It also employs long-term care ombudsmen and educates seniors about health care fraud and waste through the Senior Medicare Patrol.
Pennsylvania Office of Veterans Affairs(800) 547-2838Part of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, this office works to support the state’s 800,000 veterans and their family members. County service offices can help veterans apply for state and federal benefits. They can also help with health care, medical transportation and long-term care, including placement in one of the state’s six veterans homes.
Senior Community CentersSee Local ListingsPennsylvania has over 500 senior centers located in all counties. In addition to providing social and recreational activities, these centers offer meals and social services. Seniors can also sign up for free health and wellness screenings and tax preparation assistance.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program(717) 783-8975The state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program works to maintain a high standard of care in the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It trains residents to become peer advocates and helps establish resident and family councils. Ombudsmen also accept confidential complaints and investigate quality of care concerns.

COVID-19 Rules for Assisted Living in Pennsylvania

The following information is based on research done on several government websites, including and These rules apply to nursing homes and other types of senior living facilities. We’ve most recently updated this data on 2/13/2022, but since COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving pandemic, contact your local senior living facility or Area Agency on Aging for more specific and up-to-date information.

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
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
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?No
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)

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 (Conditions Apply)
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)

Senior Living Laws and Regulations in Pennsylvania

Note: All these rules typically apply to non-clinical senior living facilities, such as independent living, assisted living, and memory care facilities. Nursing homes and other senior living facilities with a clinical setting may have additional or slightly different requirements and regulations. 

Pennsylvania maintains strict laws and regulations surrounding employment and operations in senior living facilities to keep seniors safe and healthy to the fullest extent possible.

Admissions Policy

Admission to a senior living facility in Pennsylvania necessitates certification by a physician that a high level of care is necessary on a daily basis. Senior living admission can be rescinded if any more critical health issues arise, including ventilator dependency, continuous intravenous fluids or reportable infectious diseases. Residents require a medical evaluation 60 days prior to admission that includes a mobility and daily living assessment.

Some senior living facilities also have a Special Care Unit, or SCU, located on the premises, for example, a memory care unit. Proof of a qualifying impairment is required for residency in these units.

Facility Requirements

All licensed senior living facilities must be well lit with markings, handrails, ramps and any other accessibility devices required for those with physical disabilities. Space for common dining must be available, and individual rooms need to be equipped with:

  • A fully equipped bathroom with sink, tub and toilet
  • Exterior locks on doors unless they pose a safety risk
  • Individual thermostats for both cooling and heating
  • Electrical outlets suitable for a small fridge or microwave
  • Storage space
  • A telephone jack

Medication Management

Medication management can be a big part of caring for those in senior living facilities. A resident who has approval can self-administer medication when appropriate. Medications must be kept stored away from staff. Residents approved to self-medicate can receive reminders from staff when required.

Those who cannot self-administer medication can receive assistance from licensed staff members who are approved to provide medication. All prescriptions must be labeled with residents’ names, dosage instructions and the prescribing doctor.

Memory Care Requirements

To meet memory care requirements, senior living facilities must provide the following:

  • A written mission that reflects goals for care specific to meeting the needs of residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • A description of how a residence’s physical location is designed to support memory care services
  • A description of the kinds of programming available to enrich the experience of residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • A detailed listing of security measures in place
  • A description of the training staff must complete to best care for residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
  • A summary of family involvement and support programs available
  • Assessment strategies for service plans, including how plans will evolve to meet residents’ unique needs

Staffing and Staff Training

Senior living facilities are required to have enough personnel on staff to provide one hour of care daily to all residents and two for those with mobility challenges. A licensed nurse must be on site or on call at all times, and a registered dietician must be available to help with dietary restrictions. The facility or administrator should be on site for at least 36 working hours a week.

Staff must be trained in emergency preparedness, fire safety and at least 18 hours of general training. Annually, 16 additional hours are required. Training records must be available for inspection when requested. Background checks are necessary for all staff, and all results, including any history of criminal actions, must be kept on record.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does assisted living cost in Pennsylvania?

The cost of assisted living programs in Pennsylvania average $3,913 per month, an amount around $100 lower than the national average. However, this price can fluctuate from one area of the state to another. While places like Philadelphia, a large city with a high cost of living, are more expensive, smaller cities, like Erie and Reading, can be far more affordable.

Are there financial assistance programs available for assisted living in Pennsylvania?

Yes, seniors in Pennsylvania can apply for several different financial assistance programs throughout the state. This includes Pennsylvania Medical Assistance, or Medicaid, programs like Non-Money Payment (NMP) and Medically Needy Only (MNO), which can help seniors afford care. In addition, seniors who served in the military may qualify for additional assistance through the Department of Veteran Affairs.

What are “Activities of Daily Living”?

Activities of daily living, also called ADLs, are activities of normal day-to-day life. These can include things like getting out of bed, bathing, getting dressed, eating, using the bathroom and cleaning a residence. Many seniors who live in assisted living facilities require some level of assistance with ADLs.

What is the difference between assisted living and nursing homes?

The primary difference between assisted living and nursing homes involves the level of medical management residents require. While assisted living facilities can handle things like medication administration and basic first aid, more advanced care isn’t available. More serious conditions or illnesses may disqualify seniors from living in assisted living.

Who should consider assisted living?

Assisted living facilities are best for those who need help with activities of daily living on a regular basis but don’t need the heightened level of care necessary for nursing home admission. Assisted living is also a good alternative to an in-home caregiver for those who would prefer to have around-the-clock care.

Learn More About Senior Living in Pennsylvania

For more information about specific types of senior living in Pennsylvania read our Guide to Assisted Living and Independent Living.

The Top Cities for Senior Living in Pennsylvania

Learn more about the cost of senior living in the top Pennsylvania cities. Additionally, find reviews and information about assisted living facilities and other senior living communities across the state

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