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Independent Living in North Carolina

From big cities with world-class dining and entertainment to breath-taking mountain views and miles of pristine sandy beaches, North Carolina offers an outstanding backdrop for retirement living. It’s home to several large universities, including Duke University and North Carolina State University, providing an energetic environment for sports lovers, and sprawling shopping malls, such as Concord MillsCrabtree Valley Mall and Belgate Shopping Center, feature seemingly endless dining, shopping and entertainment opportunities. Nearly 10.5 million people live in North Carolina, about 17% of whom are aged 65 and over. A low cost of livingpleasant climate and outdoor amenities make the state a prime retirement option. 

Independent living is among the fastest-growing retirement options for active seniors. It’s ideal for older adults who don’t need personal care or medical services but want to enjoy a low-maintenance lifestyle. These communities offer a range of living options from studio apartments to spacious two-bedroom cottages with enough room to entertain guests. Residents enjoy amenities, such as housekeeping and linen services, transportation for events and appointments, scheduled social activities and meals and dining. On average, this retirement option is affordable in North Carolina, coming in below the national average at $2,470 per month. 

This guide provides more information on the cost of independent living in North Carolina, options for paying for expenses and statewide resources that help older adults maintain their comfort and quality of life. 

The Cost of Independent Living in North Carolina

When trying to decide how to pay for independent living, one of the first questions that comes up is "How much does it cost?" With the impact of inflation, it's more important than ever to have up-to-date information when making a financial plan for senior living. To help shed light on real senior living prices, has compiled proprietary cost data from its network of over 75,000 senior living providers to offer insight into the average cost of independent living in North Carolina and its 24 cities.

The Cost of Independent Living in North Carolina's Top Cities

Certain cities in North Carolina had much higher independent living rates than others in 2023. Oxford, a little town in north-central North Carolina, had one of the lowest costs at $1,900 monthly. Larger cities like Wilmington and Raleigh had higher rates of $2,876 and $3,425, respectively. Asheville, a popular city in western North Carolina, had one of the highest averages at $4,078, more than $1,000 higher than the state average.

North Carolina










Inflation's Impact on the Cost of Independent Living in North Carolina

Record-high inflation rates have impacted every aspect of senior communities, including independent living communities, but higher costs are hitting some parts of the country harder than others. Overall, the United States saw an average increase in independent living costs of about 5.2% between 2022 and 2023. However, North Carolina only saw an increase of 4.2%.

Other parts of the southeastern U.S. also fared well, including Virginia, with an increase of 4.4%. Kentucky and Tennessee actually saw rates fall by 3.6% and 15.8%, respectively. However, South Carolina has seen a significant increase of 17.3%.

Location2022 Cost (Historical)2023 Cost (Current)2024 Cost (Estimated)
North Carolina$2,932$3,054$3,505
U.S. Average$2,810$2,955$3,162
South Carolina$2,578$3,023$3,106

The Costs of Other Types of Senior Living

When comparing senior living options, older adults have many choices. While pricing and budget are primary concerns, other factors affect the decision. Independent living costs $3,054 in North Carolina and offers an affordable option for active seniors who can safely manage their personal care needs. Assisted living is considerably pricier at $4,828, but provides the extra support some seniors need. For adults with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia needing round-the-clock specialized supervision, memory care may be the right option and averages $5,905 in North Carolina.

Assisted Living


Memory Care


Independent Living


Can You Use Medicare or Medicaid to Pay for Independent Living in North Carolina?

Unfortunately, you cannot use Medicaid and Medicare to help pay the monthly fee for residing in an Independent Living community. For seniors who need help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), there may be financial assistance programs available to help cover the cost of care in Independent Living. For more information about financial assistance for those who need a higher level of care, read our guide to Assisted Living in North Carolina.

Read on for more information about using alternative means to make Independent Living more affordable, such as retirement funds, the sale of a home, etc.

Paying for Independent Living in North Carolina

Determining how to pay for independent living over the long term requires a careful assessment of assets and income opportunities. Because independent living doesn’t include personal care or medical services, seniors can’t use Medicare to cover related expenses. However, long-term care insurance and Medicaid may cover some independent living fees, such as transportation, meal preparation and chore and errand services, although they generally don’t cover rent or buy-in expenses. For some, selling their home and using the proceeds to cover expenses is the most effective way for older adults to maintain their standard of living. Those who want to keep their home may rent it out and use rental income to pay for the home’s upkeep and their own living expenses. Reverse mortgages, which enable homeowners to borrow against their home’s equity, may also be a funding option.   

Free and Low-Cost Resources for Seniors in North Carolina

There are many resources in North Carolina that assist seniors in their retirement. has compiled information on local organizations, programs and agencies and categorized them into care types for easy reference.


Area Agency on Aging

Retirees can find support and advice on various senior-related issues from their local Area Agency on Aging. The agency provides advice on topics such as financial assistance programs, in-home care and long-term care planning. It also connects seniors and caregivers with community-based resources.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Area Agencies on AgingThere are 16 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) in North Carolina. Their primary responsibilities typically fall within five categories: program and resource development, advocacy, information brokerage, planning and funds administration quality assurance. Contact information for each AAA location, along with the names of the respective counties they serve, is available on the NC Department of Health and Human Services website.

Cash Assistance Programs

Cash assistance programs in North Carolina provide financial support to help low-income retirees remain in their own homes for as long as possible. Seniors and caregivers can apply for tax rebates and reductions, discounts on vital services and help covering the cost of heating and cooling their home.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Lifeline Program800-234-9473The LifeLine Program offers a discount on landline or mobile telephone service, ensuring that participants can stay in contact with loved ones.

Financial Assistance for Senior Care and Senior Living

Whether living in their own home or in a senior living community, North Carolina seniors can find financial assistance from numerous local resources. These organizations help residents cover some of the costs associated with in-home or long-term care and connect them with other helpful community-based resources.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Money Follows the Person855-761-9030Although it's not one of North Carolina's Medicaid waivers, the Money Follows the Person program is typically used in conjunction with waiver services. It enables those who are living in institutional facilities to move back home or into a community setting to receive supportive services via waiver programs. Participants receive priority access to home- and community-based services, as well as extra funding, to enable a successful transition.

Food Assistance Programs

Local organizations help ensure elderly citizens have a balanced diet and receive essential vitamins and minerals to remain healthy. Through nutrition programs, congregate meals, home-delivered meals and food pantries, these programs help North Carolina seniors afford the nutritious food they need.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Congregate Nutrition SitesNutrition sites provide hot meals to seniors in a communal setting. Generally served at lunchtime, meals contain one-third of an adult's daily recommended nutrition. Congregate dining often takes place within senior centers, where older adults can also join an array of enrichment and social activities.
North Carolina Meals on WheelsNorth Carolina Meals on Wheels provides seniors across the state with nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks. This food assistance program is open to older adults ages 60+. Those mobile enough can enjoy healthy meals in a congregate setting at their local senior center, while those with qualifying mobility issues may receive home delivery. Meals are provided on a sliding-scale basis, ranging from no price to full cost depending on personal circumstances.
North Carolina Seniors Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)800-662-7030The North Carolina Seniors Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is open to older adults residing in one of the 45 counties in which the program is active. They must also fall within the current year's specified low income level. Coupons are issued to eligible participants to use at local farmer's markets for buying fruits and vegetables. The coupons are not valid on additional items at farmer's markets, such as jams, honey or baked goods.

Free Used Medical Equipment

Due to the high cost of purchasing new medical equipment, several organizations in North Carolina collect lightly used medical devices such as wheelchairs, ramps and walkers and distribute them to local seniors and residents in need.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Assistive Technology ProgramThe North Carolina Assistive Technology Program operates statewide, with centers in Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Greenville, Sanford, Wilmington, Sylva, Morganton and Winston-Salem. Individuals can borrow diverse equipment for testing purposes, with loans typically available for a few months.

Health Insurance & Prescription Drug Coverage for Seniors

North Carolina seniors who meet certain income criteria can apply to local resources to help them pay for prescription drugs. Eligible residents can also receive assistance through health insurance and other programs to access free or discounted medical services.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Drug CardThe free North Carolina Drug Card is the statewide prescription assistance program. Available to all residents of North Carolina, it provides significant discounts on the cost of prescription medications at participating outlets.

Home Repair and Modifications

Seniors and those with disabilities can access a variety of local resources to help them pay for home repairs and modifications. Programs in North Carolina have different eligibility criteria and often assist retirees by providing grants or loans.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Section 504 Home Repair ProgramAdministered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Section 504 Home Repair Program gives grants and loans to low-income homeowners. Older adults who live in certain areas may be eligible for a grant of up to $10,000 to make their property safe.
North Carolina Weatherization Assistance ProgramThe Weatherization Assistance Program is available to low-income households across North Carolina, with a priority given to seniors and other vulnerable individuals. Free services include educating people about energy efficiency and home safety, evaluating homes and performing tests, repairing and replacing inefficient heating and air systems, insulating properties and fitting smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Many organizations offer free or low-cost legal services to North Carolina seniors. Older adults can access advice on issues such as estate planning, living wills and power of attorney. Some firms also act as long-term care ombudsmen, advocating for the rights of seniors in senior living communities.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Long Term Care Ombudsman828-485-4213The North Carolina Long Term Care Ombudsman program provides advocates that help protect the rights of seniors who reside in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and similar shared communities. Long-term care ombudsmen investigate complaints about quality of care, resolve conflicts regarding services or benefits and help educate seniors and their loved ones about their rights. Each North Carolina county has a dedicated Community Advisory Council that works alongside LTC ombudsmen to ensure that local adult care homes are appropriately run.
North Carolina Senior Law Project877-579-7562The Senior Law Project provides free legal assistance to seniors aged 60 and older. Seniors can call the toll-free line for help with wills and powers of attorney, public benefits, consumer issues, housing issues and concerns related to elder abuse or neglect.

Senior Centers

Senior centers in North Carolina bring together residents through recreational activities and events. Many also offer advice and support on senior issues, run wellness and nutrition programs, and connect older adults with other resources in the local area.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services919-855-3400The Division of Aging and Adult Services provides a network of community-based senior programs and benefit opportunities across the state. Seniors can access information about health insurance, housing, senior rights protections, the ombudsman program and other support services.

Social Security Offices

Social Security offices in North Carolina help seniors and disabled people access the benefits they're entitled to. Older adults can contact their local office for information about receiving retirement benefits, disability allowance and Supplemental Security Income.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Social SecuritySocial Security is a source of income available to retirees and people who can no longer work because of a disability. The money for Social Security comes from a payroll tax levied on employers, employees and self-employed individuals. When you retire, you'll receive monthly payments based on how much you earned when you were working.

Tax Assistance

Seniors can apply for tax assistance from several North Carolina resources. Elderly residents and those with disabilities could be eligible for tax exemptions on medical expenses, reductions on property tax and other tax assistance programs.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Homestead Exclusion Program877-252-3052Through the North Carolina Homestead Exclusion Program, seniors aged 65 years and older who meet income eligibility requirements can apply for property tax exemptions by excluding a portion of the appraised value of their permanent residence. Income includes Social Security benefits, retirement income, interests, dividends and proceeds from insurance. Honorably discharged disabled veterans or their unmarried surviving spouses are also qualified for the homestead exclusion program. New applicants may complete the necessary form and submit it to the local tax office.

Utility & Energy Bill Assistance

Low-income seniors who are struggling to meet the costs of maintaining their homes can find support from organizations that offer assistance with utility and energy bills. North Carolina retirees could also qualify for emergency funding programs if they're in danger of losing utility services due to unpaid invoices.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP)800-662-7030The federally funded Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) provides one-time payments to eligible households to help pay for their heating services.

Veteran's Services

North Carolina retirees who have served in the U.S. military can find support from local veteran services. These offices and organizations help vets access the benefits they're eligible for and provide advice and information on a variety of issues.

Program NamePhone NumberDescription
North Carolina VA Benefits and Health CareThe North Carolina VA Benefits and Health Care's Regional Office is in Winston-Salem, and nine Vet Centers throughout the state further support former members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Senior veterans can receive care at four VA Medical Centers in Durham, Asheville, Salisbury and Fayetteville. Seven outpatient clinics offer specialized services such as dialysis and rehabilitation, and individuals may also visit 20 community outpatient clinics. The North Carolina VA operates four veteran cemeteries in Raleigh, Salisbury, New Bern and Wilmington.

Directory of Independent Living Facilities in North Carolina

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Independent Living in North Carolina

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal, financial, professional, or medical advice or diagnosis or treatment. By using our website, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

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