Renters: Elder Index rent expenses are values reported by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD reports Fair Market Rents (FMRs) by county and number of bedrooms. These values typically reflect the 40th percentile of rent costs in an area. In some cases, the HUD FMR values reflect the 50th percentile of rent costs.

Owners: Housing expenses for owners are median “selected monthly owner costs” (SMOC) as reported by the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data. Values are for owners 65 and older, with and without a mortgage. SMOC values include property taxes, insurance, heat and utilities, condo fees and mortgage payments (if any).


Elder Index food costs are taken from the USDA Low-Cost Food Plan, which presents an age-specific diet consisting entirely of foods prepared and eaten at home. Per the USDA calculation, food costs for single adults are increased by 20% to reflect lesser economies of scale.

Health Care

Elder Index health care costs include Medicare Part B health insurance premiums and out-of-pockets costs. Average costs are calculated assuming Medicare Advantage (with prescription coverage) costs or separate Medigap Supplement and Medicare Part D coverage. Data is drawn from the US Department of Health and Human Services Medicare Options Compare Tool and Part D Contract and Enrollment Data.


Elder Index transportation costs are generally calculated assuming car ownership. Estimated annual mileage data, as reported by the National Household Travel Survey, is multiplied by the IRS per mile cost reimbursement rate to calculate costs for single elders and elder couples.


Miscellaneous expenses are 20% of costs of other Elder Index basic expenditures—housing, food, health care and transportation. This expense includes all other essentials: clothing, shoes, paper products, cleaning products, household items, personal hygiene items and a landline telephone. Because these types of expenses are unlikely to vary whether an individual is a renter or homeowner, this category is calculated for owners with no mortgage; the same dollar value is applied to “miscellaneous expenses” for other housing types.