For seniors looking for a low-maintenance, lower cost lifestyle, an apartment may be the ideal community. Apartments for seniors provide amenities such as housekeeping, dining, and activities that make life easier and more enjoyable.
Senior citizens who are looking for a place to live have different expectations and requirements than younger adults or families with children. As a result, the search for senior apartments varies according to these needs. Instead of somewhere with a playground, seniors are interested in quiet, calm outdoor spaces. Rather than an apartment with several floors and lots of stairs, seniors are more apt to ground-level accommodations. These are just some of the conditions expected of senior apartments. Read on to learn more about what you should look for when choosing the best senior apartments near you.
What are Senior Apartments?
A senior living apartment offers two main features—accessibility and a sense of community. Senior apartments are designed with the needs of aging in mind to accommodate the typical needs of elderly residents. For example, an apartment building may have no or limited stairs, handicap accessible units for wheelchairs, and handrails in the bathroom. These apartment buildings also restrict residents according to age. Most senior apartments require residents to be at least 55 years old.
Senior apartments vary in size and setup. The smaller apartments consist of studio apartments that are a large open room with a bedroom, living room, and kitchen in one space. The bathroom is typically the only room behind a closed door. Some apartments are suite-style, meaning that each senior has their own bedroom while sharing a common living space, kitchen, and bathroom with other residents.
Apartments can also be multi-room arrangements typical to single-family apartments. Townhomes, condos, duplexes, and triplexes are also available in some communities for senior apartment complexes. Each of these types of senior apartments offers the most personal, private space. In addition, multi-room, townhome, and duplex/triplex apartments are more like single-family apartments. This can help seniors in transition feel more like they are in their own home, in comparison to studio or suite apartments that are more communal.
Who Lives in Senior Apartments?
The profile of those residing in assisted living apartments varies. Some have been renters all their lives. Others have sold their homes looking for a place that requires little effort. Here's a sampling of what you may find:
- Those looking for no home and yard maintenance.
- The recently divorced
- Those wanting the freedom to travel without having to worry about the property back home.
- Those relocating to be closer to friends and family
- Those widows or widowers needing to downsize
- Those looking for a lower cost situation (no property taxes, no maintenance, upkeep, etc.)
- Those who want to be around their peers
Can Children or Spouses Live in Senior Apartments?
In general, the only people who can live in senior apartments are seniors who are at least 55 years old. As a result, children and grandchildren cannot live in these apartments. This helps to maintain the senior community that is free of loud noise, lots of activity, and the stress of raising children. However, according to Spruce, there can be exceptions to the rule.
According to HUD guidelines, seniors living in HUD-sponsored apartments for residents who are 55 and older may be able to have children living with them. This rule states that only 80 percent of these apartments must go to seniors, while 20 percent can be rented to residents regardless of age. Therefore, by this exception, you may be able to have your child or grandchild live with you in low-income senior apartments. For senior apartments that are set aside for adults over 62, there is no way that children can live in these units with seniors. These senior apartments have a strict age policy and offer no exceptions to the rule.
If you have a spouse and they are over age 55, then they are able to live with you in senior apartments. However, they will need to apply for senior housing just as you do in order to move in if you live in low-income senior apartments.
Senior Apartment Qualifications
These communities are usually age-restricted for those 55 or 62-years-old and older. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the Housing for Older Persons Act says that housing must include at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, regulates these communities. This means one spouse can be under the required age.
HUD makes exceptions for those under the minimum age if the person is handicapped. Also, those under 19 cannot be permanent residents. These communities are usually noted as “age-qualified” in their marketing brochures.
Senior Apartment Care Options
In general, a senior living apartment is for individuals with a low level of care. These apartments do not offer medical care, housekeeping, food preparation, or senior activities. Some senior apartments offer the bare minimum in additional services, but this is not the norm. There are two other types of senior living apartments that offer more amenities and services for seniors.
For seniors who need more services, such as assistance with laundry or personal transportation, there are independent living senior apartments. These apartments are for seniors with a greater level of care, but whom are still active and independent. Seniors who need medical care on a regular basis, someone to help them get dressed, or assistance with eating should check with assisted living senior apartments. Keep in mind, an assisted living community does not provide around-the-clock care of nurses or other staff. However, with this type of senior living staff members are available 24/7 for assistance.
Types of Senior Apartments
There are generally three pricing categories of senior living apartments—affordable, market rate, and luxury — though you may not find all three in every market.
- The definition of affordable senior living apartments changes from community to community because of the local cost of living. In general, affordable means that a renter pays no more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities. A combination of federal, state and local laws provide other determining factors as well as provide funding. Qualified residents can receive vouchers that enable them to rent in certain senior living apartment communities.
- Market rate senior living apartments are offered at competitive rates, which are usually about 15% below regular apartment rates. These complexes typically offer senior-related amenities such as community dining, housekeeping and transportation.
- Luxury senior living apartments for many seniors may be their second home and are often located in cities close to cultural activities. They are larger, up to 2,000 square feet, and provide dozens of upscale amenities for their residents.
Senior Apartment Amenities
Amenities will vary from complex to complex, but in general, you'll find the following:
- One and Two bedroom options from 600 to 900 square feet
- Choice of private or shared apartments
- The option of fully furnished apartments
- Large walk-in showers with safety features
- Individual climate control
- Common areas in the complex with TV and living room
- Community dining room with meals prepared 2-3 times a day
- Smoke detectors, fire alarms and sprinkler systems
- Computer work stations
- Laundry rooms with washers and dryers
Other amenities offered at a premium may include:
- Onsite pharmacy with delivery and access to a pharmacist
- Recreational and educational activities programs including walking, Tai Chi, yoga, and trips to cultural events.
- Transportation for shopping, local attractions, medical appointments, church, etc.
- Housekeeping including linen and laundry service
- 24-hour emergency call systems
- 24-hour emergency staff
- Daily bed-making
Senior Apartment Costs
The costs associated with senior apartments vary greatly. Decisions such as buying an apartment vs renting an apartment will greatly affect associated costs. Also, location, amenities, floor plans and other factors can all affect apartment costs.
Buying a Senior Apartment
Apartments are generally rented, rather than purchased outright since these are in multi-family buildings and there isn't the ability to sell these units to anyone other than seniors. If you want to purchase a senior apartment, then you want to look into continuing care retirement communities or CCRCs. These are communities that seniors purchase into, either in the form of condominiums, apartments, or single-family houses. When you purchase into a CCRC you are buying into a multi-faceted network of senior living options.
This typically includes the option to live in senior apartments, active senior housing, independent living units, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and hospice care centers. Every type of housing you might utilize as a senior is available to you in most CCRCs. This allows you to transition to different types of senior living without having to pay more money for housing or senior care services throughout your retirement years.
Renting a Senior Apartment
For the majority of apartment residents rent from an apartment manager. In addition, most senior living apartments are income based according to government guidelines. These are considered affordable living apartments for seniors or low-income housing. To meet these income requirements, you must earn below an income guideline. Also, you cannot have assets in your name that could be considered income and will increase your overall income level.
Low-Income Apartments for Seniors
The income guidelines for low-income apartments for seniors is determined by state and federal agencies. Also referred to as HUD-sponsored senior housing, these senior apartments include:
- Privately owned apartments with reduced rental rates for seniors
- Public housing in apartments set aside for low-income seniors
- Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program for seniors who want to choose an apartment and use Section 8 to pay for part or all of the rent
To find affordable apartments for seniors, search for your state using this resource provided by HUD for units for elderly residents. You will receive a listing of all of the HUD-sponsored apartments in your state along with contact information and details regarding how many units are available for elderly residents. Please note that not all of the apartments on these lists are senior apartments, so you will have to search for those with ‘Total Units Designated for Elderly.'
Once you find a senior apartment contact the applicable office to apply for senior housing. Keep in mind most of these apartments are full and applicants are placed on a waiting list. There are certain exceptions that will help your case, such as being homeless or living in an unsafe environment. In addition, you will need to complete all paperwork and submit all necessary documents in a timely manner to speed up the process of getting senior low-income housing.
Paying for Senior Apartments
Once you choose an apartment, it is time to finance this housing solution. For seniors who have retirement savings set aside, this is the optimal way to pay for senior apartments. For low-income seniors, there are HUD-sponsored apartments that offer more affordable monthly rent based on one's income.
If you are prepared to pay out of pocket for a senior apartment, you might want to consider all of your resource options. Many seniors choose to sell an existing home or take out a reverse mortgage in order to finance senior living in an apartment. If this is an option, it will most likely cover the bulk of the living expenses. Other options include using dividends from investment income or cashing in a life insurance policy to help cover these housing expenses.
If you qualify as a low-income senior looking for an apartment, you want to get your application into the HUD-sponsored apartments near you as soon as possible. As noted, there is a low-income housing waitlist in most cities, and time is of the essence in finding a place to live for seniors that is safe and secure. Also, put your application in at multiple HUD-sponsored apartments to increase the chances that your name is picked for an apartment.
Questions to ask When Selecting a Senior Apartment
So you've found a few apartment communities online. Now what? Set up a tour and consider these questions when you make your visit.
- Are staff and residents friendly?
- Are these senior apartments near me?
- Talk with the residents. Are they happy living there? What do they like and dislike about it? Are their needs being met?
- Do residents use the common areas?
- Are the grounds well kept?
- Are there conveniences (shopping, activities, etc.) in the area?
- Are you within walking distance to any of these?
- Are there walking trails nearby?
- Does the neighborhood seem safe?
- Is there handicap access?
- Is the parking convenient and safe—well lit at night and close to the complex
- Are the apartment floor plans livable?
- Can the interior be painted colors of your choice?
- Are there safety features like a 24-hour alert system, smoke detectors, sprinkler system, etc?
- Will the shower/tub meet your present and future needs?
- Are there grab bars in the shower/tub?
- Is there adequate storage space?
- Are the counters and cupboards convenient?
- What additional service or activities are provided for? What are the extra costs?
- Is there a pool, clubhouse, activities schedule posted, etc.?
- Do they accept subsidies or rent vouchers?
How Do I Find Senior Apartments Near Me?
If you want to live in senior apartments that are not based on income guidelines, you will need to check with privately owned apartments and senior living facilities. Contact CCRCs, assisted living facilities, independent living centers, and active senior housing managers near you. From there you can determine exactly what type of senior apartment will be best suited for your lifestyle and expectations.
How Does the AHEPA National Housing Corporation Help Seniors Find Elderly Apartments?
The National Housing Corporation is a nonprofit organization that is based in Fishers, Indiana. This organization helps senior citizens to find housing, either based on low-income guidelines or according to one's disability. As a senior, you can reach out to the AHEPA and be connected with a property manager in your city and state who can help you secure senior apartments.
The organization also provides seniors with advice and information about types of amenities and services that are available in their area. For example, AHEPA representatives can help you find fine arts programs at senior apartments, as well as apartments offering regular onsite medical services and nutritional programs. As a nonprofit organization, the AHEPA is a free service for seniors to utilize as they search for the best senior apartments.
Apartments can be ideal living options for seniors looking for an inexpensive, low maintenance lifestyle. To find senior living apartments in your area, search our state and local directory or call our senior living helpline.
Additional Resources to Consider:
All these options are for people who need very little support but want to make a smooth transition into senior living.