What are Senior Apartments?A senior living apartment offers two major features—accessibility and a sense of community. Senior apartments are designed with the needs of older adults in mind. 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 older adult has their own bedroom while sharing a common living space, kitchen, and bathroom with other residents. Apartments can also be multi-room arrangements typical of 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 older adults in transition feel more like they are in their own home, in comparison to studio or suite apartments that are more communal.
Did You Know: There are many different types of 55+ communities. From golf and resort communities to RV parks to singles communities, there are options to fit every lifestyle!
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.
- Those who have gotten 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 who are widows or widowers needing to downsize.
- Those looking for a lower cost situation (no property taxes, no maintenance, minimal 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 those 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, older adults 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 older adults. 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. 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. If you have a spouse and they are over age 55, then they are able to live with you. 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 QualificationsThese 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. 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 OptionsIn 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 older adults. For older adults who need more services, such as assistance with laundry or personal transportation, there are independent living senior apartments. These apartments are for older adults who are still active and independent, but need some extra care. Older adults who need medical care on a regular basis, help getting 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 ApartmentsThere 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 percent 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 percent below regular apartment rates. These complexes typically offer senior-related amenities such as community dining, housekeeping and transportation.
- Luxury senior living apartments for many older adults 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 AmenitiesAmenities will vary from complex to complex, but in general, you’ll find the following:
- One- and two-bedroom options.
- 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 two to three times a day.
- Smoke detectors, fire alarms, and sprinkler systems.
- Computer workstations.
- Laundry rooms with washers and dryers.
- 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 CostsThe costs associated with senior apartments vary greatly. Decisions such as buying an apartment vs. renting an apartment will greatly affect associated costs. Additionally, location, amenities, floor plans, and other factors can all have an impact on apartment costs.
Buying a Senior ApartmentApartments are generally rented, rather than purchased outright since these are in multi-family buildings and there isn’t the ability to sell units to anyone other than older adults. If you want to purchase a senior apartment, then you want to look into continuing care retirement communities or CCRCs. These are communities that older adults 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 ApartmentThe 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 older adults 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 SeniorsThe income guidelines for low-income apartments for older adults 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 older adults who want to choose an apartment and use Section 8 to pay for part or all of the rent.
Did You Know: As adults get older, many want to age in place, and apartment living can be the perfect solution. Most older adults want the security of knowing that if something goes wrong, help is near. The most common device to use is a medical alert system. Our research in finding the best medical alert system is extensive, as we put these systems to the test so you don’t have to.
Paying for Senior ApartmentsOnce you choose an apartment, it is time to finance your housing solution. For older adults 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’ll 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 older adults that is safe and secure. Also, submit your application to multiple HUD-sponsored apartments to increase the chances that your name is picked for an apartment.
Questions to ask When Selecting a Senior ApartmentSo 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? For example, is it 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 is the cost of additional services or activities? Are there any other extra costs?
- Is there a pool, clubhouse, activities schedule posted, etc.?
- Do they accept subsidies or rent vouchers?