Whether you’re a retired senior or a senior approaching retirement – you may be looking for a new lifestyle that is less straining and easier to manage. It could be due to an empty nest or difficulty keeping up with home maintenance that has you wondering, what else is out there? If you find yourself in such a position, senior apartments may be what you’re looking for. 

As we age, the place you once called “home” may no longer be conducive to your current physical, social, and financial needs. Managing housework becomes straining. Paying for landscape work takes a large toll in your pockets. Driving to meet friends and family becomes a chore and perhaps, no longer safe. 

Senior apartments offer structured living to allow more time for you to do the things that you love. Who’s fitting for senior apartments? Seniors that want to continue living and engaging in the community but looking to transition into a new lifestyle that is low-maintenance, economically friendly, and accessible. 

What are “Senior Apartments?”

“Senior apartments” are often used interchangeably with “independent living facilities”, but for the purpose of this article, senior apartments will be used moving forward. It’s not a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or a medically focused environment. Here’s a quick look:

  • Apartment complexes, condos, or facilities that offer private, separate residences designed for an independent senior. 
  • From small studios to suite-style apartments, senior apartments range in size and set-up depending on your needs and wants. Townhome styles are also available for those looking for a single-family style apartment. 
  • Typically restricted to seniors 55 years of age or older. More details on exceptions below. 
  • Generally, medical services or meals are not provided. 
  • Tailored for the independent senior that can carry out their daily activities without assistance. 
  • Maintenance-free living, recreational facilities, and convenient locations for running errands. 

Convenience and accessibility are the core appeal of senior apartments. They are thoughtfully built with older adults in mind. The design and location of the apartments were intentionally built near public services and recreational areas. Generally, senior apartments will feature: 

  • Accessibility inside the apartment unit and the immediate community. Do you use assistive devices such as walker or wheelchairs? Most senior apartments and the community are walker and wheelchair friendly. 
  • Furnished units with hand rails or grab bars. If they are not already installed, walls are made for easy installation. Notify your property manager in advance and installations can be made as needed without hassle. 
  • Technical safety installations such as sprinklers, safety telephone systems, and safety switches to alert immediate staff for emergencies. 
  • Close proximity to assisted living facilities to allow seniors to purchase services if needed such as meals, housekeeping assistance, or inquiries about transitioning from independent living to assisted living. 

Amenities: From Simplicity to Premium

Standard options are available for seniors looking to truly downsize to a smaller home and save money. Despite the variety of options provided by individual facilities, here’s what you can expect from most senior apartments: 

  • One to two bedrooms in varying sizes from 600 to 900 square feet.
  • Options for owning a unit vs renting a unit.
  • Private apartment vs suite style apartments. Suite style apartments have private rooms with a shared common space for the kitchen, living area, or bathrooms.
  • Accessible bathrooms: installed grab bars, step in showers, raised toilet seats, and wheelchair accessibility. Keep in mind that not all senior apartments are ADA accessible as they are intended for seniors with little to no physical disabilities. Reserved units are available at facilities for seniors that require wheelchair accessibility. 
  • Central heating and air conditioning. 
  • Lounge rooms for social activities.
  • Media rooms that include computers, printers, and TV. 
  • In unit washer and dryer or shared laundry rooms are also available for residents.  

Looking for something with top of the chart amenities? Consider senior apartments with premium options:

  • Prescription drop-offs and deliveries. From the convenience of your home, you can drop off your prescription for staff to handle. You’ll receive notification from staff when it’s ready for pick-up. 
  • Community outings to the city. Residents gather together in shared transportation to enjoy hot and popular local events. 
  • Transportation. This is a big one. If driving has become increasingly difficult, transportation options are available for shopping, making medical appointments, or attending religious practices. 
  • Assistance with homemaking tasks. From weekly housekeeping to laundry services, staff are available to free up your burden of doing chores. You can schedule it daily, weekly, biweekly, or even monthly. 
  • Daily linen changes for your bed. 

Options for Senior Apartments

Affordable, market rate, and luxury are the three types of senior apartments that you will generally find. Bear in mind that these three options will not all be available. They serve as general categories to give you a better idea of what’s out there. 

  • Affordable senior apartments: Pricing of the rental unit is relative to the cost of living in your immediate area. A rule of thumb for this option can be understood as paying no more than 30 percent of your income on rent and utilities. Consider this the most economically friendly option with limited amenities. Choose this if you want simplicity, have a strong sense of independence, and want to save on finances. 
  • Market rate: Competitive rates are offered at generally 15% below non-senior apartments in the immediate area. Here, you will find more amenities such as community events led by senior residents, group dining in the community with residents, housekeeping packages, and transportation outings. Consider this option if you want engagement with residents within the senior apartment complex, enjoy interacting and meeting other residents, and need a little extra help around the apartment. 
  • Luxury: As the name indicates, this option is the upscaled version of senior apartments. They vary in sizes but you can expect a larger unit ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet. Amenities are a heavy attraction for many senior residents who choose luxury apartments. Some examples include onsite prescription pick-up, educational programs, recreation activities (Tai Chi, weightlifting, yoga, aerobics, community events in the urban city area), transportation for all appointments as needed, and 24-hour emergency safety alerts inside the unit. 

Before making a final decision, sit down and make a list of what’s most important to you in a new home. Are the amenities necessary or nice to have? Is this option within your budget for the next five or more years? How important is community and socializing? 

As you make a list of the pros and cons, go over the decision with your family or friends. More often than not, they will be your voice of reason. A decision this big will have your head spinning. Having a second and trusted opinion will confirm that your ultimate choice is what’s best for you. 

Real Life Examples

We’ll introduce two concepts known as “push factors” and “pull factors” before looking into real life examples. 

  • Push factors: Circumstances that push seniors away from their existing home. 
  • Pull factors: Circumstances that pull and attract seniors to relocate to a new home. 

Here are some “pull factors” reported by seniors from a research study that influenced their choices to relocate to senior apartments:

  • 77 percent desired more social contacts and activities. 
  • 61 percent liked having access to personal care services. 
  • 59 percent either were unwilling or physically unable to keep up with housekeeping chores. 

“Push factors” that influenced senior’s choices to transition to senior apartments included: 

  • 54 percent experienced previous personal illnesses. 
  • 43 percent had a spouse that recently passed or had a chronic illness. 
  • 33 percent verbalized concerns about maintenance and upkeep of their homes. 
  • 28 percent anticipated that there was a future need to eventually downsize into a senior apartment lifestyle. 
  • 21 percent expressed difficulties managing the size of their residence or being able to safely complete errands. 

Common themes tend to run true in many seniors that push seniors from their homes to a senior apartment. 

  • Failing health
  • Difficulty with home maintenance
  • Lack of in-home assistance
  • Loneliness
  • Housing closures

Drivers that pull seniors to be attracted to the senior apartment lifestyle often include:

  • Being closer to family
  • Having access to services (i.e., medical facilities or church)
  • Affordability
  • The need for support
  • Desire to make friends
  • Facility’s reputation

Let’s now take a look at three real life examples from a research study. These three residences listed below represent different styles of senior apartments. As you go through each example, imagine which type would be fitting for your new lifestyle, budget, and social needs. 

Residence One

53 available units with 38 units occupied at the time of the research study. 

  • Location: Central to an urban city with an assisted living facility one block away. The assisted living facility offers health care services or meal plans in their dining hall for residents at the senior apartment. Built in a new residential area where all housing and most businesses are directed towards seniors. 
  • Style: Condominium style apartments. Owner-occupied type units. 
  • Amenities: No amenities offered to senior residents. 
  • Purpose of senior apartment: Offer independent living apartments near assisted living facilities for residents that need extra services or are anticipating transitioning to an assisted living facility in the future. Residents did not desire a communal type of living but expressed high importance in the close proximity of the assisted living facility. 
  • Background of residents: Half the residents were married, majority of residents were retired while a small proportion continued working part time or full time. 
    • 14 percent were 55-64 years of age
    • 23 percent were 65-69 years of age
    • 63 percent were 70 years of age or older 
    • 55 percent were women, 45 percent men
    • 46 percent of the resident’s monthly income was less than $1,100. 
    • 45 percent of the resident’s monthly income ranged between $1,100 – $2,300. 
    • 9 percent of the resident’s monthly income ranged over $2,300. 
  • Time at previous home: On average, the residents resided at their previous home for 20 years, with the longest being 50 years. 
  • How did most seniors purchase or make the transition? Using savings and selling assets (usually their former home). 
  • Pull factors? Having a new home, central air and heating, access to an elevator, and new home appliances. ‘Easy living’ was important to these residents such that there was no heavy housework or the need to renovate. Being in the center of the city and having close access to services, cultural activities, and outdoor activities.

Residence Two

58 available units. Residents designed the building and residents also organize activities and services. 

  • Location: Within the heart of the city with very good public transportation.
  • Style: Modern style condominiums with a sea view. Owner-occupied type units. 
  • Amenities: Many common areas such as a library, dining room, fitness room, roof-top terrace, and sauna. Residents designed the building and residents also organize activities and services. No formal services are offered but residents take the initiative to cook together and organize many activity groups. 
  • Purpose of senior apartment: Proactive seniors who want to have control over their new lifestyles. This is done by way of organizing active groups, excursions, and hobbies for all residents to participate in. Residents in this facility find “belonging to a community” as the most important aspect of the senior apartment. 
  • Background of residents: Most residents were women who lived alone and most were retired. 
    • 35 percent were 55-64 years of age
    • 32 percent were 65-69 years of age
    • 33 percent were 70 years of age or older 
    • 79 percent were women, 21 percent men
    • 6 percent of the resident’s monthly income was less than $1,100. 
    • 53 percent of the resident’s monthly income ranged between $1,100 – $2,300. 
    • 41 percent of the resident’s monthly income ranged over $2,300. 

Residence 3

Corporate owned rental apartment, with 200 units designed for accessibility (i.e., no doorsteps or stairs). 

  • Location: Suburban area with all commercial and public services. Very good public transportation. 
  • Style: Rental units with ADA accessible units. 
  • Amenities: Common areas in the unit include a restaurant, multi-purpose rooms, fitness/gym rooms, and all rooms and areas are wheelchair accessible. A small fee is added for using the gym and low-budget meals are offered to residents from the restaurant. Maintenance and activity staff are available during the weekdays for residents. Central air and heating with modern home appliances. Saunas and balconies are available. Common area for a shared patio. 
  • Purpose of senior apartment: Tailored for accessibility, affordability, seniors looking for daily services. This senior apartment is considered subsidized housing by the government, meaning resident’s assets need to be below a certain level but no limits on the resident’s income levels. 
  • Background of residents: 
    • 42 percent were 55-64 years of age
    • 20 percent were 65-69 years of age
    • 38 percent were 70 years of age or older 
    • 60 percent were women, 40 percent men
    • 40 percent of the resident’s monthly income was less than $1,100. 
    • 53 percent of the resident’s monthly income ranged between $1,100 – $2,300. 
    • 4 percent of the resident’s monthly income ranged over $2,300. 
  • Pull factors? Availability of health care services, delivery of meals, delivered prescriptions, quiet and calm environment, and wheelchair accessibility in the community and inside the units. 

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to choosing a senior apartment. Every senior’s situation is unique and each are under different circumstances. Consider your future routines, physical capabilities, social needs, health condition, and most importantly, your financial budget. 

Qualifying For Senior Apartments

Let’s dive into the logistics when looking for senior apartments. It’s important to understand the main initiative that makes the overarching rules. The Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the Housing for Older Persons Act states that senior apartments “must include at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units”. Who qualifies?

  • General rule of thumb, senior apartments are restricted to seniors 55 or 62 years of age and older. 
  • Only one person needs to be within the qualified age. This means that if either you or your spouse are planning to move into a senior apartment, you won’t be disqualified if one of you are under the age of 55. 
  • Notice that at least 80 percent of the occupied units are age restricted to those 55 years of age or older. This means that the other 20 percent of the units do not need to meet the age requirement. Persons with disabilities tend to occupy these 20 percent units that are left over. 

Economically Friendly Senior Apartments

Finances cannot be ignored when searching for senior apartments. You should maximize your ability to spend as little as possible if you’re on a tight budget. “Low-income” senior apartments may be an option to consider. Formally known as HUD-sponsored senior housing, seniors looking for economically friendly options can expect: 

  • Senior apartments offered at reduced rental rates for senior residents. 
  • Specific units within senior apartments are set aside specifically for seniors with limited income. 
  • Seniors that qualify for “Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program” can have their apartment partly or fully paid for by Section 8. 

How to get started? Choose your state from the Local Public Housing Agency (PHA)

1) A long list will appear. Choose the state that you reside in. Filter the options by your five digit zip code. 

2) Contact the associates by mail, email, or a phone call. 

3) Have your documents ready. These include documents proving your income does not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county and personal ID. Information regarding family income, assets, or family composition will also be needed. 

4) PHA representatives will verify your information with local agencies, your employer, and your bank. 

5) If the PHA representatives determine that you qualify, you will either be assisted immediately or put on a waiting list for an active housing voucher. 

Summary

Relocating as a senior is particularly tough because you’re moving from the comforts of a familiar environment to assimilating into a new setting at an advanced age. However, the positive outcome from senior apartments may have a positive effect on your life. Leaving a home that has received decades of investment may make it even more difficult to leave. Some seniors continue to manage their homes without issues, but some are progressively lagging behind with the upkeep of the home. 

From heavy housework, social isolation, changes in health or the loss of a partner, a new lifestyle is possible and may be waiting just ahead. Senior apartments have given seniors with similar issues relief, community and more time to enjoy doing the things that they love. As you grapple with the idea of relocating, consider how you’d like to lead your life for the next five years and onwards.

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