What To Know About Choosing A Senior Apartment

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Donna Mae Scheib

What To Know About Choosing A Senior Apartment

Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on September 10, 2019

What To Know About Choosing A Senior Apartment

Senior apartments are a common form of housing generally reserved for people over 55 or 62. They have the appeal of costing less and requiring less maintenance than other housing options. Typically, seniors choose apartments because they require less housework and yardwork, are affordable after divorce or widowing (or other sources of financial difficulties), and make social interaction possible with loved ones and peers. Their amenities include housekeeping, dining, and activities; senior apartments are often quiet, ground-level buildings with disability accommodations throughout due to the high rates of disability among seniors. They potentially include multi-room, studio, and suite arrangements depending on the level of privacy or community desired.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states under its guidelines that there are some exceptions to people under 55 not being allowed to live in senior apartments. For instance, low-income senior apartments may allow children and grandchildren within the 20 percent of space allowed to non-seniors. Spouses under 55 are allowed to live with residents over 55, and handicapped individuals under 55 are also allowed. However, non-HUD apartments specifying 62 or older tend to have stricter rules.

This article will explain the reasons to consider choosing a senior apartment and how to go about doing so. Besides the affordability, apartment life generally fits seniors who want to live independently. Some apartments have no medical care, housekeeping, or other forms of assistance, some have them in limited quantities, and apartments of the assisted living variety provide these services frequently. If you require a low level of care, apartments can be a low-cost, low-maintenance means of living independently for as long as you can before an easier transition into assisted living.

What to know before choosing a senior apartment

Senior apartments come in three pricing categories: affordable, market price, and luxury. However, the exact definitions of these vary by a community’s housing prices. Affordable senior apartments are those that require no more than 30% of the resident’s income for rent and utilities; according to HUD, paying more than that percentage makes residents cost-burdened and potentially unable to afford necessities. Market price senior apartments have competitive rates typically 15% lower than usual and often provide amenities such as housekeeping, transportation, and dining. Luxury senior apartments provide even more amenities at higher prices.

Most senior apartments have the same basic amenities. These include one- or two-bedroom options, private or shared options, climate control, optional furniture, fire protection systems, computer stations, and TV, living rooms, laundry rooms, and dining rooms in either the apartments or greater complex. Luxury facilities may add housekeeping, transportation, 24-hour emergency call systems and staff, and recreational, educational, and exercise activities or rooms (e.g. pools, spas, and clubhouses). The amenities of individual rooms will also vary with price, the luxury options providing more space and appliances.

Some parts of the United States have waiting lists, which will become more difficult to negotiate with the increase in the senior population. Usually, communities require these lists due to maximum occupancy being reached; you will have to wait for new vacancies on a first-come, first-served basis unless you can negotiate with the facility about extenuating circumstances. Most of the time, however, your best chance at getting an apartment is to make the waiting list as early as possible; don’t wait until complications in your living situation arise. Also, apply for multiple apartments to increase your chances of acceptance. The next section of this article will explain the process of finding and paying for a senior apartment in more detail.

How to get an apartment

Finding a senior apartment usually depends on income requirements. Otherwise, you can find a senior apartment near you by consulting continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), independent living centers, assisted living facilities, and/or senior housing managers to determine your needs. Some alternatives to apartments that vary with needs include active senior housing, independent living, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and hospice care centers. If you do choose an apartment, however, there are many factors to consider in order to economize on cost, care, and comfort.

You have the option to either buy or rent an apartment, the latter being most common for people of all ages. Affording a senior apartment requires either deferring to your retirement savings or being within the HUD’s income requirements for a particular bracket, based on buying or renting respectively. You might be able to afford one by selling a previous home or taking out a reverse mortgage. Low-income apartments have the benefit of affordability, whereas purchasing into a CCRC has the benefit of fewer waitlists, more amenities, and a potentially easier transition into other housing situations.

If you have followed the above guidelines for making a waitlist in time and consulting the experts, finding a senior apartment finally involves choice regarding the amenities. Some amenities are non-negotiable, such as disability accommodations. However, other factors require more thought –proximity to loved ones and the neighborhood, happiness of the residents, parking convenience and safety, storage space, apartment rules, and upkeep of the grounds, rooms, and neighborhood among them. As long as you have made applications to multiple apartments, and especially if you have surveyed their amenities before applying, you have a good chance of getting a senior apartment with your desired amenities.

In sum, the process of finding apartments as a senior is almost the same as doing so within any other stage of adulthood. It mostly differs in the nature of amenities involved, focused more on community rather than family relations and with an increased presence of assistance and care. In that regard, living in senior apartments can last many of us until we require further assistance –with additional recourse to the community each step of the way. With the increased experience that comes with age, we also have clearer expectations of what to look for in a home. So if you’re looking for an affordable, easily manageable living situation that still allows you independence, the process of finding an apartment does not have to be daunting.

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