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Housing Guide for Seniors: Apartments for 55 and Older

Find The Best Assisted Living Options For You

    If you find nursing homes overbearingly geriatric or independent living too restrictive for a 55+ active adult, look into senior apartments. 55 and older retirees thrive in dynamic and engaging senior-friendly apartment communities. Apart from the convenience of safe, secure establishments geared toward the mobility impaired, you also get to spend your days with like-minded peers.

    Plus, hundreds of senior housing options have popped up in the last few years. In fact, the market has everything—from fun, carefree senior living retirement communities to calm, serene apartment complexes. You just need the proper guidance in exploring suitable housing types.

    Understanding More About 55+ Apartments

    With the growing number of seniors who wish to spend their retirement years independently, senior-focused communities are becoming a more practical solution. They provide older adults with security and convenience.

    If you want to learn more about senior apartments and communities, keep reading. We will explain the requirements to qualify for a unit, what benefits living in seniors-only homes yields, and how to decide whether you would thrive in these communities.

    What Are Senior Apartments?

    As the name suggests, senior living apartments are communities that primarily cater to older adults living independently. In fact, most apartment complexes and housing options require residents to be at least over 55.

    The government also states that senior apartments are exempt from the familial status discrimination ban by the Fair Housing Act. That means these communities have the right to control the resident population. You can expect landlords to reject you if you are either:

    • Under 50 or do not have sufficient identification records
    • Plan to move in with your entire family
    • Have too many pets
    • Own noisy vehicles

    Also, keep in mind that assisted living homes are not the same as senior communities. Yes, they classify under senior housing, but the government does not legally mandate senior communities to provide specialized care and services for their residents. Simply put: All assisted living facilities are senior homes; not all senior homes are assisted living facilities.

    What Are The Requirements to Live In A Senior Apartment?

    The terms and conditions vary from property to property, but they generally require that all residents to:

    • Show their proof of age. The primary criterion to qualify for senior living apartments is your age. Most FHA-standard communities have a 50 to 55 age restriction, but they can raise the minimum to 62 or over. Keep in mind that 62+ housing options have stringent guidelines.
    • Live alone or with limited family members. Most landlords limit the number of children and young adults in senior living apartments. A healthy population would be 80:20. Keep this in mind because your landlord might reject you if you plan on living with your entire family.
    • Avoid taking in pets. Most communities prevent residents from owning pets—especially large ones. In most cases, only service and emotional support animals are exempted.
    • Abide by the community guidelines. You can expect these apartments and communities to have firm guidelines on curfews, large gatherings, loud noises, or even owned vehicles.

    What Are The Benefits Of Living In A 55+ Community?

    Many older adults choose to retire in senior housing apartments for the following benefits:

    Easy Payment Plans

    Most senior apartments consolidate your bills. You will likely direct your utility bills, rent, internet fees, and cable subscription to one individual or institution. This process streamlines the entire bills-paying process.

    Zero Home Maintenance

    Senior housing and apartment complexes usually have contractors to do all your property maintenance chores, from shoveling snow to sweeping fallen leaves off your lawn.

    Of course, seniors can still take on any home maintenance task they want. For example, if you enjoy gardening, you can ask your community's maintenance crew to keep off your plants.

    Senior-Friendly Establishments

    Do you feel like every bar or restaurant in your town consists of noisy teens? Move into senior communities. As a 55+ community, you can feel at ease knowing that most of the people you will encounter are already in their senior years.

    Plus, all establishments have senior-friendly fixtures and aids to assist the mobility impaired. So you do not have to worry about steep steps or slippery ramps anymore.

    Supportive Community of Like-Minded Peers

    Independent living apartments consist of like-minded seniors who share the same goal: to retire peacefully. However, living alone can feel quite lonely at times. Fortunately, you can participate in community activities involving sporting events, community service drives, or hobby discussions, among other focal interests.

    Why Are Over 55 Properties Cheaper?

    As you shop around for a suitable senior apartment, you will notice that most options are far below the current market rate of other real estate properties. Several factors affect these rates, including:

    Limited Demand

    There isn't much demand for senior housing. The country has a massive population exceeding 330 million, yet only 40 million are over 65. On top of that, only a portion of this group wants to relocate to senior apartments and housing communities.

    Age-Restricted Living

    Senior apartments and housing pride themselves on being senior-friendly communities that cater to residents 55 and over. However, what about the resident's family? Can individuals below 55 stay in age-restricted houses or apartments? Technically: yes. However, the community reserves the right to a senior-dominant population of 80:20.

    Limited Inheritance

    Can you inherit senior apartments and houses? Yes, but you cannot live in them unless the household has a primary resident aged over 55. Considering that these properties do not have an appraising market rate, most people would not bother investing in them for profit.

    Design Restrictions

    Residents cannot modify floor plans. Remember: these homes were built for the ease and convenience of mobility-impaired individuals, so even minor changes would compromise the living space's overall security.

    General Purpose

    These restrictions might seem unreasonable, but they exist to protect the sanctity and purpose of senior apartments and homes. Generally, deed restrictions achieve the following:

    • Prevent investors and developers from monopolizing these properties
    • Keep the property costs affordable enough for seniors on a fixed income
    • Avoid fluctuating rental rates
    • Maintain a safe, comfortable space for seniors

    Types of Senior Apartments

    Senior communities offer more variety than most people assume. Whether you are a former employee raking in six digits annually or a low-income senior struggling to secure decent housing, there is a plan for you.

    Some of the most widely used programs come from the following establishments and institutions:

    Standard Senior Housing and Apartment

    Standard senior communities are owned and operated by private institutions or landlords. You can only purchase a house in these neighborhoods or apartment complexes if you are or live with someone over 55. However, stricter communities might have a 62+ age minimum.

    Standard senior communities best suit those who want to live independently. Retiring in an average senior-focused home or apartment will cost you at least $2,000 to $3,000 per month, so make sure you have sufficient retirement funds.

    Assisted Living or Nursing Facility

    An assisted living center or nursing facility provides specialized care and services to disabled, mobility-impaired seniors.

    The level of care each facility provides varies on a case-by-case basis. For example, assisted living homes likely have limited services and will only help residents with basic day-to-day activities, such as bathing and eating. Meanwhile, a nursing facility might offer more specialized treatments and services.

    These facilities best suit adults who need 24/7 maintenance and assistance. Most patients and residents here can no longer move on their own, carry risks of life-threatening illnesses (e.g., heart attacks, stroke), or require memory care treatment.

    Government-Funded Housing

    The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides several government-funded programs to assist low-income seniors with no means of acquiring or leasing a permanent home. To qualify, you will either have to fall under state, local, or federal government programs.

    Most beneficiaries are either homeless or have no living relative to care for them. Please do not feel ashamed to sign up for government-funded housing programs if necessary. These plans will help you spend your senior years comfortably. In most cases, the government will even provide essentials like healthcare, food, and clothing.

    Senior-Focused Villages

    While not as strict as senior apartments, senior-focused villages still strive to maintain the community to a certain degree.

    They cannot reject homebuyers as freely as apartment buildings could. However, the local governing bodies can enforce guidelines and restrictions that cater specifically to the needs of the elderly (e.g., curfews, gathering limitations).

    Plus, most establishments in these village-type communities are geared toward seniors. They will likely have PWD-friendly ramps, grab bars, and short staircases.

    Seniors who wish to live with their families or do not want to abide by the strict guidelines in senior apartments can retire here.

    Amenities in Senior Apartments

    The government does not have any strict guidelines on what amenities senior apartments should build. However, to maintain a dynamic, safe environment, most establishments generally offer the following:

    Gym or Fitness Center

    Staying fit and active strengthens the body, thus making it less susceptible to several diseases, illnesses, and even injuries.

    Library

    The internet holds every single piece of known information in modern society, but most seniors prefer reading physical books. For this reason, many senior apartments still have libraries.

    Dining Area

    Most seniors no longer have the physical capacity nor patience to cook full meals. To address the issues, senior apartments create dining areas and canteens that regularly serve fresh, hot meals.

    Spa and Sauna

    Baths are great, but spas have a different effect on the aging body. Seniors can utilize these massage or sauna services to alleviate muscular pains, ease bodily inflammations, relieve stress, and improve sleeping patterns.

    24/7 Security System

    Considering that most senior apartments consist of frail, aging adults, landlords should beef up their security. No outsider can enter the premises—much less the tenants' rooms. Otherwise, senior tenants will have no means of defending themselves from armed attackers.

    Safety Fixtures

    All senior apartments have safety fixtures like ramps, elevators, and handrails to assist mobility-impaired residents. For extra protection, landlords may even consider equipping bedrooms with an alert device. That way, residents can ask for help right away if they find themselves in an accident or emergency.

    Shared Community Spaces

    Even the most introverted seniors would not want to spend their retirement cooped up inside their apartments. To encourage interaction between residents, most communities create shared community spaces. Here, you can lounge around or mingle with like-minded peers. Retirement can feel lonely, but having someone to talk to casually will make you feel a lot better.

    Paying For Your Senior Apartment

    How much do you need to retire? The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) states that most senior households will need at least 80% of their pre-retirement income to live comfortably.

    For example, if you spend $100,000 a year before retiring, you will likely need $80,000 post-retirement. Of course, this amount varies on a case-by-case basis. However, the 80% rule is a good metric to follow if you do not wish to make any drastic downgrades to your current lifestyle.

    Following the example above, that same individual can max out their Social Security benefits at around $3,000 per month. That means the retiree would have to secure $3,600 from another source, which could come from:

    Personal Funds

    Everyone has a retirement fund. Some people set aside a few grand, while others successfully accumulate millions of dollars through several income streams. Whatever the case, your personal funds would account for a good portion of your initial retirement income.

    We want to clarify that personal funds do not exclusively translate to cold hard cash. This amount includes all liquid assets, from stock dividends to real estate investment properties. You can also add any unclaimed inheritance money you have.

    Housing Assistance

    Low-income retirees who have no means of buying units in an apartment community can turn to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They offer a broad selection of programs geared toward post-retirement income aid.

    The benefits that a qualified senior receives depends on what category they fall under. Those near the poverty line would likely qualify for free housing in a public retirement community, while the lower-middle-class individuals can take advantage of government-funded vouchers.

    Note: Seniors earning six digits pre-retirement probably won't qualify for HUD programs. As mentioned, these plans exist to help low-income aging adults get into decent apartment homes.

    Long-Term Care Insurance

    As the name suggests, long-term care insurance provides financial support to retirees who need long-term care. Of course, these will only take effect if the senior applies for the policy pre-retirement. In most cases, insurers require the policy to mature a year or two before allowing the owner to file claims.

    Seniors who have long-term care insurance policies can file claims on their activities of daily living (ADLs). For claims approval, the policy owner will likely undergo multiple checkups. A nurse or clinic certified by your insurer has to give the go signal before you receive any form of benefit.

    Upon approval, you will be assigned a Plan of Care account and individual care manager. You will continue to receive benefits for the duration of your ADLs or until your policy runs out of coverage, whichever comes first.

    Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

    SSI provides financial support to low-income disabled seniors living in the United States. The benefits you receive vary based on your current living conditions, but generally, the government will provide sufficient funds to sustain essentials, such as food, clothing, and shelter. SSI significantly benefits independent living seniors who have no means to secure extra income post-retirement.

    Life Insurance Benefits

    Consult your life insurance agent on the value of your policy. It's not unlikely for decades-old plans to have cash values exceeding six digits—especially if your insurer invested the funds in good assets.

    Unfortunately, life insurance benefits for the living do not come easy. If you want to access the total amount of your policy, you can do so by:

    • Paying for Long-Term Care: Policy owners can make several withdrawals from their life insurance policy to pay for long-term care—as long as they meet the insurer's requirements.
    • Life Settlement Option: Settlement options allow the policy owner to access their total maturity amount. Note that your insurer will likely give you the money in several monthly installments.
    • Applying for a Loan: Policy owners can borrow against their life insurance policy for a portion of their total maturity amount. However, we do not recommend this option to fixed-income retirees. Only consider this option if you have several passive income streams generating a steady cash flow.

    The only caveat is that seniors can only reap life insurance benefits on the policies they acquired decades before retiring. Most plans for seniors focus on estate planning rather than wealth accumulation. However, seniors can still look into insurance policies that will help with final expenses and long-term care.

    Medicare and Medicaid

    Medicaid is a government-funded health care program for low-income seniors. The program yields a broad range of benefits, from personal care services to long-term care.

    At best, you can even use your Medicaid to fund all or the majority of what it costs to live in a senior apartment. Of course, a Medicaid agent will have to approve your request first. This process prevents clients from using Medicaid to fund the costs of living in an unnecessarily expensive retirement community.

    Meanwhile, Medicare is a more accessible program that anyone 65 and up can use to pay for medical care. While you cannot use Medicare to fund long-term care, seniors with life-ending diseases can rely on these to cover hospital fees and dues.

    Finding a Senior Apartment

    A quick Google search will bring up hundreds of senior housing communities. While the sheer number of options can feel exciting, some might find sorting through several apartments tedious and confusing. Plus, not many older adults have the means nor resources to inspect prospective apartments near them.

    However, the process does not have to be complicated. On the contrary, you can make house hunting fun, efficient, and productive by following these tips:

    Peruse City Records

    Before browsing for senior apartments, we recommend inspecting the city first. Research the following factors:

    • Cost of Living: Research what nearby independent living households spend on daily expenses. Strive to keep your living costs down to at least 60% of your income.
    • Crime Rates: Check the city's most recent crime rates and analyze the trends (e.g., theft, kidnapping, home invasion). Never compromise safety to live in low-cost housing apartments.
    • Median Income: The majority of any retirement community relies on a fixed income. So if several independent living senior households in your prospective city earn well over six digits, you are likely looking at a high-class, luxury neighborhood.
    • Average Senior Housing Costs: You will get a good idea of how much standard senior apartments and homes cost by researching the median and average housing costs.

    Set a Price Point and Budget

    As you explore the market, you will see that senior housing prices have vast price differences. Standard options can go as low as $1,000 to $2,000 per month, while luxurious senior apartments can set you back by five digits every week. If you live on a fixed income, as most retirees do, you would want to find something in the middle.

    However, note that housing rates depend on your state as well. For example, $200,000 will get you a decent-sized home in Mississippi or Kansas. Meanwhile, you will have to double or triple that amount if you plan on retiring in expensive states like New York or Hawaii. That being said, consider retiring in low-cost states with affordable houses.

    Also, remember to factor in the discounts and senior benefits that could help pay your retirement expenses, which include:

    • Care insurance
    • Government-funded benefit programs
    • Health care plans
    • Life insurance claims and dividends
    • Liquid real estate assets
    • Pension and fixed income
    • Social Security benefits
    • Veterans benefits

    Explore the Nearby Establishments

    Ideally, you would want to relocate to a retirement community with the following establishments:

    • Pharmacy and Clinic: Only move into senior apartments with 24/7 access to medical and pharmaceutical support.
    • Fitness Center or Gym: Every active adult knows the importance of exercise. Performing sporting activities and exercising will keep your muscles strong, joints limber, and mental state active.
    • Park: Parks add a touch of rural living to drab urban housing communities. Immersing yourself in nature for at least an hour or two every day will do wonders to your physical, mental, and spiritual health. Plus, seeing kids play around makes most seniors feel young.
    • Malls or Entertainment Centers: Every modern lifestyle community has at least one entertainment center. These establishments usually contain theaters, restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, and shopping boutiques.

    Tour Prospective Communities

    Now that you have read several online reviews and hopped on virtual housing tours, it's time to visit your prospective senior apartments and communities in person. After all, you can only gather so much information from online housing reviews.

    Also, too many homebuyers rush their decisions. When touring apartments for rent, senior clients should allot the entire day so they can wholly immerse themselves in the environment. If possible, staying in one of the nearby apartment buildings would give you the best insight.

    Pro Tip: Do you feel uncomfortable visiting strange apartment communities? Ask a young, knowledgeable loved one to assist you. You don't necessarily need a real estate expert, but having an objective third-party do in-depth market analysis on the property you're eyeing yields several advantages.

    Have the Apartment Furnished Beforehand

    Are you ready to move into your new home? After finalizing the paperwork, you now have total control over your living space—meaning you can customize it however you want. Redecorating a senior apartment seems fun. However, keep in mind that the process requires intense research and back-breaking elbow grease.

    If the idea does not appeal to you, have someone else furnish your living space. Indicate your preferences, then guide them with what fixtures and appliances will assist with your mobility needs. Otherwise, expect to spend the first few weeks in a messy, unsafe senior apartment.

    Can't decide whether you can afford to send your aging relative to a nursing home? Senior Strong has multiple resources comparing the best nursing home facilities in the country. Check out our comprehensive review on the cost of nursing homes.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How do you get into a 55+ community?

    When you're looking at most 55+ community requirements, there are two standard rules. The first says that each household must have a resident who is 55 years of age or older. The second rule pertains to the remaining members—spouses and children-of any family living in an over 50's retirement home.

    What is considered a senior community?

    An Over 55 Retirement Community is a place for adults who are at least 55 years of age to live out their golden years. These neighborhoods can be single-family homes, condos, or even apartments that are gated and have social activities available for their members.

    Can someone under 55 live in a senior community?

    The strict age requirements for retirement communities mean that it is rare to find those with children living there full-time. However, according to their rules, adult children 18 years or older may be allowed if one of the other adults occupying the unit is 55 years old and up—though you should check on any additional fees associated with this arrangement.

    Are over 55 communities worth it?

    It's not unheard of for buyers to purchase a home in an active adult community with the intention of reselling it later. However, if you're looking to get more bang for your buck when selling down the road, you may be disappointed as research has shown that resale values can decrease significantly after residency is established within 55+ communities.

    Are you a senior citizen at 55?

    The age of senior citizens varies according to the source. For example, Medicare defines someone as being 65 or older while other sources say that once you turn 55 there is no longer any debate about it—they are officially considered old and should be treated with respect accordingly!

    There are dozens of living spaces geared toward older adults, so do not limit yourself to one or two options. We also discourage blindly going with generic senior apartments to save money. Instead, find a community that matches your lifestyle. Trust us, a fun, serene home environment will contribute to your overall quality of life.

    If you find yourself on the fence about senior housing apartments despite months of searching, consult with a real estate professional. Hire someone to guide you through the market. Navigating care retirement communities in your city—much less other states—involves too much paperwork and research for a nearly retired senior.

    Seniors living independently face several challenges daily. Fortunately, Senior Strong has the complete resources to help retirees maintain a comfortable and secure living space. Check out our comprehensive guide on aging in place.

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    After years of living under the care of your parents and other family members, the time will arrive for you to reciprocate. At Senior Strong, you can show your loved ones just how much you value them.
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