Senior looking out of apartment window

What Are Senior Apartments?

When looking for a new apartment, you might come across the term “senior apartments” and you’ll wonder what are senior apartments? The truth is, senior apartments are exactly like regular apartments, except they come with special features designed especially for senior citizens. If you are a senior citizen, though, moving into a senior apartment may be exactly what you’re looking for in a community. So, if you’ve ever wondered what are senior apartments and want to know more about why you may want to live in one, here’s a guide to help you decide.

Senior Apartments Basics

If you’re asking what are senior apartments, at the most basic level, they are apartment complexes that require tenants to be at least a certain age to live in the community. The age requirement varies from community to community, but typically, the minimum age is between 55 and 62. While the term “senior apartments” applies to actual apartments, the term can also be used to identify condominiums and townhouses that are specifically designed for senior tenants.

In general, what sets senior apartments apart from regular apartments is that they include features that benefit senior citizens. For example, they are often one level (no stairs), lower cabinets include laundry and housekeeping services, and have onsite amenities like hairdressers, spas, fitness centers, and more. Chores and climbing stairs often become difficult for elderly people, so senior apartments seek to alleviate these obligations.

Additionally, people who are researching what are senior apartments should know that by moving into senior apartments, townhouses, or condominiums, seniors don’t have to worry about lawn care, garbage pickup, snow removal, or other exterior chores that can really take a physical toll on elderly homeowners. These exterior maintenance jobs are left to the management company or homeowner’s association that governs the property and because senior tenants don’t have to worry about them, they can just focus on enjoying their home and its many amenities.

Senior apartments are often referred to as independent living facilities or retirement communities. Unlike retirement homes and assisted living facilities, medical care is typically not available onsite. Dining plans, nursing services, and personal aides are also usually not a part of senior apartment complexes unless the occupant pays for them separately through a third-party provider. 

Who Can Live in Senior Apartments?

Along with knowing what are senior apartments, you need to know who can live in these specialized housing units. In housing where the minimum age is 55, there is a legal requirement that at least 80% of the occupied properties in a senior living community have at least one person who is 55 years old or older. So, if your spouse is 55, but you’re younger, you can live with your spouse in a senior apartment. If you have an adult child living with you, it’s also likely they will be allowed to stay in the apartment as well.

Some communities do require a spouse of an occupant who meets the 55 or older age requirement to be at least 40 years old and an adult child to be at least 18 years old. This rule is not set by the federal government, so it does vary from property to property and will need to be something you find out before you move in, especially if your spouse is significantly younger than you or if you had children later in life.

However, in communities where the minimum age is 62, there are no exceptions to this rule. All people living in the apartment must be at least 62 years old. Under the Fair Housing Act, age is not a protected class, so these communities can set and enforce rules that do not allow anyone under the age of 62. 

Very few, if any, senior communities allow children under the age of 18 to live in the apartments, even if one of the occupants is at least 55 years old (in a 55+ community). Certainly, you can have your grandchildren visit and in the 55+ communities, younger residents can live in up to 20% of the units, but in many cases, the management company keeps this percentage as low as possible to ensure their certification as a 55+ community remains intact.

Visitor Restrictions

As briefly mentioned when discussing what are senior apartments above, there are no restrictions on who can visit you when you live in a senior apartment. But, some communities may put restrictions on how long visitors can stay. This decision is entirely up to the community management, so before you allow your grandchild to stay the summer with you, make sure you clear it with management ahead of time, especially if they are younger than 18. In some communities, these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and are made with the best interests of all occupants in mind.

Benefits of Living in Senior Apartments

Once you start researching what are senior apartments, you’ll probably come across the various benefits that come with living in an age-restricted community. There is a reason why there are so many of these complexes in the country and why more and more people are researching what are senior apartments. Many people who are advancing in age want to live in a quiet community with neighbors who have similar interests and habits as they do. It makes living with other people more comfortable if everyone is on the same page. But, there are several other benefits as well, including the following.

  1. Low maintenance costs – If you’re on a fixed income, it can be challenging to pay for all the maintenance that’s required on a home. With a senior apartment, your maintenance costs are included in your rent or management fee, so you’ll know exactly what you’re paying each month for any type of exterior maintenance and some interior maintenance items.
  2. Easier to maintain – Along with lower maintenance costs, residents of senior apartments also have fewer maintenance tasks that they’re responsible for. You won’t have to mow the lawn, shovel the walk, rake the leaves, paint the exterior, fix the fence, or perform any other exterior maintenance activities. You can just relax in your home and not worry about these things getting taken care of. Moreover, since the apartment will likely be significantly smaller than a house, you’ll have less to clean and maintain inside as well.
  3. Built-in network – Since everyone (or almost everyone) living in the apartment complex will be about the same age as you, there is a built-in opportunity to meet new people who are in a similar stage of life. Everyone will be facing similar challenges or dealing with the same issues, such as Medicare, retirement, and fixed incomes. While you may not like everyone in the complex, the likelihood of finding great friends who enjoy the same things you do is quite high.
  4. Activities geared toward seniors – Many senior apartment communities provide planned activities for its residents. These activities aren’t held as often as they are in retirement homes or assisted living facilities, but you’re bound to find scheduled outings, various clubs, and seasonal parties to help foster a sense of community among residents. Some apartment complexes may offer more of these opportunities than others, so if this is important to you, make sure you find a community that meets your needs.
  5. Amenities – Unlike living in a single-family home, in a senior apartment complex, you’ll have access to various amenities that can make life much more enjoyable. Most senior communities have a clubhouse; swimming pool; fitness center; onsite laundry facilities; courts for basketball, tennis, and volleyball; and barbecue sites. These amenities are included in your rent or management fee. Some complexes have other amenities like laundry, housekeeping, and transportation services at an additional cost.
  6. Increase security – Many apartment complexes for seniors have better security features than single-family homes. For instance, many are gated so that residents or guests have to enter a code before they can come into the complex. Some even have guards who patrol the community to make sure no one is lurking around the apartments who shouldn’t be. Moreover, because you’re living near neighbors on all sides of you, there is always someone who can look after your home while you’re away and they can also look after you as well.
  7. Apartment layouts designed for seniors – If you choose a senior apartment that was built explicitly for seniors, you’ll find all kinds of features inside your apartment that are senior-friendly. In addition to being single level (no stairs), there will also be walk-in showers, grab bars in the bathroom, lower cabinets, non-slip surfaces, and usually, an emergency call system.
  8. No children – We all love kids, especially our own (and our grandkids), but as we age, sometimes we need kid-free zones, particularly when we’re trying to relax at home. While there will still be children around as visitors, they probably won’t be there for long periods of time. You’ll be able to enjoy the amenities without small children making the experience less than relaxing. Your kids and children can still visit, but they can’t move in with you, and the same goes for your neighbors.
  9. Quiet – We don’t appreciate when our surroundings are quiet nearly as much as we should, but as anyone who’s lived near a noisy neighbor will tell you, a quiet community is worth its weight in gold. Since nearly everyone living in a senior apartment community is older, they are much more likely to be respectful of their neighbors by not blasting loud music or having raucous parties. The absence of children also makes the community quieter, particularly at night, when you’re trying to sleep.
  10. Affordable – If you’re downsizing from a single-family house, you’ll discover that a senior apartment is affordable, particularly if you’re a buyer. In most cases, your mortgage will be lower than it is for a single-family house, and if you’re able to buy an apartment outright, you’ll only have your monthly management fee to pay, which will take care of all the amenities you’re certain to enjoy.

Lose the Hassles, Gain the Advantages of Senior Apartment Living

Now that you know what are senior apartments, you can see why they are becoming a popular housing option for senior citizens. You lose all the hassles related to home ownership and gain so many advantages that you might think you’re living in a full-service hotel! If you’re ready to think about downsizing to a senior apartment, start researching the communities in the areas you’re interested in. You might just find your perfect home.

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