Seniors have more options than ever before when it comes to the types of senior independent living on the market today. The four basic options are senior independent living communities, age-restricted housing (aka "senior apartments"), naturally occurring retirement communities, and subsidized housing for seniors. Here's a look at each of these housing options.
Senior Independent Living Communities
Senior independent living communities go by several different names. Retirement homes, active adult retirement communities and senior communities all refer to senior independent living communities. These communities are usually larger than other types of independent living arrangements, with capacity for a hundred to several hundred residents or more at each location. Residents may have the option to rent or buy their unit, depending on the community, and the accommodations can range from basic to plush.
Some senior independent living communities are tailored to suit lifestyle preferences and attract certain types of applicants. For example, communities that focus on lifelong learning or offer travel opportunities, and those that are faith-based or welcome residents of a particular sexual orientation (e.g., LGBT-friendly communities) are all gaining in popularity.
The vast majority of these communities were built or remodeled with the primary purpose of housing seniors. This means that the living spaces are senior-friendly. Single-level living, grab bars in the bedroom and bathroom, and non-skid floors are typical in most residences. For more information on senior independent living, see Independent Living Communities: What to Expect.
Age-restricted housing for seniors typically refers to senior independent living apartment complexes. The rents are comparable to those of similar, non-age-restricted apartments in the area. There are varying degrees of "senior-friendliness" in terms of the physical living space in senior apartments, but in most cases, if a residence was not built for the specific purpose of housing seniors, then it has been remodeled to suit the needs of its aging residents with safety features such as the ones mentioned above.
Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities
Naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs) are another type of senior independent living. These communities develop over time as residents age in place in proximity to one another.
Typically, this occurs within a residential setting such as an apartment complex or even a neighborhood. Residents pool their resources, financially or otherwise, to arrange for services that can help them stay in their homes and delay or prevent a move to senior housing.
The final type of senior independent living is subsidized housing. There are a few different types of subsidized housing available to seniors who qualify. Section 202, Supportive Housing for the Elderly, is the only program designed specifically for low-income seniors. However, Section 8 and public housing are two other subsidized housing options for which seniors may apply.
Section 202 housing usually provides a modest apartment with kitchen and bath, in a senior-friendly space. Depending on the housing project, meal delivery, light housekeeping and basic transportation may be available.
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Written by senior housing writer Nikki Jong.