How to Find Senior Housing that Fits Your Needs

Maybe you've spent most of your life as a homeowner, and have recently sold the house in which you had lived for years, or even decades. Perhaps your once-perfect home felt too big and empty, now that the kids are all gone for good; or maybe between the mortgage and the taxes (and the upkeep), it was just too expensive; or possibly it was too much work to clean, and keep up with the garden and yard, and to overall maintain, now that you're not quite as spry as you used to be. Or it could be that you're a lifelong renter, an urban person looking to downsize, and/or move to a another city, to be closer to your children and/or grandchildren. Or perhaps you'd like to move into a building, or a community, where you'll meet more folks your own age, and have easier access to stores, and medical care, and recreational activities. When you reach a certain age, getting around to accomplish whatever you want and need to do on a daily basis should be as simple as possible. After all, the less time and energy that you need to expend on mundane tasks, the more of both you'll still have for things you actually enjoy doing. In other words, there are many reasons why you might feel like it's time to start looking for apartments for seniors, and we're here to help. Senior housing can take many forms, of course. There are rental apartments for seniors in which there is some sort of HUD-approved age-restriction--sometimes 55 and older, but more often 62 and up--as well as "affordable" rent guidelines, subsidized by federal, state, city, and/or county funding. To qualify for subsidized affordable senior apartments, prospective tenants must fall within the income requirements of a specific building or complex as well.

Market Rate vs. Affordable Senior Housing

As a general rule of thumb, those seeking affordable apartments for seniors must show that they would be paying no less than 30 percent of their income for gross housing costs, including utilities. It's important to note, however, that some jurisdictions may define affordable housing based on other, locally determined criteria, which can be either more stringent or more relaxed. As you can imagine, the demand for subsidized affordable senior housing is far greater than the current supply, and many places either have long waiting lists (as in, years-long waiting lists) or lotteries with odds that wind up being one-in-many-thousands. Looking for rental apartments for seniors that are not classified as affordable--that, is market rate rental apartments for seniors--is a different story altogether. There are many things to consider when searching for your new home (or new home for your loved ones, if it's your parents that you're looking for, an increasingly common dynamic), and price is one of them. If you're on any sort of fixed income (and most people looking for apartments for seniors are), no matter how seemingly adequate today, and if there are no rent-control or rent-stabilization regulations in place, it's important to understand the long-term rental market in the neighborhood to which you're moving. Have rents been fairly stable, with no signs of imminent development? Or do homes seem undervalued, accompanied by a surge in residential construction nearby? You want to make sure, if at all possible, that rents won't shoot up beyond what you can afford five years from now, forcing you to move yet again.

Things to Consider When Searching for a Retirement Home

A good place to start is to remember that, no matter how fit and agile you might be this year, if you're looking for a long-term senior apartment it's best to consider safety and functionality five or ten years down the road as well. To that end, stairs of any sort should be avoided if possible or, at a minimum, it's best if they're broad, with a gentle rise, and flanked by at least one handrail. Similarly, if you live in a four-season climate but are hunting for senior rental apartments in the summer, you should ask questions about snow removal and such, and try to imagine what the walkways you would most frequent would look like covered in snow and ice. As mobility decreases with age, your immediate neighborhood becomes more important than ever. Living just a short walk away from a variety of both useful and pleasurable stores and cafes is most desireable, of course, but having ready access to public buses is almost as good, preferably if there's a stop right outside your building or within your housing complex, if applicable. If you own and drive a car, having quiet, local streets that lead to your most frequent destinations can create less stress, and reserved parking close to your building's entrance helps at the other end, when you, for example, have to carry your groceries from the car. And although it's nice to live next to lots of people your own age, it can also be enlivening to count young families and people with a variety of lifestyles and interests as your neighbors as well. So, do you want to live in a "senior community," or do you prefer to live surrounded by people of all ages? On the other hand, while you may prefer a more diverse set of neighbors, you may also require assistance with things such as meal preparation, in-home nurse visits, housekeeping, etc. depending on your level of independence. In those instances, you might be better off in a senior community that can provide you with all of these services, all for one cost.

Where to Find Senior Housing

Most large communities have their own websites, which you can find my using Google or another search engine (if you're not very web savvy, ask your kids, grandkids, public library attendent, etc. for help). Many real estate sites, such as this one, aggregate rental and/or sale listings from a multitude of sources, allowing you see a broader scope of what's available in the marketplace. Some of them have the ability to search only senior communities, although many of them don't.
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