Senior housing: What are the options?

by Admin | May 24, 2011

Some 10 to 12 percent of the American population is over 65 years of age—a number that is expected to double in the next 25 years or so. As such, the demand for senior housing is expanding exponentially.  As we age, a large percentage of us will be faced with the prospect of revising our present living arrangements.  Seniors are anxious to find the best housing solutions for their particular situation in life, however, the sheer array of choices can be somewhat overwhelming. If you are currently thinking about long-range plans, consider these different senior housing options.   


Senior Housing in the Form of Retirement Communities


A senior community will be much like any other neighborhood, but will be restricted to people over the age of 55, or in some cases, over 62. Retirement communities tend to be geared toward active seniors and will typically offer plenty of sports and activities such as golf, biking, hiking and tennis, as well as a swimming pool, spa, exercise equipment, clubs and special interest groups. 


The overall goal is to provide lots of options for all the residents of the retirement community, including a wide array of social activities. Senior housing in this category will generally offer comfortable apartments, condos or manufactured homes, and many will provide chef-prepared meals as well as a manager who ensures everything is running smoothly. Retirement communities can be a great choice for those who feel they no longer want to be responsible for home repairs and upkeep. 


Senior Housing Apartments


Many seniors choose to sell their homes, moving into an apartment with much less upkeep and maintenance.  The sale of a home they have likely had for many years can free up equity and supplement income. As an added bonus, many seniors feel a greater sense of security living in senior housing apartments than they did living in a private home which may have been more isolated. 


Like retirement communities, “seniors only” apartments generally have similar age restrictions, and the population in these apartments can be very diverse. Some seniors are in this type of senior housing due to a divorce which forced them to divide equity, while others have found themselves in financial hardship with an inability to continue making mortgage payments and keeping up property. Generally speaking, senior housing apartments will fall into three categories: market rate, above market rate (luxury), and affordable. Market rate offers a competitive monthly rate, luxury class is for the more affluent senior, and affordable are for lower income seniors. However, these are in extremely high demand and short in supply. 


Senior Housing—Modular Home Communities


A third type of senior housing is sometimes referred to as a mobile home park, and is a popular form of retirement living. Most residents own their own modular or mobile home, and rent the space where it sits. These mobile home parks include all city utilities and amenities, and can either be deliberately age restricted or what is called a NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) meaning it was not originally age restricted, but evolved through time to reach the point where at least 80% of its residents are over 55. 


ECHO Senior Housing


ECHO stands for Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity, and allows seniors to share a single family home, or separate apartment on a single family lot with either another person or family. The availability of ECHO units are largely dependent upon specific zoning ordinances. While all cities in California are required to permit such senior housing, not all cities and counties in other states allow these living arrangements for seniors. 


Other options for senior housing include shared housing – where two unrelated seniors choose to live together in a shared house or apartment – continued care retirement communities, congregate housing, assisted living, skilled nursing facilities and senior short-term housing. All of these options have pros and cons, so it’s important to do your research and choose the best long-term senior care solution for yourself. 

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