Retirement homes, also known as senior apartments, are senior housing options that can work well as a bridge between living at home and moving into an assisted living facility. Essentially like independent senior living communities, but with fewer amenities and services-and lower costs-retirement homes could be the perfect option for seniors who can no longer take care of big houses, but are still healthy enough to live on their own and take care of their own affairs.
What Are Senior Apartments?
Senior apartments are apartment complexes designed with older adults in mind and that exclusively house senior residents. Typically, apartment units in these retirement homes will have no stairs and be very easy for older adults to navigate and move around in. Many senior apartments are also carpeted in every room, to reduce the likelihood of slips and falls, and feature other physical characteristics (including grab bars, seated showers, and more) to minimize the chance of injury. Emergency call systems are also included.
Floor plans vary, but most senior apartments include a bedroom (or two), a bathroom, a living space, and a limited kitchen area. The majority of senior apartments will also offer a washing machine and dryer right in the unit, for maximum convenience.
Why Choose a Retirement Home?
Retirement homes or senior apartments offer many of the same advantages of independent living communities. In fact, some people lump the two together-though, in our estimation, there are still a few clear deviations between a senior apartment building and an independent living community.
The clearest advantage of retirement homes is that they allow seniors to continue to living independently, but remove the pressures that exist for seniors who opt to stay in their houses. For instance, a senior who chooses to continue living in a house of their own needs to contend with stairs, home or yard maintenance, and just having more space than they need. Senior apartments don't have stairs or yards, have an apartment staff that will handle any maintenance requests in individual units, and are of a size that makes more sense for a single senior or an elderly couple.
Retirement homes also offer a similar social benefit to what is available at independent living communities. An age cutoff ensures that all of the residents in senior apartment buildings are of a similar age, and residents tend to make friends with other people in the building. Senior apartments have a community dining room, where residents can meet and visit with one another-as well as get all meals. They also offer social activities and events-though not with the same scale and frequency that independent living communities do.
The Difference Between Retirement Homes and Independent Living Communities
As mentioned previously, retirement homes basically serve as a lower-priced version of independent living communities. Where senior apartments offer a very basic living option for older adults-senior-friendly living spaces, community dining, limited social engagements-independent living communities take everything to the next level. The living spaces are usually larger, and are often separated into villas or townhomes, instead of kept together in a self-contained apartment building. Housekeeping, transportation, and laundry services are added to make life easier. Social programming is more of a focus. Additionally, educational opportunities are sometimes offered on-site, and basic assisted living or medical care centers are often hosted on site in case a resident experiences a medical event that demands higher level care.
In essence, independent living communities are just the next level of the services offered by retirement homes. Because they feature more amenities and services, though, full-fledged independent living communities are often a good deal more expensive-in terms of monthly rental costs and other fees-than retirement homes are. As a result, if money is a concern, senior apartments might be the best option for the older adult in your life.
Also keep in mind that senior apartments will be easier to find in bigger cities than more traditional independent living communities. Because retirement communities are often more sprawling in nature, they are more common in small towns and rural areas, while senior apartments are the best option for independent senior living in places like New York City.
Finding the Right Senior Apartment or Independent Living Community
If you have decided that an independent living situation is the best option for a parent, a grandparent, or another elderly adult in your life, you should be ready to do a good amount of research to determine the best place for them. Unlike with assisted living facilities or nursing homes, where the living environments and included services are generally the same from one place to the next, different independent living options can vary greatly.
To start, use the above section about the differences between senior apartments and independent communities to determine which you think is right for your loved one. Then, prepare a list of questions to call the different facilities offering those services in your area. Your questions list might include a few of the following queries:
- Is this independent living environment structured like a community (with villas and townhomes), or is it a self-contained apartment building?
- How many social events do you offer each month?
- What additional services (laundry, education, transportation, housekeeping, maintenance, etc.) are included in the monthly rent cost?
- Does the dining room offer three meals a day?
- What is the average monthly rent for an apartment/villa/townhouse in your community?
The answers to these questions should tell you what type of independent senior housing you are dealing with, and will give you the knowledge you need to decide which spot is the right fit for the senior in your life based on price, service, and overall quality of life. From there, you should be able to narrow your list of places down to two or three viable candidates. Then, it's just a matter of touring the senior apartments or independent living communities on your list to make a final decision.