Senior couple looking at a laptop together

There are so many living choices available to today’s seniors.  We have put together a guide to help you navigate all of the options available and decide what the best choice is for your situation.

Active 55+ Communities
Typically age-restricted to those 55 and older (or sometimes 62 and older), these communities are for independent older adults and therefore don’t offer any assistance with daily activity.  There are a wide range of options in the Active Adult category including single-family homes, condos, townhomes and apartments – the most common being planned adult neighborhoods and 55+ apartment communities.

  • Planned Adult Neighborhoods - These are neighborhoods of single family detached homes that typically range from 1500-2000 square feet and are built on smaller lots.  Homes are usually one-story and are often equipped with features appropriate for aging-in-place.  These communities are usually governed by a Homeowner’s Association which enforces covenants and restrictions.  Common features typically include clubhouses, pools, walking trails and parks.  Often, neighborhoods are built near a golf course or lake.
  • Active Adult Apartment Communities - Sometimes called Active 55 or Senior Apartments, this is a multi-housing unit for older adults who are still active and able to care for themselves.  While amenities and services vary from community to community, they typically feature common areas such as lounges, theaters, craft and hobby areas, fitness centers, swimming pools and walking trails.  There are often activities on-site such as exercise classes, movies, game nights and other social gatherings.

Independent Living Communities – Like the Active Adult options, these communities are for seniors who are still able to live on their own and care for themselves.  Studio, one- and two-bedroom units may be offered.  Apartments are equipped with a full kitchen or kitchenette but the communities typically offer meal plans which may include 1, 2 or 3 meals.  Maintenance, housekeeping and laundry service are usually included.   Common areas include lounges and sitting areas and rooms for hobbies, crafts and games.  Communities may have on-site hair salons, movie theaters, business centers, swimming pools and fitness centers.  There are social groups for all types of interests and many offer transportation to medical appointments and organized outings to local stores and attractions.  The facilities are staffed 24 hours per day and may be equipped with medical alert systems.  Assistance for medication management and daily activities is not traditionally included although some communities may allow, and even help arrange, outside home health companies to come in for those who need temporary assistance.

Assisted Living Communities – These communities are designed for seniors who are still independent but require some assistance with day-to-day tasks such as medication management, bathing, dressing or grooming.  Transportation services are available for medical appointments, shopping and group social outings.  Meals are typically provided.  Apartments are usually small studios or one bedroom, although some communities offer two bedrooms, and are usually equipped with a kitchenette.  Housekeeping, maintenance, linen service and laundry service is typically included.   The facilities are staffed 24 hours per day and medical alert systems are installed throughout the facility.  Common areas include lounges and sitting areas and rooms for hobbies, crafts and games.  Communities may have on-site hair salons, movie theaters, business centers, swimming pools and fitness centers.  There are social groups for all types of interests.

Residential Care HomesSometimes called Senior Group Homes, Residential Care Homes provide assisted living in a smaller setting.   These are often located in traditional homes in residential neighborhoods and accommodate 4-6 residents per home.  Residents share bathrooms, bedrooms and living spaces. They receive more personalized care and enjoy a more “close-knit” family feel.   Meals  and assistance with daily activities are included and some may provide medication management as well.

Memory Care Communities  – These are specialized Assisted Living Communities for those who are diagnosed with memory issues such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia.   These may be stand-alone facilities or they may be a specialized unit of a CCRC, Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing community.  The facilities are staffed 24 hours per day by staff who are specially trained to deal with those who have cognitive issues.  Security codes are required for entry and exit to keep the residents from wandering off.  Services offered include medication management and assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing or grooming.   They also offer programs and therapies specifically for those with cognitive issues.  They may have both private and semi-private rooms available.  Housekeeping, maintenance, linen service and laundry service is included.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) – These communities offer older adults a unique way to “age-in-place” by transitioning through the various types of senior care options.  Independent living, assisted living, memory care and nursing care are typically all located on the same campus.  Most require a significant entry fee or “buy-in”  in addition to monthly rent.  This initial fee is sometimes partially refundable upon the resident’s death.   One great advantage of CCRCs is that it enables spouses who may need different levels of care to remain on the same campus.  It also allows seniors to make and keep the same friends throughout their time in the community.  Unfortunately, due to the large financial commitment, CCRCs may not be an option for seniors with limited resources and income.

Options for Affordable or Low-Income Housing:

Public Housing consists of low-cost apartment homes that are owned and operated by the local housing authority.  They typically require tenants to pay no more than 30 percent of their monthly income for rent. To apply for public housing, visit the housing authority for the city in which you want to live

Section 8 is a voucher system that allows very low-income families to choose where they want to live, subject to HUD standards, by providing rental certificates that limit tenants’ rent to 30 percent of their adjusted monthly income. Very low-income families with incomes not exceeding 50 percent of the median income for the area can qualify for the program.  Apply at your local housing authority and/or the housing authority for the city in which you want to live.  Since these vouchers are “portable,” you can receive them in one city and take them to another city.  There is typically a long waiting list for Section 8 vouchers, especially in larger cities.

Section 202 Housing is senior citizen housing, usually with supportive services such as meals, transportation, and accommodations for the disabled. Occupancy is open to very low-income households with at least one person 62 years of age or older, and the disabled. To apply, visit the community directly.

Affordable HUD Apartments are privately owned but contract with HUD and calculate rent based on the resident’s income.  Basic rent is typically no more than 30 percent of a resident’s adjusted monthly income. These are not associated with local housing authorities.  Applications are made directly to the complex in which you wish to live.

Our directory includes information on options in Dallas/Fort Worth that offer either affordable, low-income or subsidized housing options for seniors.  There are typically waiting lists for these communities so apply early and apply to many.

Find out more about vacancies by visiting the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Vacancy Clearinghouse.

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