How Do You Qualify for Senior Living?

Most senior living communities allow their residents to live full and independent lives in their own abode. But how does one qualify for senior living?

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Senior living communities can be a fantastic alternative to traditional retirement homes for individuals getting on in their years. Most senior living communities allow their residents to live full and independent lives in their own abode, within a community of like minded individuals of the same general age and interests. But how does one qualify for senior living?

The reason that senior living is so attractive to many potential residents is that it creates the perfect living environment for seniors. However, that also means that the screening process to qualify for senior living can be fairly rough to get through. In order to qualify to live in a senior living community, you will need to be past a certain age and have enough money to show that you'll be able to pay all the fees and dues required.

Different senior living communities can be more or less strict with their policies. As well, some senior living housing caters separately to the 55+ demographic and the 62+ demographic, with screening for 62+ residents being much more thorough and exclusionary. Depending on what you're looking for, you may take a look around several senior living communities before finding one that offers what you want, or would even be willing to let you in.

Communities may also differ drastically in the types of amenities they provide for their residents. As well, they can differ in the types of housing units provided, be they apartments, condos, trailers, houses, or all of the above. The more separated your unit is from the rest, the more independent that senior living community is likely to be.

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What Age Do You Have to Be to Qualify for Senior Living?

As discussed, you generally have to be at least at or above the age of 55 in order to qualify for housing in most senior living communities. Exemptions may include if you are the spouse of someone who is over the age of 55 and who qualifies to live in a 55+ community or if you are the live-in nurse or caregiver of someone who qualifies for living in housing for any demographic. Senior living communities are allowed to discriminate based on age in order to keep a more peaceful community for their residents and they will use this ability to their fullest extent.

Despite the fact that it may seem like the older you are, the more likely you will be able to qualify to live in a senior living community, that isn't always the case. As with any other type of living situation, the resident's ability to pay their dues and fees in a timely manner for the foreseeable future comes into play when screening for senior living applicants. If you are in dire health to the point where you can't in good faith commit long-term to a housing contract, you may not qualify for senior living in many communities.

Certain Communities May Be Stricter Than Others

Due to the exclusionary nature of senior living communities in general, the landlords of certain communities may be allowed to increase or decrease the qualifications for living in certain areas, and sometimes the whole community. These changes can affect how strict the age qualifications are for residents in either certain sections or the community in general. Unless your state has special laws put in place to prevent this kind of specific discrimination, landlords are, for the most part, free to impose their own standards on most senior living communities as far as the ratio of certain age brackets is concerned.

How Much Money Do I Need to Qualify for Senior Living?

Many senior living communities are not cheap, but there are various options for residents that may find themselves in different economic brackets. For the most part, you can expect to be turned away from the majority of senior living communities if you don't have some steady amount of income, whether that be from retirement funds or from simple social security. Most senior living communities aim to provide somewhat of a luxurious experience for their residents, and that doesn't come for free.

When attempting to qualify for senior living, there are a couple of areas of your overall wealth that will be taken into account during the screening process. Sources of income that are taken into consideration can include social security, pensions, capital gains, dividends, and retirement money from an IRA or 401(k). All of these things will be taken into account if applicable, and the more wealth you have overall, the more likely you will be able to qualify for living in the senior living community of your choice.

Other liquid assets will also be taken into account during most of the screening processes you will encounter. These liquid assets can include any money that you currently have invested, any money that you currently have in savings, and any property that you currently own. These assets can then be used in determining your overall value and financial stability as it relates to your ability to pay your dues and fees.

It's important to note that not all senior living communities will cost you the same. A community that has more amenities and larger housing units will generally cost more. While the most luxurious senior living community available may be ideal, aiming within your budget will increase your chances of qualifying for housing.

As well, individual communities may offer a wide range of housing opportunities for those within all different economic brackets on the same grounds. If you are attracted to a certain senior living community yet can't afford any of the housing you see, ask for some more feasible options that might cater towards those in your demographic.

If you can't afford to live in the senior housing community that you're most attracted to, you may try to find a roommate. Many senior living communities will allow multiple seniors to live in the same unit, and having a roommate may be even more fun than being alone. There are likely many other seniors who are in the same position as you and can't quite afford to make it on their own in the place of their choice. Of course, remember that your roommate will have to meet the same age requirements as you do, unless exempted by a specific senior living community.

Is There Any Low Income Senior Living Available?

If you are a senior who is struggling to live within your budget, there are many special low income senior living communities around that may help you get back on your feet. While these senior living communities will not usually offer all the luxurious amenities that the higher-tier communities do, they will still allow you to live independently alongside neighbors within your same age bracket. If you don't think you would be able to afford traditional senior living, you may qualify for low income senior living.

These low income senior living communities are made available through different tax breaks and subsidies granted to developers through the government. They may be either independently run or run by the government. In order to qualify, you will have to meet certain requirements regarding your age and your income, similar to traditional senior living. Getting into contact with your local HUD, or Housing and Urban Development office is a good way to start finding low income senior living opportunities in your area.

While low income senior living might not sound ideal, these communities will usually offer a fairly comparable environment to their upper-tier counterparts, just with fewer amenities. You will not have to deal with a bad neighborhood or otherwise negative environment, and the living will still be just as simple and laid-back as you need it to be.

How Healthy Do You Need to Be to Qualify for Senior Living?

Importantly, senior living communities are traditionally communities designed for independent living. That means that the residents are expected to be able to take care of themselves. While all sorts of amenities may be provided, from cleaning to dining, depending on the type of community, the residents are still expected to be in generally sound health for their age bracket.

The need to live in a senior living community is not typically brought about by health concerns but by a number of other factors. These other factors are often either monetary or social. A resident may simply have no money to take care of their current household and require downsizing, or they may just wish to be around more people their own age.

Individuals who are in poorer health will likely wish to seek out options that provide more personalized service and healthcare than traditional independent senior living communities. There are many facilities that will provide different degrees of independence catered to the needs of their residents while also providing both ongoing and emergency medical attention. Depending on your income, these types of facilities can vary drastically in the overall experience for the resident.

Do Independent Senior Living Communities Provide Any Assistance?

While those with serious health conditions likely won't qualify for independent living, that doesn't mean that you need to be in 100% working order. Those with minor disabilities and other conditions can get along in most independent senior living communities with little to no problems.

Independent senior living communities still do offer a network of support for seniors who may need moderate assistance every once in a while. As well, there are typically many amenities for seniors with basic disabilities, including ramps and easy access points for community buildings.

So while you will need to be healthy enough to take care of yourself and get around, you don't need to be healthy enough to run laps around the community. Senior living is meant to offer a peaceful alternative to traditional living that still allows for maximum independence, and that means that those in need of an easy-going and laid-back environment will likely find all of their needs met.

Many senior living communities, even independent ones, will also offer transportation and field trips for residents who are no longer capable of or comfortable with driving on their own. On top of the other social benefits of senior living, getting out of your living space and seeing the outside world with people your own age in this fun and laid-back setting allows even the most limited of independent residents to get the most of independent senior living.

What Are Continuing Care Retirement Communities?

There are many Continuing Care Retirement Communities, or CCRCs, that provide both independent and assisted senior living. With these facilities, individuals in waning health are able to transfer in and out of assisted living depending on their current condition. For individuals who have health concerns but can still live independently the majority of the time, these types of communities may be the way to go.

The benefit of having assisted and independent senior living on the same site is that it poses a smaller burden on transferees. As well, should the resident only need assisted living temporarily, they will be able to resume independent living uninterrupted once they are back to full working order. This is definitely the way to go for many seniors.

Don't Forget to Provide Proof of Your Age

When attempting to qualify for senior living, you will have to provide legal proof of your age. While this shouldn't be a problem for most people, others may have more trouble. Legal documentation of your age can include:

  • Birth certificate
  • Driver's license
  • Passport or immigration card
  • Military identification card

If you are having a hard time finding legal documentation of your age for any reason, there are certain exemptions that will allow a credible witness to verify your age for you. Once your age has been verified by the senior living community, they will continue to re verify your age every few years as you continue to live there. This is to ensure that everyone living in the community is really the age they say they are.

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