Independent Living Housing Options


What is Independent Living?

Independent Living has become a term used to describe housing options for older adults who need little or no on-going assistance to remain living independently in their own homes.

We offer you a brief description of the various types of living arrangements typically used by seniors.

Please note that these independent living housing options may be different from state to state. Contact your state aging agency or local Area Agency on Aging to find out what options are available in your state.




Trailer Home



Types of Independent Housing

Adult Communities

Adult Communities are designed to attract active retirees by offering social activities, recreational facilities, and services of interest to those of retirement age. They are not age restricted but may have restrictions on children and are set up to appeal to older residents. These developments might consist of single-family (detached) dwellings, manufactured (mobile) home parks, condominiums, apartments and other types of dwellings.

NC They are not as common in North Carolina as in some other states.


Congregate Housing

This type of housing is basically the same as the "Multi-Unit Assisted Housing With Services" category listed below. Generally, congregate housing refers to an apartment complex exclusively for older adults where supportive services are available, including the opportunity for residents to have at least one meal a day in a central dining area. Services vary from facility to facility. Some may have a part-time social worker on staff to help arrange needed services; some may arrange for local providers of services to visit on a limited basis. This type of housing may be either subsidized or private pay. For some residents, this type of housing does represent Independent Living. Services are available but do not have to be used. Residents who live in congregate housing that offers a multitude of services of which they take advantage, could be identified as living in a "Multi-unit Assisted Housing With Services" facility which is congregate housing as well.


Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)

Glenaire CCRC
courtesy of Glenaire, NC

Also known as life-care communities, CCRCs offer housing and health-related services either for life or for a period in excess of one year. Usually, potential residents must be capable of independent living when they enter the community. Most do provide Adult Care Home and/or Nursing Home levels of care so that as a resident's health declines, they are able to continue to live within the community. In some cases, a person is allowed to enter directly into the Adult Care Home and/or Nursing Home levels of care.

The typical CCRC provides independent accommodations that may include full or efficiency apartments, villas, or cluster homes as well as community dining, social and recreational areas, and a wide range of services including meals, housekeeping, transportation, and health-related services.


Elderly Apartments

Elderly apartments are specifically intended for older adults and/or the disabled. Some have special features or services designed specifically for older residents. Others are exactly like any other apartment building except for an age restriction, which sometimes includes a restriction on children as well. These apartments may be in public housing or other subsidized housing, or they may be private pay.


Living in the Community with Assistance

The independent living housing option for older adults who need some assistance is the option to live at home with limited outside assistance and/or with a caregiver's assistance. Community services such as Meals on Wheels or In-Home Aide Service can be brought to the home and, often, a caregiver oversees all assistance.

Another version of this option is called Aging in Place. This option involves evaluating the home for safety issues that might be hazardous for an older person. The home would then be adjusted, as appropriate, through home modifications and other safety measures.


Multi-Unit Assisted Housing with Services

Multi-unit Assisted Housing with Services is a type of assisted living. Multi-unit assisted housing with services is a category of apartments or other independent living residential arrangements where services are offered to enable residents with special needs to live in an independent, multi-unit setting. At a minimum, one meal a day, housekeeping services and personal care services are available. Hands-on personal care and nursing care, which are arranged by housing management, are provided by a licensed home care provider, through a written care plan. Residents must not be in need of 24-hour supervision.

Like any independent apartment setting, a multi-unit assisted housing with services tenant commonly signs a lease agreement and pays monthly rent. Multi-unit assisted housing with services may be housing with or without subsidized rent. Supportive services are optional to the resident, and the resident must have a choice of care providers. Payments for personal or nursing care may not be combined with charges for housing.

NCDevelopments of multi-unit assisted housing with services are not required to be licensed; however, they are required to register with the NC Division of Health Services Regulation and to provide a disclosure statement describing services offered, charges for services, financial/legal relationship with home care agencies, and other important information for consumers.


Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities

"Naturally occurring retirement communities" are communities that are not designed specifically for an older population but still have a majority of older residents. They may attract older adults for various reasons, including their location; services and amenities of interest; nearness to health care, shopping and other services; affordability; and ease of upkeep. Some are simply communities of mostly older adults where long-time residents have "aged in place." These often are not included in lists of elderly housing, since they are not formal retirement living arrangements.


Public Housing

Public housing provides federally-supported housing units operated by local public housing authorities. Families or individuals pay 30 percent of their incomes in rent. Units may or may not have age restrictions.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development oversees public housing. They offer an Information and Resource Center staffed to answer questions/inquiries from the public. They can be reached at 1-800-955-2232.


Section 8 Vouchers

Section 8 Vouchers are a rental assistance program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These vouchers enable low-income people to rent a dwelling of their choice if it meets certain standards set by HUD. They are provided to eligible individuals through the local public housing authority and HUD pays a portion of the rent based on the tenant's income. Vouchers are available to adults of all ages. In many communities, there are waiting lists for vouchers.


Shared Housing

Shared housing can be described as two basic types: shared group residences and home-sharing. Shared group residences are those in which none of the people living there own the dwelling, but they pay rent for private space (e.g., room and bath) and shared common areas. Usually sponsored by non-profit organizations, these residences sometimes offer such supportive services as transportation and meals through agreements with human services providers.

In home-sharing, two unrelated people live together in a shared home or apartment, each having private space yet sharing common living areas. Home-sharing may be an informal arrangement among individuals or a program through an office on aging or other service agency.

NC Just a few formalized home sharing programs exist in North Carolina where people are screened and matched through an office on aging or other service organization.


The National Shared Housing Resource Center has compiled a directory of shared housing resources nationwide that can help begin a search for shared housing in your area.


Subsidized Housing

Subsidized housing is a housing program for low-income people. Typically, residents pay 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent. Some charge the same rent for all units of the same size, but rents are lower than that in comparable private housing. Units may or may not have age restrictions. This type of housing is usually administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (see contact information above)




How Do You Find These Housing Options?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has a page just for Seniors discussing types of housing they offer, home modifications, scams, etc.


Local Chambers of Commerce, real estate agents, and county websites will be good resources to locate local housing options. For locating housing that is specific to senior needs and usage, it would be best to contact your state aging agency or area agency on aging.




Homeowners Facing the Loss of Their Home

For many people, the purchase of the family home is one of the biggest investments they will make. If you are an older adult caring for a spouse, paying for care may take all your resources. If you cannot continue to make payments on your home, your home may be in jeopardy. Additionally, without pre-planning, if a spouse dies the remaining spouse may not be able to continue to make mortgage payments.

The same thing could happen to a caregiver who has brought an aging relative into the home to live. If the unexpected happens - the loss of a job, work hours being cut, serious illness, etc. - the family home may be in jeopardy.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has information that could help you save your home.


The National Consumer Law Center, a non-profit existing on private donations, offers information on housing issues related to keeping your home. Though written in a format for consumer advocates, caregivers can use the information to advocate on behalf of their older family member in need.




Tenant Rights

People who rent their home or apartment have certain rights which are usually governed by the lease agreement. If you rent a home or apartment, be sure to read all the fine print of the lease agreement. State and federal law impose certain conditions that the landlord and tenant cannot change, even if the lease specifies otherwise.


USALaws vary from state to state. Check with your local Attorney General's office for the laws of your state.



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