Senior Living Requirements – Everything You Need to Know

You want the best care for your aging loved ones. But what does that care actually look like? What level of care do they need? What sort of retirement communities are they eligible for?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you decide on the best living arrangement for your aging relatives.

Requirement for Different Senior Living Communities

Every individual senior living arrangement will come with its own resident eligibility requirements. That said, listed below are common guidelines for entry into popular senior communities and eldercare facilities.

Independent Living

Age requirements:

  • At least 55 in most locations

Needs requirements:

  • Typically none

Independent living communities are retirement communities composed of residents that are typically 55 years of age and older. There are usually no upper age limits for these communities. Residents of independent living communities are typically expected to be able to live independently or near independently.

That means that residents often have no restrictions on what they can do, outside of potential quiet hours or other similar courtesy rules. Residents can still have microwaves, enjoy unsupervised outings, and partake in other activities often not allowed in other senior living facilities.

For social butterflies who want to live in a community of other active seniors, independent living arrangements are ideal. Seniors who require lots of medical care or plenty of assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) like toileting or medication management are not good fits for these communities.

Medicare and Medicaid typically do not cover any expenses associated with independent living communities, unlike most other types of senior housing.

Assisted Living

Age requirements:

  • At least 65, but some facilities allow residents as young as 18

Needs requirements:

  • Some assistance with ADLs

Assisted living facilities are places where residents need assistance with daily activities like meal preparation, laundering, and medication administration. Assisted living communities differ from traditional nursing homes, though, in that residents do not need 24/7 care and monitoring.

Assisted living arrangements are ideal for people with early stage dementia or who need only some assistance with ADLs. Patients who need skilled nursing care or monitoring, such as those with an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease, are not suited for assisted living.

Memory Care

Age requirements:

  • At least 55 to 65 in most locations

Needs requirements:

  • Severe memory problems, such as having dementia
  • Assistance with ADLs

Memory care can refer to a specialized dementia ward inside a larger assisted living facility or it can refer to a facility designed to house only patients with severe memory problems. As the name implies, patients have cognitive impairments that affect memory, so residents most often have some form of dementia.

These locations offer constant monitoring of patients for their own safety, and doors are often locked to prevent patients from wandering unsupervised. That said, patients still are able to go outside in secure areas or have supervised outings with family members.

Memory care facilities are only for people with severe memory problems, so seniors who only need assistance with daily activities or have other medical needs are better suited to assisted living facilities or skilled nursing facilities.

Skilled Nursing (Nursing Home)

Age requirements:

  • At least 55 to 65 in most locations

Needs requirements:

  • 24/7 medical access
  • Extensive help with ADLs
  • May or may not have memory problems

Skilled nursing facilities are what many people know as nursing homes. These locations offer around-the-clock medical care, assistance, and monitoring for patients. Staff members’ primary goals are to keep residents safe and ensure they have a comfortable place to live. Some locations have memory care wards for patients with dementia.

Skilled nursing homes are ideal for seniors with disabilities or who require extensive help with ADLs.

In-home Care

Age requirements:

  • Usually 65 to qualify for aid from senior government programs

Needs requirements:

  • Some assistance with ADLs
  • Functional disability (for some programs)

In-home care is, as the name implies, care received within the comfort of one’s own home. In-home care is a blanket term that covers many services, such as cleaning services, meal delivery, or medication management.

Who administers these services varies. For example, a family may hire a local cleaning company to help clean an aging relative’s home once a week. Another family might hire a licensed nurse to manage and administer their relative’s medications every single day, or during the week while everyone is at work. Alternatively, family caregivers may be able to effectively provide assistance to the older adults in the family.

In-home services are for seniors who need assistance with certain tasks but can otherwise live in their own home, or in a relative’s home, safely. People who need 24/7 monitoring or intensive medical care will be safer living in a skilled nursing facility or assisted living community.

HUD Public Housing Program

Age requirements:

  • Usually 62

Needs requirements:

  • Low income

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers affordable housing and housing assistance programs to low-income families, people with disabilities, and senior citizens.

HUD eligibility is determined based on the following three factors:

  • Annual gross income (low-income status is determined as a percentage of the median income in the area)
  • Elderly, person with a disability, or familial status
  • U.S. citizenship or eligible immigrant status

Approval for HUD assistance and public housing options is usually not automatic; people will be put on a waiting list.

HUD’s public housing program is great for families with a senior citizen who have a limited income. Households with a relatively high income will not be eligible for public housing through HUD.

Final Thoughts

There is no “one size fits all” approach to senior care. Instead, it is best to look at the senior as a whole and ask the following questions:

  • What are their medical needs?
  • Are their social needs being met?
  • Can they safely live alone, or can they safely live home alone with assistance?
  • What is their financial situation like?

Answering these questions can help concerned family members decide on the best senior living arrangement for their loved one.