Senior communities for those who want to age in place

While downsizing can be stressful, it can also be a big relief if your parents feel good about the community they’ve chosen.

Senior communities are for people who are still living independently, but often want to downsize, simplify and/or live in a home with safety features, services or resources tailored to their needs over time. In this piece, I’ll briefly cover four options, representing a broad cost spectrum, as well as tips from Senior Real Estate Specialist Specialist Deb McCutcheon on considerations to keep in mind as you look. I’ll start on the lower end of the cost spectrum.

Many communities across the state offer affordable housing for seniors. Based in Raleigh, DHIC, Inc., a local non-profit, offers a healthy inventory of senior apartment homes throughout the Triangle, primarily in Raleigh/Wake County. They own fourteen senior communities with over 775 apartment homes, a mix of one- and two-bedrooms. To qualify, you must be age 55 or 62 and older, depending on the community, and have a verifiable source of income, which may include earned income, social security, disability, or some form of housing assistance. Income requirements and rents vary by property but the average income of an individual living in a DHIC senior community is $18,500 and the average tenant rent paid is $420 for a one bed-room and $525 for a two-bedroom.

What makes DHIC communities particularly attractive includes the (relative) affordable rents, access to public transportation and amenities such as fitness and business centers, community space, on-site management and service coordination. Yvette Holmes, VP of Resource Development and Partnerships, said that as rents increase in the Triangle, so will the demand for affordable housing, especially for seniors who have increasingly limited incomes and resources.

Here is a listing of DHIC seniors communities. Contact the community directly to check for availability and learn about qualifications. It is important to begin thinking about this sooner rather than later as all communities have a waitlist that range from six months to more than a year.

Many families consider this option first due to cost. With parents who are on a fixed income, but make too much to qualify for subsidized housing or a Medicaid bed in an Assisted Living or Custodial Care community, this might be the only option. While most are familiar with in-law apartments, a new option includes granny pods. Granny pods are designed for accessibility but are compact enough to fit in a backyard. Prices vary depending on size and features, from $50,000 to 250,000. More information can be found here.

NORCS (“Naturally occurring retirement communities”)
Some neighborhoods, due to their location, architecture (lots of ranch or one-story homes) and lower cost, have evolved into NORCs. McCutcheon, formerly an occupational therapist who worked with seniors, says, “My clients are looking for a home that is in a safe neighborhood with sidewalks and close to shops or on a public bus line. Neighborhoods that come to mind are Cameron Village, Bishop’s Park, Yester Oaks, Cambridge Oaks, the Enclave at Inman Park and others.”

According to, there are 112 55+ communities in NC, 27 in the Raleigh/Durham area, with more being built all the time. Most are ownership models, with some newer ones, like Overture at Crabtree, at rental model. Purchase price per unit range from below $100,000 in places like Southern Pines and Lowell up to $700,000 at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro. Most have been designed with seniors in mind and offer amenities ranging from home and grounds upkeep, smart technologies, wellness centers and on-site restaurants. McCutcheon says they are especially good for singles because of the activities offered, “This can stave off depression as you age.”

55+ communities can become pricey, especially with the required​ monthly Homeowner’s Association fees (to pay for the maintenance, clubhouse, etc.), which can range from $150 to $500/month. Many of these communities are newer, which also explains the heftier home costs.

​Some good ones in this region include ​Carolina Preserve, Creekside at Bethpage, Carolina Arbors, and The Walk at East Village.​

When looking for a place to meet your parent’s needs over time, here are factors McCutcheon recommends you consider:

No or minimal steps and zero clearance thresholds​ Hardwood floors are preferable to carpeting—so that over time, if needed, a walker can safely roll through. Also, should incontinence become an issue, hardwood or linoleum floors are easier to clean Lighting is important, especially at thresholds where rooms change from one type of floor to another Master bedroom downstairs, if there are stairs Close to safe public transportation Sidewalks Shops and banks close by Neighbors close by Accessible features, such as grab bars built into the shower and a shower seat
Deb McCutcheonDHICIn-law apartments, granny pods55+ Communities in North Carolina

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