Part 4 in the series on relocating older adults looks at the rental apartment.  Often, when family and even financial advisors consider housing options for an older adult, there is a ‘leap’ from private home ownership to a seniors or retirement residence.  There are reasonable options in the middle and one in particular, the rental apartment, seems to be overlooked.  When home maintenance becomes too difficult or expensive, a rental apartment can provide the older adult with independence, privacy and access to amenities.  Although not every geographic location offers suitable rentals, if yours does, consider the following:   

  1. Affordability:  Rental apartments are likely more economical than a retirement home solution.  The rental apartment won’t offer the same level of services but the personal control that a rental apartment offers can also be important to protecting mental and physical health.
  2. Easing into downsizing:  Downsizing is tough, rarely done in a single step and often the new and smaller place is, at least initially, crowded with sentimental items.  Apartments may have on-site rental lockers so the extra stuff can be tucked away until the individual decides it is no longer needed.
  3. Garbage:  Garbage management is increasingly complex and can be problematic for frailer people.  Putting the item into the right receptacle (garbage, composter or recycler), having the right type of bags and boxes can be challenging.  Getting the right receptacle ready on its pick-up day adds to the challenge, especially for someone frail living in extreme weather locations.  Apartment living removes some of this challenge.
  4. Mail delivery:  Apartments receive their mail at an indoor common area which is especially beneficial if the weather is poor or the individual has limited mobility.
  5. Financial management:  Home ownership involves a number of bills that are eliminated for renters – such as property taxes and possibly even heat and hydro. The hassles of budgeting and managing money become more predictable and easier.
  6. Access to neighbours: Over a period of time the apartment residents get to know one another.  The indoor hallways provide access to visit and help one another, regardless of weather.
  7. Security:  A well-run rental apartment will be secure and access to the building is controlled with an inter-com system or something similar.

Some ideas to consider if viewing rental apartments:

  1. Find one with the building manager living in the apartment complex.  This will tend to mean better oversight of the premise.
  2. Laundry facilities may be in the apartment suite or shared in a common area.  If they are shared ask about hours of access and confirm that these will meet your needs.
  3. Common areas such as a well maintained can become inviting for residents to congregate.  This increases the likelihood of meeting neighbours, creating a support system and even sharing service providers such as home cleaners.
  4. Take some time to observe how access to the building is controlled including visitor, delivery service and resident entry points.

Although moving is disruptive the choice to live in a rental apartment can be an excellent trade-off.  A future move to a place that offers more personal assistance may eventually be required but retaining independence and privacy is worth the trade-off of a possible future move.  After all, “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home[1].    

Part 1:  Reasons older adults resist relocation

Part 2:  More reasons older adults resist moving

Part 3:  The heavy emotional reasons older adults resist relocation

[1] From the song, Home, Sweet Home with lyrics by John Howard Payne.