Many people who seek out senior living communities do so because they'd rather not live in apartments or housing complexes where the boisterous noise and commotion of children will disturb their peace and quiet. Others, though, may want the amenities offered by senior living communities, but their circumstances are such that they want (or need) to have minor children living with them or around them. Recent trends have shown that grandparents are often the legal guardians of minor children. Economic circumstances may find senior citizens suddenly playing host to other family members that include minor children.
It's important to know, therefore, what the legal requirements and restrictions are in housing communities defined as "senior" when it comes to minor children living there. Knowing these requirements and restrictions will help you choose a senior community that meets your needs, and it will help you understand your options if you are a senior who is the guardian of a child.
Whether or not children are allowed to live in senior housing depends on how the housing community has been defined by the regulations of the Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA). Essentially, community organizations who qualify as "senior living communities" may receive tax credits or other incentives in exchange for offering dwellings and services required by senior residents. And for this reason, there are legal limitations on the allowable age of the residents.
Children in 62-and-Older Communities
According to HUD regulations, in a senior living community defined as "62-and-Older," all residents (including spouses) must be 62 years of age or older. This means that no children are allowed to live there, whether or not the seniors are legal guardians. These rules are quite stringent with only one exception allowed—residents under the age of 62 are allowed if they have legally recognized handicaps.
Children in 55-and-Older Communities
The HUD rules in a senior community defined as "55-and-Older," says that in any given apartment, at least one resident must be at least 55 years of age or older. This means that such communities may allow children as residents under the legal guardianship of the senior adult. There is an exception, though, and this is where it gets a little confusing:
- A 55-and-older community must have at least 80% of the units containing a resident 55 years of age or older, but the other 20% of the units may be rented to anyone. This regulation was intended so that landlords could keep units rented even in situations where there was insufficient demand from seniors. In some cases, then, a 55-and-older senior living community could have quite a lot of children, with 20% of the apartments occupied by under 55 families, and some other units with 55-plus residents who are guardians of children.
- While It is permitted for the senior community to allow residents under 55, it is not required. A 55-and-older community may choose to not allow rentals to anyone under 55 if they choose and if it is a published policy of the housing community. For seniors wishing to avoid a community with children, a 55-and-older community may still be an option, provided the community policy is consistent with your wishes.
- A 55-and-older senior living community may treat families with children differently, such as restricting children's access to some of the facilities and benefits allowed to 55-and-older residents. Exercise rooms, therapeutic pools, and other recreational spaces may be reserved only for the 55-and-older residents, or for adults only.
If You Want a Senior Living Community With Children or Are the Guardian of a Child
- Choose a 55-and-older living community which rents to households with children.
If You Want a Senior Living Community Without Children
- Choose a 62-and-older living community, or. . .
- Choose a 55-and-older community with a published policy that does not allow children as residents.
While the HUD policy regarding senior living communities is essentially a form of reverse age discrimination—in this case in favor of older residents—all other requirements of the Federal Fair Housing Act must be complied with. This means that discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin is strictly prohibited.