When I was growing up, I enjoyed spending time staying with my grandparents. If my wife and I moved into a retirement community, I wondered if our grandchildren would be able to stay with us. So, I did a little research to see if (grand) children can stay or live in retirement communities.
So can children live in a retirement community? Most retirement communities will not allow young children to live in an age-restricted community full-time. There are exceptions. Adult children 18 years old or older might be able to live there as long as the other occupants are 55 or older.
To live among their peers, many active adults choose age-restricted communities. Just as a young family may want to live in a community with many school-aged children, many seniors may not want to live in a community where the commotion and noise of children can ruin their peace and quiet. That does not mean they dislike children or want them banned from the community.
Most age-restricted communities welcome young visitors and some may even offer special amenities for visiting grandchildren.
In 2014, the Census Bureau reported that 6 percent of American households contained a co-resident grandparent and grandchild; in 1970, that figure was 3 percent. Sixty percent of those households were headed by grandparents, which translated to 2.7 million grandparents caring for grandchildren; a 7 percent rise from 2009, PBS NewsHour reported in 2016.The New Republic – 1/8/2018
Children Living or Visiting in a Retirement Community
Whether children are allowed to live in age-restricted communities depends on how the community has been defined by the regulations of the Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA). This provides exemptions to family status nondiscrimination if the retirement community meets either of these two conditions:
- At least 80% of the occupied units must have a resident who is age 55 or older. Also, the community must show intent to operate as an age 55+ community.
- All residents (including spouses) must be 62 years of age or older.
Since HOPA does not provide specific guidelines for children under the age of 18 visiting a retirement community, the guidelines are usually set by the landlord and developer.
In most age-restricted communities, children are welcome to visit as long as they follow the rules and do not stay longer than allowed. Some age-restricted communities may have playgrounds or other special facilities for young visiting children. But, most likely there will be rules on how and when children can use certain community facilities and amenities.
Problems with Visiting Children
Problems with visiting children usually arise when they do not follow the rules, especially staying longer than allowed by the retirement community’s policies. All retirement community rules are put in place to benefit and protect all the residents, not just to put a burden on residents with visiting (grand) children.
Age-restricted retirement communities may place limitations on visiting children 18 years old and younger. The length of time they allow children to visit is often limited to between two weeks and one month. The actual age and allowable visit length will vary from community to community.
For the safety of the children and the comfort of the senior residents, it is likely the community will have rules about how and when visiting children can attend community events and use facilities and amenities like swimming pools, community lakes, sports facilities, fitness centers, walking trails, golf courses, etc.
To be a good neighbor, it is important that residents understand the retirement community visitation rules before children come to visit.
Legal Requirements and Restrictions
It is important to know what the legal requirements and restrictions are required for housing communities described as “senior housing”, a “retirement community”, a “55 and older community” or an “age 55+ community”.
Age Protection Missing in Fair Housing Act
In the late 1960s, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act that prohibited home buyers and renters from being discriminated against because of their race, color, gender, national origin, religion, familial status or disability. Since age is not protected under the Fair Housing Act, landlords and developers can set limits on who can rent and buy their properties based on their age. States can also allow retirement communities to set minimum age requirements. Even though this community policy is reverse-age discrimination, all other requirements of the Fair Housing Act must be followed.
The Fair Housing Act exempts retirement communities from the discrimination against families with children in two categories: (1) all residents including spouses must be 62 years of age or older or (2) the community must have 80% of the units with at least one resident 55 year of age or older.
The Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA)
The Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA) also requires that a community that wants to claim the 55 and older exemption must also show the following two conditions: (1) the community demonstrates intent to operate as an age 55 and older community and (2) the community complies with the rules issued by Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for verification of occupancy.
If the number of people in a 55+ retirement community drops below the 80% level, the community may lose its age-restricted status. Once a retirement community loses its age restriction status, its loss will probably be permanent.
Children in 62 and Older Communities
According to HUD, all residents including spouses in a 62 and older retirement community must be 62 years of age or older. This means no children are allowed to live there even if the senior residents are their legal guardians. The only exception to this would be for residents that are under the age of 62 and are legally handicapped.
Children can visit seniors in 62 and older retirement communities but will be subject to the community’s child visitation guidelines. Usually, rules for visits by grandchildren are a little more relaxed.
Children in 55 and Older Communities
According to HUD, in a senior community defined as 55 and older any given unit must be occupied by at least one person who is 55 or older. This means that a community may allow children as residents if the senior resident is their legal guardian. There are some exceptions:
- A 55 and older community must have 80% of the units must have at least one resident who is age 55 or older. To help keep as many units occupied as possible, the other 20% may be rented to anyone.
- A 55 and older community may treat residents with children differently and restrict their access to certain facilities and benefits that are allowed to senior residents.
- Even though it may be permitted to allow residents under the age of 55, it is not required. Residents under the age of 55 may not be allowed if it is a published policy of the retirement community.
Many retirement community residents are grandparents or may have friends with young children. Most of the time, they welcome the chance to meet their neighbors’ family and friends including their children.
No matter how much older adults enjoy senior living communities, they will always want to spend lots of time with their grandchildren.
Can a disabled person under 55 live in a 55+ community? As long as there is a qualifying senior 55 or older, a disabled person under 55 can live in a 55+ community. Under HOPA, if a senior who meets the age requirement of the community is the legal guardian of a disabled adult who does not meet the age requirement, the community must make an exception to their minimum age policy for the disabled adult.
Can I rent in a retirement community? The short answer is yes. Yet, finding rental properties in retirement communities can be very difficult because of community restrictions, supply and demand and lack of rental resources.
Are age restricted communities legal? Yes, the law (HOPA) states that it is legal for communities to market themselves as 62 and older communities if (1) all their residents are 62 and older or (2) as a 55+ community if 80% of the occupied units have a resident who is age 55 or older and the community demonstrates an intent to operate as an age 55+ community.