In South Orange County, California finding affordable rentals for anyone, let alone a senior citizen who has very little savings, sounds like a true oxymoron. However with some research, time and a great deal of persistence something that resembles, or at least comes close to being budget conscious can be attained.
Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, my mother-in-law found herself in need of a new place to live after over 30 years in her rent-controlled apartment. She had been in a run down building in Hollywood. Her landlord had passed away and the relatives were selling the building. Thanks to my husband’s research he found that there were several options, none of which would be at the same $460.00 a month, but closer to us and in a much better area than what she had been living in.
Living in South Orange County, we were able to check out the different areas personally. Since my mother-in-law doesn’t drive and is 78, we had to make a list of definite needs to make the transition for both her and us as smooth as possible.
We decided we had to have it close by, but not too close-we wanted to keep our privacy and make sure she would not rely on us to take her places. The complex had to either have a bus stop within walking distance or a shuttle service. The most important was that she had to be able to afford the apartment on her own, since neither we nor my sister-in-law could afford to supplement her social security. If possible, since she wouldn’t know anyone, we were hoping that there would be a social calendar for her to get involved with or a senior center close by.
Thanks to our local Social Security Office, they pointed us to the internet. We googled “affordable rentals for senior citizens”. We narrowed the search down to our particular part of Orange County. We were able to locate several complexes and check them out. All but a “high end” offering had a lengthily wait list. Thankfully they all gave us an average of 6-12 months, which we managed to work out with the family who now owned her building. They were also going to give her a re-location settlement, which would provide her with funds to afford a mover and offset the cost of the rent increase.
All the places had brochures, applications and floor plans available for us to take back and discus with her. She decided on two. Then it was a waiting game. My husband would call the apartment managers every 2-3 weeks to check on where his mother was on “the list”. Finally one came up. This particular complex had one coming up in a couple of weeks. My mother-in-law was actually still a few names off, but since the manager knew she had to be out of her present apartment by the end of the same month and my husband had been so good about checking in, she let the space go to her.
The apartment has a shuttle service several times a week to the local markets, to several medical offices (which included her Kaiser-Permanente clinic), an exercise room, a craft room, internet access (as well as classes!), weekly get-togethers and a host of supervised activities. They also have laundry rooms on each floor, central air-conditioners, private patios and dishwashers. All things her current place never even considered having!
Here are a listing of some of the alternative senior housing areas we found:
Freedom Village in Lake Forest: This is a religious-based complex, but it is open to everyone. Should it be necessary, assisted living and nursing centers are available on site.
Heritage Park and Square in Ladera Ranch: These were the most expensive and the nicest. No transportation, but otherwise had many social amenities available.
Buena Vida at Town Center in Rancho Santa Margarita: Senior apartments. Amenities were available, but not plentiful.
Fountain Glen in Laguna Niguel: Senior apartments. Due to long wait list of over a year, we didn’t consider the area.
Hacienda del las Palmas in Laguna Hills: Closest to us, too close. However it had not only senior apartment, but if necessary, assisted living, residential car and Alzheimer’s Care-the only one that did.
Renaissance at the Regency and it’s sister, the Wellington in Laguna Woods and Aliso Viejo: Both are independent retirements centers which have both kitchens or without and use of a dining facility. These also had assisted living as well as residential care. Pricey and very “hotelish”.
There are many others available, but all, again, have long waiting lists. The best suggestions:
Decide what the most important amenities are, what is the highest amount that the renter can afford to pay and then contact the local social security office for the best direction in which to start the hunt.