In south KC, Kingswood (pictured) and Armour Oaks offer villas as part their senior living community. Photo by Bill Rankin

Senior Living: Villas vs Apartments

“Most people kind of know which of the two they’d rather have.”

By Jill Draper

When you’re ready for a senior living facility, which is best—an apartment or a detached villa? They each have pros and cons.

Apartments usually come with meal plans (once, twice or three times per day), a daily door check to see if you’re still mobile and an assortment of activities. There are opportunities to meet fellow neighbors in the mail area and hallways as well as the exercise room, craft room and dining hall.

Villas, however, provide more storage and sometimes more living space, including extra bedrooms for visiting friends and relatives. They typically come with a one or two-car garage, patio or sunroom and basement.

“In some ways you’re a little more social in the apartments,” says Jan Parks, who lives in one of two dozen three-plex and four-plex senior villas near 81st Street and Wornall. “But most people kind of know which of the two they’d rather have. When I think of having to get on an elevator to go anywhere, ugh. Plus, I’m an outside person and I have a dog.”

Parks wanted to stay in Missouri when she sold her home in Brookside some two years ago, and a friend suggested she look at Armour Oaks in Waldo. “I’ve been quite pleased with my choice,” she says, even though her request to install a small fence for her pug Gracie was denied. “But there’s plenty of room to walk and we’re right next door to Sunnyside Park.” 

Armour Oaks Garden Villas are off 81st and Wornall. Photo Armour Oaks Senior Living

Villa residents can pay to eat in the apartments’ main dining room or order from the kitchen, Parks says, but she rarely does. Instead, she and other neighbors are in the process of putting together a village residents council. One of the council’s goals will be to ask for a central gathering place and perhaps a separate exercise room.

“We’re kind of out here, each on our own, except we keep track of each other,” she says.

Two miles south on Wornall Road is a larger collection of freestanding and connected villas at Kingswood Senior Living. Tired of maintaining a house, Sue Loudon moved there eight years ago. 

“I wasn’t ready for an apartment,” she says. “I like being able to walk out my door and be outside, not in a hallway. And I like to plant flowers.”

Kingswood also prohibits fences at the villas (“In that sense, it’s kind of an institutional thing,” she comments), but there is a dog park and a 1.5-mile walking trail. There’s also a weekly social hour in a pub-like area in the main building where villa and apartment residents can mingle.

Villas typically offer more privacy than apartments. There are no thumping sounds on ceilings or leaked food smells in hallways, and depending on the floor plan, less noise through walls. There is also a greater distance to travel to swimming pools, dining halls and other facilities that may be available. Seniors ready to give up driving will find apartments more convenient.

According to senior living advisor Ralph Caro, other places in the general area that offer villas or patio homes include John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit, Park Meadows in Overland Park, Lakeview Village in Lenexa, and two in Olathe: Cedar Lake Village and The Plaza at Santa Marta. Additional facilities are located around the metro, including Kansas City, Kansas, and the Northland.

Financial information on entrance fees, monthly rent and other charges are not widely shared. You’ll have to find a current resident to ask or talk with a sales representative.     

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