Retirement Living Communities: How They Are Changing the Way People Retire

Mature couple residing at a retirement living communityThe times, they are a-changing. Those words have never been truer than when it comes to retirement living communities. Not long ago, “retirement home” was synonymous with “nursing home.”

Today, there are many levels and types of designated senior living arrangements that fall under the umbrella of senior housing. But one thing is certain: retirement living communities are a far cry from nursing homes. Here’s a look at what you can expect from retirement living today.

What to Expect From Retirement Living

The first big difference is that retirement living communities (also known as independent living) are designed for seniors who are still fairly active. There are several types of independent living communities, ranging from regular apartment complexes that are simply age-restricted, to planned retirement living communities that cater to active older adults.

Active adult communities enable prolonged independence through a combination of design and supportive services. Most planned communities feature a physical design that enables seniors to age in place with ease; things like low cupboards, high toilets and single-level living spaces.

Who Lives at Retirement Living Communities?

Most of the seniors who live in independent living communities are mobile and active. According to the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), less than 10 percent of all residents use mobility aids such as walkers and wheelchairs. ASHA also estimates that about 10 percent of residents require personal care services.

Not surprisingly, the majority of independent living residents are female, 70 percent according to a recent survey, which also found the women to have lower household incomes and net worth than men. The mean age of independent living residents is 80.6, with most residents moving in between the ages of 75 to 84.

Amenities & Services Available

Meal plans and housekeeping aren’t the only services that are becoming de rigueur at the new retirement living communities. Keep in mind that not all communities offer all of the services listed below.

However, here’s a snapshot of typical on-site services and amenities:

  • Community events (e.g., cultural and recreational events)
  • Daily activities (e.g., group exercise)
  • Financial (banking) services
  • Concierge service
  • Local transportation
  • Religious services
  • Linen and laundry service
  • 24-hour security
  • Library
  • Computer access
  • Swimming pool
  • Fitness facilities
  • Golf and/or tennis courts
  • Beauty and nail salon/barber shop
  • Gardens and/or walking paths

Recent Trends in Retirement Living

It’s becoming more and more popular for younger seniors and married seniors to make a move to independent living, particularly those communities that promote a true “community” feel. A recent study found that nearly 30 percent of independent living residents are married.

Another recent trend that seems to have legs: retirement living communities whose operating philosophies are in line with residents’ personal values. There has been a surge in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and religiously affiliated communities over the past 10 years.

While these communities don’t discriminate against resident applicants who don’t live by the same values, they do offer accepting and nurturing environments where like-minded seniors can form meaningful relationships and feel comfortable around their peers.

Find Retirement Living Communities

Retirement living communities are a great option for adults who want to enjoy an active, full retirement. Our comprehensive directory can help you find retirement communities across the United States.

Written by senior housing writer Nikki Jong.