Active Adult Communities: What are they?

Mature dancing couple at an active adult communityActive adult communities are real estate developments that offer independent, relatively maintenance-free living to residents aged 55 and over. In “age restricted” active adult communities, 80% of homeowners must be 55 and over, while “age-targeted” communities simply market to the 55+ crowd.

Many of the residents continue to work part or full time, which is why the term “active adult retirement communities” is less accurate. The residents are not opposed to children (or grandchildren!) either. Rather, the 55+ component simply assumes that people at the same stage of life probably share a few leisure-time interests and pursuits.

What You’ll Find at an Active Adult Community

At its most basic level, “active” means independent, so active adult communities offer no assistance with daily living activities, such as meals, medication, housekeeping and personal care. They do usually present a variety of on-site activities and easy access to natural or cultural attractions, shopping, nearby medical facilities, and large metropolitan areas. According to the 2005 American Housing Survey, 85% of 55+ housing is located near or in a metropolitan area.

But active adult communities are not simply real estate. Residents are also choosing a community and a lifestyle. Today’s active adult communities go beyond the old stereotypes of shuffleboard and knitting (although those activities are often still on the schedule for those who love them). Some communities promote a resort or vacation feeling through activities and amenities, while others emphasize social or cultural life.

Seniors exercising at an active adult communityMost communities recognize that “active” encompasses bodies and minds. Without ever leaving their neighborhood, residents can:

  • Golf
  • Swim
  • Bike
  • Walk
  • Jog
  • Lawn-bowl
  • Dance
  • Practice Pilates, aerobics or yoga

Arts and crafts and social pastimes include scrapbooking, painting, ceramics, mahjongg, bridge, movie nights, afternoon tea, and holiday cookouts and gatherings. Some active adult communities also offer continuing education classes, such as bird-watching, history and genealogy, while others partner with nearby universities to offer academic classes and cultural events.

If all of this organized activity seems more like a hyperactive community, rest assured that active adult communities emphasize friendliness and relaxation as well, balancing time at home and hanging out with neighbors and friends. 

Communities Designed with Your Needs in Mind

Today’s active adult communities offer attractive, well-designed construction options for nearly every budget, including:

  • Single-family homes
  • Condominiums
  • Townhomes
  • Custom-built homes
  • Manufactured homes

Many developers offer energy-efficient quality materials and open floor plans. Often, homes are built on land that is held in common. Residents then enjoy the privacy of home ownership without the obligation to mow the lawn or clean the pool.

Homeowners pay an additional monthly fee to cover services and amenities, such as:

  • Garbage collection
  • Maintenance of shared spaces and facilities
  • Security
  • Cable or satellite TV
  • Internet connection
  • Shuttle bus

Like amenities, services vary from community to community. For example, security might entail a gate with an access card, an on-site security officer or 24-hour surveillance. Sometimes the monthly fee includes insurance and property taxes, but not always.

Find Active Adult Communities

How do you know which community is for you? Recognizing that active adult communities offer not just real estate but lifestyle, many developers invite potential residents for a trial visit, including a tour. By joining the community for a day or two, visitors can see if the homes, amenities and people are a good fit.

Written by senior housing writer Lisa Logan, PhD.

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