Downsizing. Low maintenance. Independent lifestyle. These factors inspire growing numbers of seniors to choose 55+ communities. Residents of these planned real estate developments may share a life-stage and motivation for relocating, but 55+ communities are anything but cookie-cutter.
When it comes to neighborhood, type of housing, price, amenities and services, today's seniors select from a rich menu of independent living options.
55+ communities are "age-restricted," meaning that at least one homeowner, or, for apartment dwellers, one member of each household is aged 55 or over. Other members of the household may be younger, but all residents must be at least 18.
Residents must also be independent. 55+ communities offer no medical or personal care assistance. However, most are located near medical facilities, shopping, places of worship and large metropolitan areas, and many offer shuttle bus or van service.
Many seniors choose to relocate to one of two kinds of retirement communities. Active adult communities emphasize leisure and recreation and create almost a resort feeling. These communities usually have on-site facilities for socializing and pursuits like golf, tennis, swimming and exercise. Residents can join clubs, take classes and gather in the clubhouse, recreation center or other common areas for games, movies and celebrations.
Other 55+ communities stress independent living and focus on secure, convenient, maintenance-free environments for residents. Security might include electronic card access, guarded gates or a 24-hour security team. Both kinds of communities levy a monthly fee for services and amenities, such as the maintenance of common areas and recreation facilities, security, satellite or cable TV, Internet connection, garbage collection, snow removal, etc.
Another aspect of independence, from the senior perspective, is freedom from yard work and home maintenance. With this independence in mind, today's builders often use energy efficient construction and universal design, a term which refers to no-step entryways, wider doorways and hallways, non-slip floors and bathtubs, and accessible light switches and electrical outlets. Both new and existing developments offer a range of floor plans and housing styles.
Retirement communities come in many shapes and sizes for a variety of budgets, from modular or pre-fabricated construction to luxury, custom-built homes. Neighborhood size varies as well; some 55+ communities resemble towns or villages while others are more like small cities.
Senior apartments are another option that offers residents many of the benefits of retirement communities without the obligation to purchase their homes. Senior apartments offer additional services (sometimes for an extra cost), such as meals in a common dining room (usually one meal per day), housekeeping and laundry. Facilities vary but might include a common pool, exercise room, library, and meeting and media rooms. Activities appeal to a broad range of interests, with a focus on socializing and continuing education.
As with retirement communities, senior apartments provide convenient and secure settings where residents can keep busy without the burden of home maintenance. Some 55+ communities mix single-family, owner-occupied dwellings with apartments. These mixed-dwelling neighborhoods enable residents to relocate within the same community if their needs change without having to start over or change their routines too much.
With so many options, research is a must. The first step is an online search. Many 55+ communities provide online photos and information about floor plans, amenities, and services, and some even present virtual tours. Of course, such a big decision demands on-site visits, where potential residents can tour the homes, property, and facilities and interact with residents and staff.
With so many options, chances are that most seniors will find a 55+ community that suits their interests and needs, and keep them close to friends and families. Browse our nationwide directory to Find Retirement Communities across the United States.
Written by senior housing writer Lisa Logan.