Is a 55+ Community a Good Fit for You?

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According to Seniors Housing Business there are more than 2,000 U.S. active adult communities, and the number keeps going up. Obviously, 55+ communities are resonating strongly with many members of the Boomer set. But is this type of living – and the lifestyle that goes with it – a good fit for you?  

Let’s get our definitions straight  

In this article we are talking specifically about active adult communities (often referred to as “55+” or “over 55” communities) that provide purpose-built housing – anything from luxury multi-bedroom houses to condos, apartments, mobile homes and even RVs for residents over the age of 55. The emphasis here is on community and activities, which differs substantially from continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) and assisted living facilities, both of which have a strong healthcare component. 

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 55+ communities must meet the following conditions 

  • At least 80 percent of the units must have at least one occupant who is 55 years of age or older; 
  • The facility or community must publish and adhere to policies and procedures that demonstrate the intent to operate as “55 or older” housing; and 
  • The facility or community must comply with HUD’s regulatory requirements for age verification of residents. 

Before you become entranced by websites and brochures full of sundrenched golf courses and picture-perfect swimming pools, ask yourself, “Is a 55 and over community right for me?” Here are a few tips that may help guide your decision. 

The Upside of 55+ Communities

As you’ll see, there are many reasons why 55+ communities are so popular. Here are some positive aspects worth considering. 

Events and Amenities  

If there’s one thing most 55+ communities have in common is that there are tons of clubs and activity groups to choose from. If you’re the type of person who loves a full agenda of pre-planned activities from travel clubs to pickleball tournaments, this aspect of living in an active senior community is one of its key attractions. 

Also, since they’re tailored more toward active people, you can find everything from fitness centers to golf courses, community dining halls, social events, dog parks and swimming pools on-site. The upshot? Less driving, more doing. 

Nice Weather 

Although active adult communities can be found in all 50 states, they tend to spring up in Sun Belt states like Arizona and Florida and similar areas with warmer, more temperate climates. They offer a more relaxing lifestyle and year-round access to many outdoor activities.  

Well-Designed Living Spaces 

Since they are often designed for permanently relocated snowbirds and empty nesters, homes in 55+ communities are typically smaller, and are a great way to downsize and start a whole new chapter in life with a lot less physical and emotional baggage in tow. Many of these homes incorporate ADA features that allow owners to age in place and transition smoothly into their later years. 

A Sense of Belonging  

After children have packed up and moved on, many older adults can feel isolated in their communities as things like schools and youth sports facilities become less a part of daily life. They’ve raised their families, been responsible citizens and done all the right things for their neighbors and the community. Now, it’s finally time to live life on their own terms surrounded by people who’ve done the same. 

Peace and Quiet 

Say hello to the sounds of silence! Because there are very few children around, 55+ communities are quieter compared to residential neighborhoods. Moreover, these active retirement communities are typically gated, and guests of residents usually will need to be approved by those living in the community. Also, these communities tend to be in areas with low crime rates, and some also have on–site security teams for added safety. 

Minimal Maintenance 

In just about every case, living in a 55+ community means you’ll have a homeowner’s association (HOA) taking care of shared areas, landscaping and shared amenities. Some communities may even take care of the landscaping in your front yard and maintain your home’s exterior. Just imagine how much time this will free up to enjoy events and activities that you enjoy.  

The Downside of 55+ Communities

Like every major lifestyle decision, this one comes with a full set of pros and cons. For every positive there can also be a negative – and much of this has to do with individual preferences, 

An Older, Less Diverse Crowd 

Since in most cases at least one member of the household needs to be at least 55 years old, you’ll find that most people that live in these communities are above the minimum age. If you like the ideas of living among people at every stage of life, perhaps a smaller place in a “regular” neighborhood” would be a better fit for you. 

Lower Property Values 

Because there’s an age requirement, you may not be able to sell your home to a younger buyer, effectively restricting your pool of potential candidates. Also keep in mind that many communities won’t allow younger family members to use a property unless one of the owners is present. If you are buying a vacation or second home, this may become problematic and these types of restrictions on children (and even pets) could make reselling even trickier. 

HOAs 

Some people love HOAs, others try their best to avoid communities that have them. Most 55+ communities have some form of a homeowner’s association. Their regulations can be quite extensive and if you violate a rule, your HOA may fine you. Some typical rules and guidelines HOAs impose may include how you 

  • Customize your home 
  • Landscape your yard  
  • Decorate your home’s exterior 
  • Use certain amenities 

It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with a prospective HOA’s rules, regulations and fees – and if you can ask someone living there about the HOA, do so.  

No On-Site Health Care 

Another way a 55+ community differs from assisted living and continuing care is that it’s set up for active living versus care services. In short, health care services are not generally part of the HOA contract. That said, some 55+ communities have arrangements with third party home care professional services that you may use for an additional charge. However, if you require extensive medical care and daily assistance, you may want to investigate assisted living residencies or other communities. 

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