Haven’t Found the Perfect Retired Community – Why Not Start Your Own

Category: Active adult communities

December 1, 2015 — We are very happy for the folks who find their perfect place to retire -it is wonderful that you can live your dream. But we know there are many others who haven’t found their Goldilocks place, yet anyway. For those who haven’t, perhaps your experience is something like… the right community is too old… HOA fees are too high or restrictive… they have amenities you don’t want… too many young people… or, it would be perfect, except it’s in the wrong place. But maybe the problem is that your community hasn’t been invented yet. Perhaps it is up to you to build it yourself.

Nextavenue.com had an interesting article, “Not Your Mother’s Retirement Home“, that discusses different groups of creative people who are banding together for retirements based on their shared creative interests. The first was a group of musicians, The Old Farts, who are looking for fellow future residents and gauge interest in the idea at their Rock Til You Drop website.

One thing this group discovered right off is that it is hard to get agreement on every detail – everybody has their own ideas! But they do share some of these goals:
– Find a property that is affordable
– Area with a low cost of living
– Close to an international airport (within 1 hour)
– Near a good hospital
– Cultural opportunities and a college campus nearby
– And, surprise, surprise for a group of rock musicians marijuana tolerant.

The group has discussed buying an RV park because of the tiny homes and the opportunity to have visitors stay in their RVs. The existing infrastructure of such a place would definitely be a plus. What would you guess are the top states the group is considering? Answer: North Carolina, Tennessee, California, Oregon and Arizona (we’re a little surprised they are not considering Washington or Colorado).

The Lousiville Artists Cohousing
The other creative group profiled in the article profiled was Louisville Artists Cohousing near Boulder, Colo. Together with eight other artists and musicians, Emilie Parker and her husband are hoping to acquire property where they can build 24 homes. A majority of the core group is over age 50.

The group’s dream is to have private households along with a large common area for dining and exercise, plus art-making spaces. Also on their wish list would be an additional 6,000-square-feet of studio space for exhibitions and classes.

Changing the Market
Lydia Manning, a gerontologist with Concordia University in Chicago, has been studying the founding members of Rock Til You Drop in her latest research project. In the Nextavenue.org article she had some observations about how folks like them are going to change the retirement market: “I do think these types of communities are going to be gaining in popularity. I think you’ll see a trend of people wanting to craft space, rather than just pick a place and go.”

If this sounds a lot like cohousing, that’s because it is
Cohousing is all about sharing housing and the living experience with other folks who have some of the same interests. These communities usually consist of separate residential units and many communal facilities for shared living. They are similar to but not exactly like cooperative communities. Common features include group meals and dining, meditation rooms, yoga or Zen, hiking or biking trails, and large shared living rooms. We have written about it in the past, notably in Cohousing Might Be Your Answer. The movement seems to be growing, although not every project gets off the ground. Here at Topretirements our Advanced Search tool finds 29 cohousing or cooperative communities in our database (not all might be active).

So should you start your own cohousing community?
Obviously this is not something for the faint of heart – starting any kind of project of this magnitude involves tremendous work, organization, patience, and resources. It could years to get off the ground – if ever. But to stimulate your thinking, here are some examples of the types of groups that might find a cohousing community attractive, along with some initial pros and cons.

Cohousing might work for groups like these
See our article, “Finding Your Niche Retirement Community” for more examples.
Artists and musicians. These folks have a natural affiliation and a need for similar facilities. See the Burbank Artists Colony
Yoga and exercise. Again, a shared interest and ability to share resources
Church or religious groups. Ave Maria near Ft. Myers/Naples is an example of a place where Catholics can retire together.
Professional or career commonality. One example is Nalcrest, a community near Lake Wales, Florida set up for retired letter carriers.
Sports. Golf, boating, flying, and other activities all have communities with facilities where people can share these interests and common facilities (although few would technically be called co-housing because the housing is more separate). Spruce Creek Fly-in Community is one of almost 10 communities at Topretirements with a private air strip.
Ethnicity. Shanti Niketan in Mount Dora, FL is meant for people who don’t want to return to India for their retirement.
Relatives and friends. If you have relatives and friends you know you can live with, there are many advantages to finding a place where you can all live together. Perhaps a former B & B, mansion, nursing home, hotel, or small apartment building.

Cohousing has many big advantages:
– Economic. Many people sharing expenses solves a lot of problems. With tens of millions of Americans worried they won’t have enough money for a comfortable retirement, this might be an ideal solution
– More resources. Not many folks can afford their own art studio, kiln, exhibition space, church, etc. on their own. But they can if they pool their resources
– People you know. Retiring with people you know you can live with is often better than a “pig in the poke”
– Cooperation. Rather than having to go it alone into old age, you will have a built-in support group
– Shared interests.

And there are disadvantages
– Getting these projects off the ground is very difficult and costly
– Securing agreement on major decisions often runs against too many strong interests
– The legal issues of ownership and zoning can be difficult
– Everybody has to get along, or bad things can happen

Bottom line
If you haven’t found your perfect retirement community maybe it is because you are going to have to start one yourself. But if the concept interests you, and you have a core group that wants to pursue it, this could be the answer. Talk it up among yourselves – just maybe you could make it happen.

Comments? Do you think cohousing is for you? Do you know a group of people with enough common interests to start your own community – or join one that already exists? We look forward to your Comments in the section below.

Posted by Admin on December 1st, 2015


  1. Here’s a link with some advice about starting an “intentional community”:

    Jan Cullinane, author, The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement

    by Jan Cullinane — December 2, 2015

  2. The problem with this concept is that it would probably take y e a r s to work out the kinks. I think finding a community with a history of a properly working HOA/POA is the key.

    by ella — December 3, 2015

  3. The city of Ventura, Calif. has a home share program which they match up people to live together by interests, and activities. There isn’t an age limit either. It is to help people financially afford to live in Ventura by co-habitation. homeshareofventura@gmail.com

    by DeyErmand — December 3, 2015

  4. This comment is about Sun City Anthem at Merrill Ranch. My only real complaint is that before we signed the papers they told us our dog park would be ready by the end of 2013. After having our home built they said they couldn’t build it now and it might be years before we got it. They continue to tell potential buyers that we are getting a dog park but since Pulte/Del Webb won’t commit to a time frame, I wouldn’t count on it. As far as I’m concerned, reneging on this is a major concern for those of us who have spent hours driving to dog parks over the years and this was going to save us a lot of time and gas money. So much for Del Webb’s promises. So if you buy here, make sure you get everything in writing if it is important to you.

    by Madje — January 6, 2016

  5. Madje- I live near Sun City Carolina Lakes, and there was a story in the local paper that early residents were very upset because they had been told that the beautiful Sales Center would eventually be turned over to the community as an extra community center for meetings, etc. When the community was being fnished though, Del Webb tore dpwm the sales center for additional home sites. I agree that it’s worth getting the promises in writing!

    by Kate — January 7, 2016

  6. Same sad story for us. We were promised an indoor swimming pool with a retractable roof. In MN that would be so great! That was 8 years ago and it is still not looking likely.

    by Caps — January 7, 2016

  7. Kate Didn’t SCCLs get a second center? Not at the sales center, but a second community center none the less? Were there supposed to be three centers? Or is a question of the location or usage? When I visited them about a year ago, that was the case and the second center was in the process of being built and I was told that the sales center would become space for some homes.

    PS It sure is frustrating with empty promises. Would getting it in writing be possible? enforceable? Or should they just run for office? I am used to being disappointed in that realm.

    by elaine — January 8, 2016

  8. Elaine -Yes, SCCLs did get a second center. The Sales Center would have been a third center for the 3,400 homes.
    I had been told the Sales Center would be torn down too, but evidently early homeowners were told something else. It’s been interesting to live in an area where these communities are located, and to see the local press report on their development. For example, there has been a story that local homeowners are fighting over Del Webb’s plans for a golf cart path for the new community they’ve started to develop in a nearby town.

    I’d bet the Sales staffs will say that they aren’t authorized to put stuff in writing, or that the developers’ lawyers would insist on some nifty loopholes. It might be fun to try to get promises into sales contracts, such as “Buyer shall be paid a $750 rebate if the dog park is not constructed and operational by January 1, 2017.” At the time a contract is entered, this might not seem like a big risk to the developers. Hmmmm. If I buy from a developer, I’ll keep this in mind for my own sales contract.

    by Kate — January 9, 2016

  9. Unless something has changed, Del Webb does not even makevery minor changes to a house before it is built so I doubt anything would be put in writing by them. Would be interesting to try.

    by Carold — January 9, 2016

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