Finding Your Niche Retirement Community

Category: Active adult communities

March 31, 2010 — Assuming you are not a one-size fits all kind of person, why would you want a retirement that anyone could be happy with? The happy answer is that increasingly, there are more and more specialized kinds of retirement communities. This article will cover some of the ones that we know about; members are encouraged to comment about others. Where we know about a sample community for that niche we have provided a link.

Active adult communities. These come in a variety of stripes, such as very large communities like The Villages that have an amazing array of amenities, clubs, and amenities. Or the smallest that might have the barest of amenities, perhaps a small fitness room and an outdoor pool. The common factor is that these are communities for people who want to be active and live around people closer…


to their own age.

Golf as a focus. Perhaps the single biggest focus in the adult community world is golf. That concentration can range from a basic 9 hole course to communities like Pinehurst that have multiple 18 hole courses from the most famous golf architects. There are undoubtedly some tennis-focused communities as well.

Boating. Although some boating communities are also active adult communities, many are open to people of all ages. Sometimes boating is the single focus, whereas in communities like Fairfield Harbour in New Bern, it shares the limelight with other activities like golf.

Culture. Fairhope near Mobile is a good example of a town where many of the residents are culturally oriented. The Chatauqua Institution in western New York (summer only), where the daily culture schedule is packed, is perhaps the best example of all.

Arts people. The example most often cited is the Burbank Senior Artists Community in Burbank, CA. Here artists live together and share studio space and resources.

The Urban focus. While people who choose to retire in an urban setting undoubtedly have a broad array of interests, they do share the commonality of choosing to live in an urban setting. Almost every major city has apartment or condo complexes where the 55+ crowd (or close to it) can live amidst the city setting and enjoy its many offerings. Parc Rittenhouse in Philadelphia. Four Seasons Private Residences in Denver.

Co-housing. This is one of the most intriguing movements. In communities like Silver Sage Village in Boulder people live in close proximity and share some facilities – like dining rooms, art spaces, yoga studios. The concept is these communities is that people are committed to sharing life together.

Gay and lesbian. More and more gay and lesbian retirement communities are either in place or in the planning phase. Fountaingrove Lodge in Santa Rosa and Rainbow Vision in Palm Springs are 2 such communities with that affinity.

Astronomy, anyone? One of the most specialized communities we know about is Chiefland Astronomy Village in Chiefland, FL. Although Chiefland is not the most likely place to retire, its skies are not impacted by light pollution as much as some other spots. That’s why the astronomy-minded have banded together here. Almost every home has a built-in telescope.

Equestrian. People who love their horses naturally want to live in a place oriented to that lifestyle. Sometimes they share barns, and they almost always have common trails and paddocks. The Ridge at Chukker Creek in Aiken is one example.

Aviation. It’s easy to see the beauty and economy of combining resources in a pastime this expensive. Communities like the Spruce Creek Fly-in Community near Daytona share hangers and runways. You can imagine the chief topic in the bar at the end of the day.

Naturists. A recent article at AARP.com profiled nudists who live in 7 connecting communities near Tampa.

University-related. The university-related retirement niche is one of the most successful. In many of these communities the residents are coming back to their alma mater, other residents are former faculty, while many others just love the town and the school. The Village at Penn State, University Commons in Ann Arbor, and Oak Hammock at the University of Florida are just some the prime examples of schools that have expanded into a much older audience. (see the article about our visit to Oak Hammock).

Religious. This is actually one of the most common niches, thanks to several denominations like the Baptists who have founded retirement communities. Ave Maria near Naples, FL is a very large new urban community built around a Catholic university. Pilgrim Place in Clermont, California is a CCRC for those called to careers in religious and non-profit organization

As you can see from our astronomy and aviation niche examples, the sky is the limit. You can even start your own community as many have. Rocinante is a community of former hippies in Summertown, Tennessee, while others have tried it in more urban settings. Escapees CARE Center in Livingston, Texas is a community for retired RVers, although there are many, many other RV parks where a significant percentage of the residents share that affinity. As we have heard more than one person say, why would I want to go somewhere and live with a group of strangers – let’s get our friends together and set it up so we have our own niche community.

For further reference:
How to find more niche communities. At Topretirements the Search link in the middle of the top navigation bar will take you to Advanced Search. From there you can search 55+ communities by amenity (golf, marina) or environment (university affiliated).
See our Tips & Picks section for more about towns for biking, bookstores, gardens, and the arts.

What do you think? Have you thought about living in a niche retirement community. Have any ideas or examples of communities you would like to see? Let your fellow members know by using the Comments section below.

Posted by John Brady on April 1st, 2011

6 Comments »

  1. Fun list. There are also niche communities for retired military, living on a ship, postal workers, CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities),new urbanism, and pocket communities.
    Jan Cullinane, co-author, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane, co-author The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your LIfe (Rodale 2007) — April 2, 2011

  2. [...] for equestrians, astronomers, artists, or pilots. We’ve written about that too, “Finding Your Niche Community“. New urban communities are definitely interesting too, and just might be the ticket for [...]

    by » If You Could Break the Mold, What Would Your Ideal Retirement Community Look Like Topretirements — October 15, 2011

  3. Active adult communities offer lots of amenities, but anxious potential newcomers often fail to realize these things cost money, a lot of money–forever. After living in one for almost two decades the thing I wish I had asked at the beginning was how were these niceties going to be paid for over the years and what was the maximum annual increase percentage for maintaining them? Ultimately the skyrocketing cost caused many of the residents to make a decision they never anticipated, another move to a place they could afford that offered a reasonable number of activities without the budget busting golf course. My advice for oncoming retirees is to look ahead at least a year or more to assess the potential cost increase for the place you plan to retire. Understand also that HOAs have little or no state oversight which leaves homeowners hung out when things go off track. Moving into any kind of retirement focused community should be done with caution and specific answers to serious long term questions rather than merely on euphoria and enthusiasm about finally being out of the workplace.

    by Denny — December 10, 2011

  4. A number of large communities with lots of amenities include a resort component that attracts guests for conferences, vacations, golf outings, etc., in addition to the full-time homeowners and second home owners. This helps subsidize the golf courses, restaurants, spas, pools, tennis courts, and other high-cost features in the community. I live in this kind of community, and there is a large core of permanent residents, along with guests who use the facilities, and help pay for them.

    Jan Cullinane, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane — December 11, 2011

  5. Jan, where are the communities that have the resort component you speak about? My husband and I are renting a place in Port Charlotte this Feb. & March with the purpose of traveling around Fl. looking for a possible second home. This is our first time renting in Fl. as we just retired last year. We are leaning towards the Gulf side but open to other areas as well. We are looking for amenities such as golf, swimming pool & exercise facility. Have benefited from this site tremendously! Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

    by Linda M. — December 12, 2011

  6. Hi Linda, One example is Hammock Beach in Palm Coast, Florida (Atlantic side). Golf, ,pools, spa, exercise facilities, tennis, and it’s right on the ocean. It’s also gated. If you’d like to visit (I live here), I’ll be happy to show you around – by the way, I’m not a realtor. Reunion (in Orlando) is another example.

    Jan Cullinane, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane — December 13, 2011

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment