If Amenity-Lite Isn’t the Answer, What Are Boomers Looking for in a 55+ Community

Category: Active adult communities

May 23, 2018 — Our article of two weeks ago, “When Amenity Rich Isn’t the Answer”, stirred quite a reaction from Topretirements Members. It generated 53 (and counting) interesting comments in support of Pamela’s quest for a community with minimal to no active adult amenities. Which prompts us to ask, what is it that most people are looking for in an active adult, 55+ community? If not amenities, then what? If amenities, which ones are the objects of their desire? In this article we we review data from past surveys as well as some of the more interesting comments we have received on what Topretirements Members want to find in an active adult or 55+ community. We hope you will all chime in with your thoughts in the Comments section of this article – they are always the best part.

Amenity-Light – a quick summary
Pamela’s article brought forth many like minded folks who seek a community with only the most basic amenities. The primary motivation seemed to be economic: “Why should I pay high HOA fees for amenities like a golf course and fancy clubhouse with activities director when I will probably never use them”? Ella then asked a good question: “Why not just live in a regular neighborhood”? The answer to that one seems to be that many people like the idea of living in a 55+ community so they can get a few basic services like lawn care and maintenance, possibly a small pool and clubhouse, and maybe some simple walking trails. They want just a little more than living in a regular neighborhood, but nothing like you would find in a full blown active community by a big developer with high HOA fees. Finally, one of the useful things that Members mentioned in their comments was the names of actual communities that fit the bill for “amenity-lite” (see comments to that article for those).

For some folks, it’s amenity-right!
Most people looking to retire in a 55+ community are looking for their perfect combination of amenities – amenity-right. To them, keeping expenses low isn’t quite as important as finding a place that offers the right active lifestyle. That’s not always easy, as there are a bewildering array of potential amenities and types of community to choose from (our database offers over 100 possibilities).

When we surveyed Topretirements Members about amenities in 2016 your preferences were pretty clear. Walking trails, fitness centers, clubhouses, and swimming pools were ranked at the top of the list, golf courses and tennis courts near the bottom.

Amenity rankings from 2016

In that same survey we asked about preferred type of housing. Single family homes on one level were top ranked, apartments and RV homes at the bottom. For a summary of this survey see: “Top Reasons for Selecting a 55+ Community“.

Type of housing – 2016

“What your ideal community would look like?”
In a different article we tried to understand what would be an ideal 55+ community: “If you could break the mold, what would your ideal retirement community look like?” That produced some incredibly interesting ideas, started with the one from Zeech. We are reprinting a sample of the 327 comments we received here:

— I’d like to see an active adult community with REAL walking trails that meander through natural/wild areas for some distances (not sidewalks that skirt roadways or “trails” that circle a small wooded plot). (Zeech)

— Come on developers … we aren’t all interested in Arnold Palmer golf courses!!!!! (Mad Monk)

— We continue our search for a place with natural trails, a community garden, and definitely intellectually stimulating! (Quilt Maven)

— I am single. I would like to live in a park model community adjacent to a big city…really adjacent or in, a big city. I like park models as they are affordable, big enough for me and my needs, cozy, and easy to lock up and go away. I’d like to be able to walk to a grocery store or pharmacy, or coffee shop (Ginger)

— A very “green” oriented community utilizing wind, solar or geothermal.
Energy efficient construction. (Matt)

— Many of us boomers are pet people. I used to dream of designing a retirement community around a dog exercise area. Have a vet and groomer come in a couple days a week… a convenient petsitter/house watcher service (Sue)

— A big appeal of 55+ active community is all of the activities, and particularly the social benefits they bring. If you sit in your house all day and nod to the neighbors as you go in and out, you get none of the instant social interactions you get in playing pickleball, singing in a choir, or taking hikes together. The social aspect is big. (Ken)

— I think that many of us “boomers” have gotten away from the golf thing. Frankly, a lot of us found it too expensive when we were raising our kids and just were working too hard to ever get into it, so now we are just not interested. (fred)

— Not just a fitness center but “whole life center”, with an educational component, such activities as Yoga, Meditation, Martial Arts, Nutritional learning, Spiritual development (seaverb)

— I’d like a travel-based retirement community where we can learn about the world, not just tourist zones,and volunteer. (Cindy)

— We love nature/wildlife, but like to be close to amenities (shopping, restaurants, gas stations, health care) (LC)

— A place which has transportation to stores, banks, libraries, etc. would be ideal. (AJ)

Bottom line
OK, we think we have confirmed what we knew all along. There are a lot of baby boomers in this country and all us have different preferences – trying to categorize is a fools errand. Some people want no or minimal amenities, some look for a very specialized list to match their lifestyles, and others want nothing to do with a 55+ or active community. The useful lesson here is that knowing what the choices are, and understanding which options are right for you, is the key to finding a happy place to retire. To find the active adult or 55+ community that is right for you, start with our 50 State (and more countries) Active Adult Community Directory. Find the states and cities that interest you, and start exploring! You can also use Advanced Search to find by amenity, type of community, cost, and other factors.

Comments? What are you looking for in a 55+ or active adult community? What amenities, types of homes, type of community, location, etc. would make your ideal retirement community? We look forward to your thoughts in the Comments section below.

For further reading:
If you could break the mold, what would your ideal retirement community look like?
Pamela’s article- When Amenity-Rich Isn’t the Answer
If you could break the mold, what would your ideal retirement community look like?



Posted by Admin on May 22nd, 2018

30 Comments »

  1. I’m a pre-Boomer by almost a decade so I can provide perspective. What I wanted when I was a what I call “young senior” and what I want now that I’m an “older senior” are more different than I would have imagined when I was younger. Not having to move again and again and again is very important to many & increasingly so the older you get. So I’d recommend looking for a community that has amenities appropriate to both younger and older residents or, and this is important, is in a community that offers easily accessible amenities. Zeech’s desire for “real” walking trails that meander thru woods on the natural terrain is a great example of what’s very appealing to younger, more fit, walkers. I’d suggest looking for a community that offers those and also has attractive hard surfaced, flat “trails” that older, less fit residents can feel safe on.
    I certainly agree that developers’ vision of what retirees dream of seems out of date and desperately needs updating. When many of the original active adult communities were built, the average number of years of retirement was fairly low. Now most of us will live as long in retirement as we did working so our needs and interests will change far more than our parents’ and grandparents.” As I search for what’s right for me now, I’ve discovered a few (very few!) communities that have adapted their facilities so they are appropriate for a greater range of ages and physical/mental fitnesses. As many have observed, lots of active adult communities feature golf courses and other amenities that Boomers aren’t interested in. Ask if there are plans to change out that golf course for something more desirable before plunking your money down! Laney

    by Laney Humphrey — May 23, 2018

  2. We just moved into our new home of 3 weeks in Arizona. I would like to make a comment on golf courses. After checking out communities for several years before retirement found over 90% of golf courses are public and not part of the HOA. We have two and pay nothing for the running or up keep. The real reason golf course are integrated in to the communities are to sell the high priced home sites.
    We have great walking paths and the developers considered both gravel and paved paths as some of our more senior neighbors can not use their walker or scooters on the gravel paths. Most of the paved paths are also lighted for great evening walks.
    HOA also cover many other things beside amenities. We have beautiful parks for every neighborhood, and planted and tree lined streets. It cost money to keep any amenity going and in tip top shape.

    by Bruce — May 23, 2018

  3. When I first started looking, I finally, after three years, settled on Green Valley, Arizona. Almost all home here are in Green Valley Recreation, which has 13 recreation centers, hundreds of clubs, movies twice a month, lots of pools and gyms, classes on everything, and many other activities. I did not think I had any interest in what was offered, but the dues were only $390 a year, so I bought here anyway 15 months ago, thinking I would ONLY attend the movies. Within a month I decided to take a class at the lapidary center in dichroic glass. I loved it, and then I took one in wirewrap and then metalworking. Now I am an active member of the lapidary club, the ceramic studio, the singles club, the clay studio, and also play mah jongg. I even sell some of the things I make at the local artisans markets. What you may develop a passion for after retirement may be very different than what you anticipate. Had I been able to find a 55+ community I liked without the amenities I would have never found all these wonderful new hobbies!

    by Pat R — May 23, 2018

  4. We just retired to Terravita, a community in North Scottsdale. There are so many activities that we can’t keep track of them — but people here try new things and discover new passions. Better to have the activities and participate as you wish, however often you wish, than to lack a framework. We have discovered that in large part, the larger the community, the lower the HOA fees (this is true of Florida condos as well as communities in Arizona). For $300 per month, we can choose from scores of clubs, hobbies and other activities.

    by Ed LaFreniere — May 23, 2018

  5. On the Housing survey, it would help if you explained somewhere what a Patio-Garden Home is as compared to a condo or a single family- one floor living residence.

    by Barbara Coleman — May 23, 2018

  6. Bruce what is the name of the community that you moved to in AZ with your amenities?

    by Camerla — May 23, 2018

  7. Hi John, this is a very timely article for us. We currently live in a ‘Club’ community that features an 18 hole course designed by Arnold Palmer. Ironically we don’t play Golf and don’t intend to. We moved to VA from CA in 2004 at the height of the housing boom – and this is all we could find. It’s a nice community with nice residents – but to the point of an earlier commenter, we just don’t need what we have any longer. I agree the developers of Active Adult communities need to conduct more research on the definition of Active. They have the single-level residence concept right – but then these residences are all built on top of each other. And then they assume you want to play all day, every day. And it’s all Golf Golf Golf. I wonder how long that will last. Take a good look at the article in the attached link below (paste into your browser)

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/smart-living/these-eerie-photos-of-deserted-golf-courses-reveal-a-new-normal-in-america/ss-BBCmGBn?li=BBnb7Kz

    So here’s my wish list
    – A single level home of 2500 sq ft with 3 bedrooms, 3 baths and a 3 car garage (my ‘active’ adult activity tinkers with antique cars and does furniture refinishing). It needs to be relatively close to retail and medical services. When it comes to Golf – as they say in the Northeast – Fuuughetaboooutit. The community needs to be mixed generational (read between the lines here). My ideal community also needs to be near a lake or a bay for a boat or a seaplane – and it can’t be Taxachussets, Conn (sorry), Md (cost of living) or NJ (I don’t care what Bonjovi says, I can’t go home). And if I can’t be near water, then I want to be close enough to a small airport I can use as my base – and maybe even work there part time. A community pool and fitness facility would be nice too as well as four mild seasons. A needle in a haystack, right? Oh, and then there’s the retirement in 2 places may be better than one concept. We don’t fit the ‘mold’ of the 55+ type retirement couple – but to the earlier point, what is that? The search is on !

    by Dave — May 23, 2018

  8. RE the patio/garden home question (good one). Developers come up with a lot of names for various types of homes. Patio or garden home is fairly self-explanatory – -it means there is some type of patio or garden and that the unit is on the first floor, normally attached to another unit(s)beside it. Another term you will run into is Coach Home (sometimes carriage home)- usually means that the unit is built above a garage. Sometimes there will be a 1st floor unit beside a garage and another unit(s) above it and/or another garage. Any other unusual names you have run across?

    by Admin — May 23, 2018

  9. I am one of those boomers who wants to live around all ages and cultures, so I will not be going to a 55+ community. I will be living in a small university town that provides access to a slew of amenities via the senior center, an inspiring university cultural scene, multicultural restaurants and events, and walking trails out the door. Each to their own!

    by Elaine C. — May 24, 2018

  10. Elaine–where have you chosen to live, or have you found the ideal place that you describe? I share many of your sentiments.

    by Jennifer — May 24, 2018

  11. To Camera,
    The community is west of Phoenix and call Verrado. Victory is a 55 community within the larger master community of Verrado..

    by Bruce — May 24, 2018

  12. As for your question about Patio Homes, here in Florida they are usually called Villas. It refers to a single story duplex, triplex or quad attached home usually sharing one or two walls with your neighbor. They usually have a nice screened in patio. Noise from your neighbor is rarely a problem because with our concrete block construction there is plenty of sound insullation between units.

    by Laura S — May 24, 2018

  13. A good solution to paying for amenities you don’t want to use is to live in a community where you can choose to pay for amenities or not. In our chosen community, Tellico Village in Tennessee, we pay yearly for what we want which means I don’t have to pay for golf courses of which there are three right nearby but choose to pay for recreation such as tennis and Pickleball which I do want. Also, no one mentioned living on or near the water which was a big draw for us as it’s finally time to have a boat and spend time exploring that way after many years spent exploring the country in an RV. We spent lots of time exploring communities in person before settling on this but it’s worth it to have what one wants and not pay for a lot of extras.
    Happy hunting!

    by Laura C — May 24, 2018

  14. Elaine, we are with you! We also did not want to isolate ourselves from life. You should come to Maine! We recently moved in, right across from a college campus (albeit on the Admin side – dorms are on the other side of the hill). Is isn’t noisy and there are so many things to do! In fact, we have found so many things to do, it is hard to choose!

    There was a lot of snow this past winter but, being retired, we could sit and enjoy every minute. It even felt good to get out and shovel a little bit. There is always someone to plow the driveway and they keep the streets clear at all times! Give it a look.

    by HEF — May 28, 2018

  15. Clyde has sent in a comment in response to Dave’s wish list, but I have moved it to a different blog as he is suggesting a town to look into:
    https://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/the-10-best-states-for-retirement.html/

    by Jane at Topretirements — May 30, 2018

  16. We wanted a traditional neighborhood in retirement and ended up on a cul-du-sac, our first experience living on one. We were pleased to find a nice mix of retired couples, couples with no children, and young families. The couples with no children moved away within the first three years. The retired couples are friendly. When the couples moved out more young families moved in. The women only want to talk about their children and the kids’ school – I did that when I had kids, and it’s important, but I now have nothing in common with that stage of life. The men are more general in their interests and my husband seems to get along with them better than I get along with the young mothers, who seem to react to me like I’m barging in on them. I feel rather ostracized in my neighborhood and it’s making me reconsider what a 55+ community might offer us. At least we would have the age group in common, and that’s a start. We don’t golf or play tennis, but walking and bike riding are important. I would like to use our pool but it’s full of families, kids screaming and splashing, and youngsters in tiny bikinis sunbathing. I’m mid-60, a bit pudgy and self-conscious about it, but I’d still like to go swimming when it’s a hot summer day. I like my house a lot, but not feeling contented after five years. I do have to say, that in the beginning I could not have predicted I would feel this way about a typical neighborhood. It is a surprise to me.

    by PE — June 2, 2018

  17. PE: We have friends and FORMER neighbors who experienced very similar circumstances of which you describe. They short-term rented in 4 different southern states to find a winter home. Once they bought their winter home and used it for a winter, they decided to build a slightly larger home there in the same 55 plus community. They made that home permanent and love it! They are very outgoing people and love much social interaction. We think they felt they needed a neighborhood with more folks their own ages and similar shared experiences for their social connections. That was their fit. They’ve been in Florida fulltime for almost 5 years.

    by Doug — June 3, 2018

  18. Hi all,
    I enjoy the various columns/comments. What amenities am I looking for? Ok my list, not in any sort of order:
    – good doctors (ya never know),
    – 55+ community possibly with manufactured homes
    – single women (I’m a widower and would like to meet someone) or at the very least a friendly community to us widowers/widows
    – Many places have homes that are far more expensive than the home I’m living in here in Pennsylvania, so sorry any of the designer homes just aren’t in it for me.
    — probably a manufactured home
    – somewhere within reason to airport or cruiseport for travel
    – NOT on a flood plain
    – prefer a somewhat active community where it is easy to get to know your neighbors
    – pro-retirees area friendly tax structure

    Ok I do realize that I’m trying to find that needle in a haystack but it is possible. Also any experiences would be appreciated. I did rent in the Punta Gorda/North Myers area for a few months during the winter and found it VERY congested! Seemed you had to set your alarm to do your grocery shopping way late at night/early morning? Was I mistaken?

    Any and all comments/suggestions are welcome. Open to all areas and possibilities. Cheers —–

    by Mark — June 4, 2018

  19. Hi Mark!
    You didn’t mention what states you were interested in, so it can be difficult to steer you in the right direction. I would go to the topretirements.com website and take a look at the Retirement Ranger and the Advanced Search Features to get more info on what you might be looking for.
    Hope this helps!!

    by Moderator Flo — June 4, 2018

  20. PE, we’re exactly in your situation. Moved to the current neighborhood when kids were 5 and 10, specifically for the family environment. Pool, kid friendly events, friends from school. Fast- forward 15 years later, don’t feel we can go to the pool, all events demand kids be invited (Superbowl party, etc), so we’re moving on to the over-55 for folks like us! Never ashamed to be seen at the pool any more! All the lounge chairs and umbrellas you want (and adult beverages)!

    by Helene S — June 4, 2018

  21. I am in the basic same situation. Bought my house 36 years ago. At that time, neighborhood was middle aged-older folks. Had children – mine were the only ones in the neighborhood. My children are grown and moved on with life. Now neighborhood is all 20-somethings with a couple of babies. I have nothing in common with them and although some will wave if they see you, there are no activities welcoming to the older generation. Plus the builders have been tearing down the old ranches and replacing with 2-story mini-mansions at exorbitant prices.Am looking at the 55+ communities also. Feel like that would be a better place for me now plus am afraid i will be taxed out of the area I am in.

    by nancy r — June 5, 2018

  22. Helene S, where is your destination?

    Mark, I just want to make one comment. My friend lives in a MH park in Michigan. Her lot rent keeps going up and up. She is paying $606 a month and it is going up to $634 a month. If you have a dog it goes up $10 or $20 a month per dog. At $634 a month for 12 months, that is $7608 per year! My taxes on an average ranch home in expensive CT is around $5,000 a year. I have heard that there are a few MH parks where you own the property. It may or may not be an option. My friend doesn’t live in a 55+ place. She is not into using the pool but if she did, it is a nightmare. The pool is full of kids all day long.

    by Louise — June 5, 2018

  23. Flo, thanks for the info. I’ve also tried looking at the MyMHcommunity website but their search engine isn’t working. Every time that I tried using it, I get an error message.
    Is there an area on the pros/cons regarding Resident Owned vs Company Owned 55+ communities?
    Thanks!

    by Mark — June 5, 2018

  24. We moved into our new built ” forever” home in Vancouver Wa. If I could move my home to a 55+ we would in a sec. We thought moving into a single family home, in a very nice new neighborhood of older couples would be perfect. Lots of new friends. Nope, I rarely see anyone when i walk my dogs. Blinds closed on every house. Depressing. We do know our neighbors but not “get together” kind of people. Was friends with the neighbor behind me. But she hates us now because we voted for President Trump. Its so stupid. Im sure its the same in 55+ with politics but you can find a like group. In 4 yrs when my husband retires we are heading Tuscon or New México. Going in Aug to check out Del Web in Albuquerque, a place in Los Cruces. And a place in LosLunas. If anyone has any info on living in New Mecico please email me. We really know nothing. Just that it looks beautiful

    by Tomi Huntley — June 5, 2018

  25. To all of you — Thank you for your very kind responses. I appreciate them and their insight. The last couple posts of mine have been after a couple of years of reading various comments throughout the blogs.
    Here’s my situation — Kids are grown and on their own, widowed and looking to hit the ‘RESET’ button on my life somewhere.

    For those that might be thinking, do I have an aversion to my children? I’ll clarify that with a HECK NO!!! It’s just that as when we were their age, we wanted to live our own lives and do our things. Remember those days. Yes, we were close to our parents (hopefully) but wanted to live our lives as well. To me, that’s nature. Anyway, after being in the service, I grew to know and learn that “home is where I lay my head”. I’ve lived many places throughout my life and enjoyed each and every one.

    Now, my personal requirements would be somewhere where taxes wouldn’t be a ‘killer’. Also, nothing against the national companies that advertise on Television but my 3 bedroom rancher on a 2 acre lot is getting to be too much. For me, it’s time to think about downsizing. So why would I want to buy a $250-$550,000 home? I’m downsizing! So that’s why I mentioned the MH type of homes.

    Flo mentioned where? Good question. I honestly don’t know, I’m an open slate. I’ve considered Wyoming, Florida, NC/SC, Georgia, Ky, Tenn, Arizona, NM and I’m still considering each one and more. Perhaps my overriding sense for a yes/no on somewhere is fitting in. Not being a number or “that guy living next door” type thing that you may have experienced in your ‘single renting apartment’ days. You want to be an actual part of something and vice versa. To me, the weather is the weather. That’s why in this day and age, we’re fortunate to have AC, heating and roofs over our heads. If not, then something has serious hit the proverbial fan.

    I would like to see something on “Resident Owned vs Private/Corporate Owned” Community Pros & Cons. Each has their own slice(s) of heaven or not.

    Thanks to all again for your comments and suggestions.

    by Mark — June 6, 2018

  26. Hi Louise, we are going to Seasons at Prince Creek in Murrells Inlet, SC.

    by Helene S — June 6, 2018

  27. I’m looking into Mobile home parks in Sandiego and coastal Oregon where you own the land and HOAs run from 130$ to $230 per month. You can purchase the lot or buy an older remodeled home on the lot for around $100,000. Its low cost retirement living but need to keep in mind of the maintenance costs….I’d prefer not to rent the lot because they do increase quite a bit as the years go by.

    by Mary11 — June 6, 2018

  28. Mark,
    I would encourage you to check out the villages in FL. Plenty of rentals, so you can get a real feel for the lifestyle and see if it’s a fit. There are plenty of activities to get involved in, every sport you can imagine if that’s you thing.
    Good luck! It’s an exciting time for you.

    by Kathy — June 6, 2018

  29. I agree with Kathy that The Villages in FL is a place to check out. The rentals in Summer and Fall are pretty reasonable. If activities are important to you The Villages cannot be beat. Go to ourvillagesrentals.com to find rentals.

    by Bart — June 6, 2018

  30. I moved Laurie’s comment to Tomi that discussed living in New Mexico to a more appropriate Blog article: Retirement 101: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Southern NV
    https://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/retirement-101-arizona-new-mexico-and-utah.html/

    by Jane at Topretirements — June 8, 2018

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