October 14, 2011 — Last week we received a request from a member that might strike a chord with you. Horseartist wrote and asked: “In vain I search for the uniqueness I’m seeking in finding that place that will be my retirement nest. I’m NOT into gardeners and condos, golf carts and patio homes. Suggestion: Could you open a forum for the likes of me? I don’t even know what you’d call it, except perhaps “Out of the Mainstream: Ideas for People looking for Something OTHER than the gated community lifestyle”.
We’ve met and talked with a lot of folks who have similar feelings. A golf, tennis, or boating community just isn’t for them. Neither is a cookie-cutter approach with a gated community consisting of identical townhomes spread around a clubhouse, usually with a swimming pool and exercise facility thrown in. What they want is something a little more interesting, more in keeping with communities in the real world. There is undoubtedly a range for what makes a community interesting – with one person’s idea of retirement community nirvana being vastly different than another’s. We think the common thread is, however, a place that is interesting, one that lets its residents feel like they retain their individuality, and doesn’t feel like a slave to conventional ideas.
Taken to extremes, what these folks are talking about is co-housing, a cooperative approach to living which we have written about before (“Cohousing Might Be Your Answer“). Or, a naturally occurring retirement community, where folks stay where they live now but share services to make aging easier. Taken to a niche approach, they might be interested in one of the many specialized communities 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 someone looking for a more creative place to retire.
So the question is, what you would like to see in a retirement community? What would the setting be – rural, urban, suburban, new urban master planned? What would be the amenities, if any? Tell us in the Comment section below. In the meantime, we have attempted to answer Horseartist’s question below.
We admit it, we are making this term up. But there are some communities that perhaps have what horseartist is looking for – an agricultural, or pastoral approach to a community. Jan Cullinane, author of The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale) and a frequent contributor to this site, immediately suggested 3 good ones; we’ve added a few more. Most of these types of communities aren’t really designed as retirement communities, although in practice most of the residents might be over 50. If you know of some more pastoral or non-cookie cutter communities, let us know.
Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Illinois. All of the homes in this community are sold, although resales are available. Their website offers a free downloadable book about “Building a Community with Farms”. This community, open to all ages, is located across the street from a commuter rail station. There is an organic farm on the property, which is also part of a nature preserve. The community is dedicated to sustainability, a healthy lifestyle, and a sense of place.
Serenbe Farms is in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia. This community is designed to be fully part of its natural surroundings. There is an Inn, houses that are within an easy walk to shops and restaurants, a working organic farm, equestrian center and miles of trails.
Bundoran Farm is about 15 minutes outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. The Farm is a preservation development where over 90 percent of the 2,300 acres are protected landscape. That acreage is dedicated to cattle pastures, forests with trails, and orchards. At this point they appear to be selling homesites, we are not sure what stage the development has reached.
Fearrington Village in just outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As you enter this interesting and well-established community it looks like you are going on a farm visit, because you will go by the working cattle farm (featuring Belties). But then you arrive at a bookstore, shops, and 5 star inn and restaurant. The community offers single family homes, townhomes, and there is even a Continuing Care Retirement Community on the premises.
Winnipaug Cottages is in beautiful Westerly, Rhode Island. While not really in an agricultural setting, these villas are set in the 134 acre Dr. John Champlin Glacier Park and near the ocean.
A number of communities in the American West break the mold as well. Although some of them offer golf, others tend to focus on their proximity to outdoor recreation rather than a lot of traditional amenities. The Knolls at Hillcrest in Bozeman, Montana is an interesting example. Located within the city for convenience, it is also adjacent to the great outdoors.
Urban developments are another approach to avoiding cookie cutter communities. Look in the Topretirements Directory of Active Communities (use “Find a Community” on the top right of the page) under cities like Boulder, Philadelphia, Seattle, Atlanta and Denver and you will find some examples that while not exactly pastoral, are interesting and break the mold.
What do you think?
Let us know about communities that you find interesting. And here is another question – if you were designing your own retirement community – what would it look like? Let us know using the Comments section below.