August 18, 2020 — The results are in!
Many, many thanks to the generous 300+ Topretirements Members who took the the time to fill out our survey on retirement community preferences. Your input confirms much of our past research and offers fresh perspective on others. Once again your favorite amenity was walking trails. You also wrote in almost 200 illuminating comments – we just wish we had room to highlight every one – because they all offer a unique perspective.
Everyone has their own unique take on retirement, that much is obvious from these results. That is particularly true if you look at the 134 comments made to Question 10, “Please describe your ideal retirement community”. Here are some of the top takeaways from the survey:
-There were not many big changes in your attitudes toward active adult communities since we ran a similar survey in 2016, other than more of you are retired now.
– The vast majority of people who took this survey are much more interested in an active adult or 55+ community than a traditional neighborhood.
– Size of community is not a big factor in making a decision.
– The top desired amenities are walking trails, fitness centers, clubhouse/community center, and swimming pools. We were a bit surprised that pickleball had not moved up the list much since we last asked this question. That sport, along with golf, tennis, and shuffleboard were at the bottom of the list.
– One level living and single family homes are the runaway favorite type of retirement housing.
– Social interaction and amenities are top reasons for choosing a private community over a regular neighborhood.
– Fees and restrictions top the list of negatives for private communities
– About two-thirds of respondents have a neutral or positive view of Home Owners Associations (HOAs).
1. Retirement Status
A majority of our members and visitors are retired or partially retired – 60% retired vs. 29% not, and 11% partially retired.
2. How likely is it that you will live in an active adult, 55+, or private community in retirement?
The vast majority of respondents intend to retire to one of these communities (76% are somewhat or very likely). More than that, your minds are made up – only 6% are undecided.
3. Ideal size of community.
We asked about your ideal size if you intended to retire to one of these communities. It turns out size of community probably isn’t at the top of people’s minds. Some 54% seemed to think the ideal number is between 51 and 500 homes. But no one range seems ideal – quite a few folks thought less than 50 or over 1000 were OK too. As one respondent who chose “Other” said the last time we asked this question: “Size isn’t as important as the make-up of the community”.
Less than 50
4. Type of private communities
55+ and active adult communities are strongly preferred (65%) over all age communities. There was negligible interest for Other choices like Independent living, CCRCs, and Assisted Living facilities. Quite a few folks added comments to this question, which were interesting. Some are confused by the difference between 55+ and active adult communities, a fair question. Others are looking for communities that are close to healthcare and other infrastructure. A few would like to find a community that has a CCRC or assisted living component built in, so only one retirement move would be required. Some don’t want children around, others would prefer having them.
Write-in Comments: Here are a just of few of the interesting write-in comments to this question:
-Looking for a single family home on two levels. Must be all concrete construction (with concrete roof also) to be impervious to high winds, hurricanes, or tornadoes. Location must have natural gas available to operate permanently wired whole house generator. The home must be built much higher than street level to prevent flooding from entering the home.
I am interested in a safe home above all else.
-I want to be around young people because they keep me thinking and acting young. Being around people my age (70+) is limiting, and I want to be around people with fresh ideas and passions.
-If available, it would also be a plus to have a CCRC component or a link to one
5. Ranking of amenities
We asked survey takers to rank 13 different amenities, plus “Other” The rankings of the top 6 are shown below. The highest ranked amenity was walking trails, closely followed by fitness center and clubhouse. The lowest ranked amenities were (in descending order): community garden, dog park, activities director, pickleball, golf course, tennis, and shuffleboard.
6. Preferred type of housing
Builders take notice: the runaway favorite type of retirement housing is one built on a single level. Traditional single family homes were in second place. Manufactured homes, apartments, and RV/Mobile Homes were ranked lowest.
Here is one interesting write-in comment:
-Single (main) floor living with Smart Space upper. Main floor having Master Bedroom, guest bedroom and study (Kitchen nook in lieu of full dining room).
1 level living
7. Most important reason for choosing an active adult or 55+ community.
Not surprising, amenities and the social aspect of living were the highest rated reasons for choosing a private community. Particularly for people moving away from a neighborhood where they have lived a long time, having many things to do and easily meeting new friends seem like good reasons.
Write-in comments to this question tended to be looking for low maintenance, security, and access to medical and airport.
8. Most important reason you would NOT be interested in a private community
The results show that the perceived negatives of living in a private community center around rules, fees, and home prices. From Comments posted here it appears many retirees don’t think that the benefits of living in a private community are worth the expense and extra restrictions, along with a loss of privacy and space.
Comments written in here concentrated on lack of privacy, space, and costs.
9. What is your attitude toward home owner associations (community associations)?
About 64% of respondents are neutral, favorable, or very favorable towards home owners associations. So about one third view them unfavorably, with fees and rules being the major objections.
10. Do you think developers of private communities are producing the type of communities you want to live in during retirement? And, part 2s a and b, please describe your ideal community, has the coronavirus changed your retirement plans?
The vast majority of survey takers this question with a maybe or a yes, another positive vote for builders of retirement homes.
Part a: The 132 written comments we received to the second part of this question – “describe your ideal community” – were very insightful. We went through the comments to try to categorize and quantify them. Three themes were uppermost in the respondents’ minds (in order with the # of comments shown):
- Amenities (29)
- Close to (town, shopping, medical, restaurants, etc. (21)
- Social opportunities (14)
- Single level living (10)
- Privacy or space (10)
- Nature/pretty surroundings (9)
- Low maintenance (7)
- Storage (stuff or RVs) (6)
- Near lake or river (6)
Other desirable characteristics survey takers were looking for include: pet friendly, diversity, like-minded people, gated 55+, leasing, golf cart friendly, condos or apartments, friendly to seniors, and security.
They make for interesting reading if you have a little time. Thank you Topretirements members! Your input was so rich. We know your fellow members will find it useful.
Part b: Has the coronavirus changed your plans concerning retirement communities?
The majority of people responding to this question said the virus had not changed their thoughts about where and how to retire. Several mentioned that they had put their retirement plans on hold until the situation is resolved. And at least 4 people said their plans had changed because of it, mostly in favor of not living in an active or 55+ community. Here are 2 of those comments:
-We did consider moving and spent 2 years searching in Florida. But after experiencing shingles in the cornea of my eye and my wife’s heart issues, we decided not to unplug with our excellent health providers. Many don’t consider what it takes to reestablish an entire medical history. We did an entire renovation of our home so we can age in place.
-We wanted a condo and/or apartment ccrc until COVID-19, and now we only want single family homes in a gated community in a safe community.
Comments Please! Did this survey capture your thoughts about the attractions and negatives for private communities? Please share your reactions and other thoughts in the Comments section below!
Links to Previous Surveys
- 2016 Retirement Living Preferences Survey
- Retirement Happiness Levels High
- When It Comes to Retirement, Climate and Weather Are Top Reasons
- Survey Results Show High Levels of Financial Confidence
- Retirement Preparation Quiz: Results
- Topretirements Members Report High Degrees of Spousal Compatibility
- Our Members Getting Ready for Big Retirement Moves- 2013
- Medicare Survey – 2012
- Best and Worst Things About Your Retirement
- Your Bucket Lists Are Amazing
- Top Concerns about Retirement
- Plans for Retirement
- Florida Top Choice for Snowbirds, But Many Migration Paths Lead to Happiness
- Survey Results: Many People Expecting a Healthy Retirement Income
- Good News: Topretirements Members Very Confident About Retirement
- Many Members Plan on Retiring Out of State: Climate Big Reason