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Walking Trails, Single Level Living, and Social Interaction Top Likes for 55+ Communities

Category: Active adult communities

November 9, 2016 — Many, many thanks to the 756 Topretirements Members who took the the time to fill out our most recent survey on retirement community preferences. You are good people – thanks!

Your input confirms some of our hypotheses and offers fresh perspective on others. One surprise was your favorite amenity – walking trails! You made hundreds of excellent comments to several of the questions – we just wish we had room to highlight every comment because they all offer a unique perspective. Here is one, describing the type of community someone is looking for, that is fairly representative: “Large, walkable, active community with urban area nearby for culture, restaurants etc. A Clubhouse with social clubs will make it easy to make new friends.”

Everyone has their own unique take on retirement, that much is obvious from these results. That is particularly true if you look at the 327 comments made to Question 10, “Please describe your ideal retirement community”. Here are some of the top takeaways from the survey:

– 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, and clubhouse/community center. Golf, pickleball, tennis, and shuffleboard are at the bottom of the list.
– Single family homes with one level living are the runaway favorite type of 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 half of respondents have a neutral view of Home Owners Associations (HOAs) – and more of the second half have negative views than positive.

1. Retirement Status
A majority of our members and visitors are retired or partially retired – 49% retired vs. 39% not, and 12% 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 (71% are somewhat or very likely). More than that, your minds are made up – only 7% are undecided.
Somewhat likely
Very likely
Somewhat unlikely
Very unlikely


3. Ideal size of community.
We asked how many homes would be the 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 70% 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: “Size isn’t as important as the make-up of the community”.
Less than 50

Valencia Bay, a large 55+ community in Delray Beach, FL

Valencia Bay, a large 55+ community in Delray Beach, FL

4. Type of private communities
55+ and active adult communities are strongly preferred over all ages 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 health care and other infrastructure. Many more 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.

Active adult
All ages
Other choices


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, somewhat surprisingly, walking trails, closely followed by fitness center and clubhouse. The lowest ranked amenities were (in descending order): golf course, pickleball, tennis, and shuffleboard.

Walking trails
Fitness Center/Gym
Clubhouse/Community Center
Outdoor Swimming Pool
Indoor Swimming Pool



6. Preferred type of housing
Builders take notice: the runaway favorite type of retirement housing is a single family house on a single level. That choice was selected twice as most often as the next option, traditional single family. Manufactured homes, apartments, and RV/Mobile Homes were ranked lowest. Editorial comment: we were glad to see single floor living preferred, as in our opinion this is a much better option for retirees.

Single family on 1 level
Traditional single family
Patio/garden home
Manufactured home
RV/Mobile home


7. Most important reason for choosing a private community (such as a 55+ community).
We find it interesting that the social aspect of living in a private community was the highest rated option, above amenities and being with fellow retirees (which also has a social component). Particularly for people moving away from a neighborhood where they have lived a long time, the ease of meeting and interacting with new friends sure seems like a good reason. Comments added here suggest that gates, security, and maintenance are important benefits with private communities.

Social interaction
Availability of amenities
55+/be with fellow retirees
Not interested in a private community



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 fees, rules, and home owners associations. We see that in many of the Comments posted elsewhere at Topretirements among many folks who apparently don’t think that the benefits of living in a private community are worth the expense and extra restrictions.

Fees and dues
Rules and restrictions
Home owners associations
Home prices
Lack of diversity



9. What is your attitude toward home owner associations (community associations)?
Somewhat encouragingly for HOAs, about half of respondents are neutral towards home owners associations. Of the half who have an opinion, about twice as many view them unfavorably (31%) than favorably (16%).

Very Unfavorable
No opinion
Very Favorable



10. Do you think developers of private communities are producing the type of communities you want to live in during retirement? And, part 2, please describe your ideal community.
The vast majority of survey takers this question with a maybe or a yes, another positive vote for builders of retirement homes.

No opinion


Part 2: The 327 comments we received to the second part of this question – “describe your ideal community” – were much more insightful. While we wish we had room for more, here is just a random sample of comments. The comments are a good example of how everyone has their own unique preferences and reasons for selecting an active or 55+ community:
– A place where I can find young (mid 50’s), single men and women that are active and social.
– Walking trails, heated outdoor pool, low HOA, lots of sunshine and Christian club
– A large variety of amenities, for those preferring a more sedentary lifestyle, and those who still can be active, but it would not cater to golfers. Would also prefer a newer community, as I will be a younger retiree, and would prefer to be with people who are mostly equally active and capable.
– Stand alone single story homes in wooded area in New England, with smaller yards, but at least 30 feet between homes. Prices between $200-300k, fees less than $150/month. Indoor pool and exercise are a plus (could be a membership
charge – no kids in pool!). In other words nirvana!
– Close proximity to medium size city to take advantage of medical, restaurants, shopping, etc.
– Community friendliness but with privacy to mingle when I want but not to be pressured into living someone elses ideas of how to live life and manage my personal property.
– I am looking for a townhome, with separate entrance and garage. I do not want to pay for all the amenities listed above. I do not want a HOA that is tyrannical.
– I love the focus on physical activities, but would also like to find communities with an equally strong focus on
creative/arts activities and continuous learning activities. Joy and growth come in many forms
– I like the look of the developments that are being built but I would like developers to build for a broader range of retirees. We are a HUGE group and we need a range of pricing choices in order to enjoy a quality retirement. We shouldn’t have to choose between the half million dollar house or the mobile home park. Thank you for asking!
– A place with a view of the water.
– Too many communities are Golf communities. There are so many other activities that are important to 55+. HOA fee should reflect what you want to do not pay for activities that you would never do.
– Street lights, sidewalks, allow fences for people with pets.
Activities and clubs for people interested.
– A community where residents can gather on a daily basis (club house) for social interaction such as dances, happy
hours, games, events, food, etc., and ample outdoor activities such as bocce, pickleball, tennis and swimming.
– Community with large lots that are fenced and gardens are allowed (and in fact would be a major attraction to garden
addicts)and the houses are modest (in size and price).
– A 55+ section of a larger master planned community but with its own amenities. But a 55+ community that has larger than postage sized lots and one whose builder knows and incorporated universal design. Amazing how many 55+ developers keep the steps going into the home and have step in showers. Should be walk in or roll in shower. And very few of them offer an elevator option. More storage space and slightly larger garages would be nice as well as a courtyard entry.

Here is a pdf document with all 327 “Ideal Community comments -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.

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
Florida and Southeast Top Retirement Destinations
Members Tend to Retire Out of State – 2016
Our Members Getting Ready for Big Retirement Moves
Topretirements Members Report High Degrees of Spousal Compatibility- 2013
Medicare Survey
Best and Worst Things About Your Retirement
Your Bucket Lists Are Amazing
Top Concerns about Retirement
Plans for Retirement

100 Most Popular Active and 55+ Communities for 2016

Posted by Admin on November 8th, 2016


  1. Just wondering what the difference is between a 55+ and an Active Adult Community.

    by Staci — November 9, 2016

  2. Good question Staci. Actually there is generally not too much difference. The big one is that in 55+ communities usually at least 1 member of the household has to be at least 55, and while a younger spouse is almost always OK, not so much for children or grandchildren. An active community connotes there are activities/amenities – such as a pool, clubhouse, swimming pool, etc. On this page we try to explain the differences between all types of these communities

    by Admin — November 9, 2016

  3. This article was very interesting, especially since I go back & forth on whether to move to a 55+ community (but I’m running out of time since would like to put retirement plans into effect in a year or so). I live very close to a large Sun City, and shop in the same stores. I see the residents in our library and little shopping mall, and envy their cute little golf carts parked at the drugstore, grocery store etc. In the past year I’ve met residents with widely different opinions. I’ve met a few people who complain that the community is full of cliques, everything has an extra charge, and that the construction of the homes isn’t great. I’ve met others who say that they’ve met lots of people in their community, and enjoy socializing every day!

    I wonder about whether my home investment would be reasonably safe, or whether there will be a glut of 55+ homes when the baby boomers die off so that I might have to sell at a loss if I every have to give up the home (or if my kids would have to dump the property someday). I also wonder whether I’d really use those great amenities that I’d be paying for with the HOA fee, or whether I’d be better off having that money for discretionary spending. I wonder if I really want to live in an age restricted community. Yes, I do realize that my 35 yr old neighbors may be older at heart than retirees. And then there’s the issue of how most of the 55+ communities that I’ve seen have houses so close together too. My hearing and sight isn’t gone yet, so I really don’t want to hear the neighbors flush their toilets and I’m sure they wouldn’t want to hear me blasting 70’s rock music. I’ve seen some 55+ community newsletters, and worry about the pressure on residents to donate money and time to particular charities, or to join everything. On the other hand, it looks like they sometimes get offered special discounts as a neighborhood, and a good social director can keep things interesting.

    I would love to see a forum for the pros and cons of 55+ communities.

    by Kate — November 10, 2016

  4. Kate – You make some really good points. As a single woman, I think a lot about moving to a 55+ community for the social aspect but I’ve heard a lot of the negatives you mention (though I hadn’t heard about being pressured to donate time and money to particular charities – that would be a huge turnoff to me. I get enough of that at my current job).

    I too would like to read more on this issue, especially from people who have wrestled with the decision.

    by Carol — November 10, 2016

  5. Kate and Carol,

    We do have a Blog article “Is an Active Adult Community Right for You” Which you will find very informative along with the comments which follow.

    You can also post any questions you might have.

    by Admin — November 10, 2016

  6. One of my top two or three requirements would be a modern, well funded and -staffed library. Nobody else reads?

    by Basil — November 10, 2016

  7. Basil, I am an avid reader and library user. My local library has a nice big budget for books, but a 55+ community may not. I’ve been an ebook (Kindle) reader for years. I love being able to load my reader with many, many books and take it with me anywhere. My library has ebooks that I can borrow by downloading them onto my reader. Amazon has a lot of free books available for permanent “purchase” as well. It also has a Kindle Owners Lending Library. That said, many 55+ communities have public libraries nearby, so it’s another criterion you might add to your list while searching for a community.

    by Libran — November 11, 2016

  8. Basil and Libran, I totallly agree. I loved my local library in LaGrange, NY; and am now enjoying the library in Jonesborough, TN. We all take for granted that libraries are free, but it didn’t have to work out that way. They could have been like museums and concerts charging a fee for entrance. I, for one, am so glad our society developed in this fashion and that we have free use of our libraries and their resources. And if anyone states that our tax dollars pay for libraries (thus they are not free), i can state that tax dollars often also support museums, theater, and concerts; but most of these venues usually do not offer free admission. I am so thankful for our county’s local library system.

    by ella — November 12, 2016

  9. I love surveys for general knowledge per subject. For 300+ to respond was pretty good for results. My newest interest is facebook as a means of neighborhood communication. Yeah, all is not well in lala-land but maybe positivity will help. From FB I am able to read other community postings. This is offered for those wanting to get the ‘pulse’ of a community.

    by Gregory — November 17, 2016

  10. In all the years I have been reading all your articles and trying to prepare to move to Florida when I retired, and finally did last year, I can’t recall every seeing a topic covering what I really need. That is a gated stick built home community with just a few amenities, like a pool and a clubhouse . My actual concern is HOA fees. I can actually afford a lot of homes in the many advertised, large and beautiful communitys I see, but I don’t want to subsidize large multi golf course places, with huge extravagant club houses. Most have hoa fees 300 to 500 a month pluss and usually always go up over time. Being retired I want to keep my costs low, without sacrificing a nice sized home and neighborhood.
    So many places have affordable homes, 150’s to 250’s, but adding on a yearly hoa fee of $4000 and up a year make this undesireable to me. Not sure if I got my message across right, but an article of communities (not mobile homes or small manufactured homes) with less amenities and extra costs would be appreciated.
    Thanks for your great website, as I have learned so much from it over the many years!

    (This Comment came in from Mike)

    by Admin — March 20, 2017

  11. Mike, I too would be interested in less ammenities and very low HOA fees. I previously owned time shares and they were notorious for jacking up the yearly maintenance fees and the special assessments has put a sour taste in my mouth. The yearly maintenance fees WERE supposed to cover everything at the resort but somehow they always came up short and we had to fork over more money to fix the pool, to fix the roof, to refurbish parts of the resort. I don’t want to get into that situation again. We also had bought into brand new timeshares that shouldn’t have needed such repairs but we heard that they used the wrong amount of chemicals in the pool which ruined it. The roof had clay tiles, so no idea why it needed repaired, refurbishing is understandable, but should have been part of the yearly maintenance fees.

    by Louise — March 21, 2017

  12. We are also looking for a similar community pet friendly and with lots of walking trails. We have no interest in a golf community or being near one for the green views. It looks like we will search for a smaller home with property for privacy.

    by JoannL — March 21, 2017

  13. Hello March 20, 2017 Admin and Mike. Thanks for posting this because I totally AGREE with Mike about the very expensive HOA’s and how MANY of us do NOT want either the golf courses all together, nor the large elaborate ones. Basically, we are looking for a nice, one-level, small house with a nearby Club House (not a huge extravagant one) and a pool in a safe 55+ community neighborhood in FL … and with the convenience of having a nearby shopping area as well is very appealing. In my experience it appears that there just are not enough of these types of communities in FL. Many of us are downsizing and want to lead a more financially stress-free life too without the very expensive monthly HOA’s, such as Mike states, because that is the deal-breaking struggle that prevents us and scares us from moving. I have been researching many areas in FL but of course maybe I have missed the less expensive locations. So far, the closest I can come to finding such a community only happens in the mobile home areas … and honestly, some of them are very appealing and may just be where we purchase and ultimately move into. I would welcome any suggestions as to “stick built communities” I may not be aware of … so thank you. I love and appreciate this blog with so many helpful people commenting !!

    by Patte — March 21, 2017

  14. One 55+ community without a golf course is “Sweetwater” near Jacksonville Florida. Has other amenities, but for those not wishing a golf course, it’s a possibility.

    by Jan Cullinane — March 21, 2017

  15. Another one is in Naples florida HOA right now is around $830.00 a quarter. They only have a swimming pool. The places run about 120 to 160K. The building was built in 86. Most people are from Massachusetts. Walking distance to Walmart, and other shopping, and a few restaruants. 2 miles from 5th av or tin city. A bunch of snowbirds. The
    name of the place is Sunrise III off Palm Drive in Naples.

    by Richard — March 21, 2017

  16. Thank you for providing so much information for us. One of the things I consistently run across in my search of retirement communities is that the houses are too big. I don’t need more than 1000 sq ft. Most houses are significantly bigger, with 2 floors. I am surprised they haven’t downsized more or at least offered smaller options. And I liked what a couple of folks said – being allowed to have fences for dogs and gardens.

    by Judy — March 21, 2017

  17. I would be interested in low HOA homes in southern states but not FL. Manufactured homes have always interested me but the parks put the homes too close to each other and the lot rent is not cheap! Some are over $600 a month (some less) but at $600 a month that is $7,200 a year. You can pay taxes on a home on an acre of land in some places and probably in some cases pay less tax. My friend lives in a Mobile Home park and has to pay extra for each pet and is limited to two animals. The pool is a nightmare and full of kids all summer (think Disneyland). It is not an age restricted Mobile Home park. She has never used the pool. She also has to pay for grass mowing, snow removal and water. I think sewer is included. My friend pays about $550 a month and each year it goes up.

    by Louise — March 21, 2017

  18. My comment is regarding finding 55+ communities that are not built around golf courses and fancy clubhouses in Florida. There are actually quite a few but since they don’t charge the big bucks they also don’t have the advertising budget the fancy ones have. I can think of a couple here in Delray Beach that I have friends living in and I know there are more. What you really need to do is decide on where in Florida you want to live. Then focus on the cities in that area and work with a local realtor. They know what communities are 55+ and if they don’t, move on to find one that does. No, I’m not a realtor. I just know that unless you find someone local to work with you’ll never find the smaller communities. Most are a little older so you won’t find them on this type website. Also, if you aren’t familiar with Florida lingo, ask about a “villa”. Usually it will be something like a duplex or quadplex but the key here is that it usually means one story rather than a townhouse which most often is two levels. I didn’t have a clue when I first moved here. I figured only rich Italians lived in Villas!!

    by Laura — March 21, 2017

  19. I’ve noticed a lot of conversations about high HOA fees in various communities. Many have talked about living in the Wilmington NC area but I found the housing prices to exceed $300k in the communities that were of interest to myself and my wife. I would vacation in Myrtle Beach SC every year and decided to investigate living there permanently when I retired. We researched a number of communities and fell in love with The Tuscany resort in Myrtle Beach just off Hwy 501. It is close enough to downtown to get to the beaches (about 10 minutes) and far enough away to avoid the beach crowds in the summer. We purchased a home in June and moved in in November. The delay was due to hurricane Matthew, not because of damage, but due to workers evacuating and the electric company paying more attention to restoring power in the downtown area. The development had very little damage. The development has both 55+ and all age sections. We happened to pick the all age area due to the location close to the club house. It has a large pool and lazy river and they are supposed to build an additional pool. The property used to be the Belle Terre golf course that DR Horton purchased and leveled to build homes. It has natural gas for heat and cooking and our HOA fees are $117/mo. The 55+ HOA is $100 more but you get free lawn care and lawn watering for the extra $100. Monthly utilities are about $65 each for gas and electric and I am told this doesn’t change during the summer. If you don’t like the beach traffic and are over 65 you can get an annual state park pass for $67 which gives you free parking and beach access at Myrtle Beach and Huntington State Parks that are about a 20 minutes drive away. People complain about the traffic in the summer but we came from a town in NJ that has traffic year round and would take us 15 minutes just to get out of town. We are also pleased that the real estate taxes are less that 1/10 of what we were paying in NJ. Come down and see for yourself

    by Mike M — March 21, 2017

  20. Has anyone experience with places like Fairfield Glade in Tennessee? Or Telico Village in Tennessee? I have mostly been looking at homes and communities in the Greenville, S. Carolina area, but Tennessee looks good too. Those HOA fees are pretty high, and the thoughts of them increasing every year puts the breaks on for me. Do they have caps? Who governs how high they go? I am on a very tight, fixed income, and do not want to move to a place that I will be unable to afford in 5 years, and have to move all over again!

    by Lynne — March 22, 2017

  21. I would like to join the vast number of people who have commented on the “Adult” communities and the over abundance of overpriced Golf courses, swimming pools, clubhouse etc that really serve a very few people but allow the developer to make huge profits after the home sale.

    Are there nice communities in South Carolina that have homes in the 200K -330K range with decent size lots, a lake access or river, walking trails and other forms of free recreational amenities? I really don’t care to pay some developer a big bonus every month on top of my house payment.

    by Ron — March 22, 2017

  22. Not sure if any of you posters, above, are interested in NC; but there is a beautiful mountain community in Collettsville (near Lenoir) called The Coves Mountain River Club. HOA fees are very low; last i heard high 700’s. Homes are high, though, mid-300’s and up; although their site advertises them at a lower price. Lenoir is a lovely town, as well.

    by ella — March 23, 2017

  23. Just because a community has a golf course doesn’t mean that you would be paying for it in your HOA fees. I live on a golf course lot but the club is private and entirely separate from the HOA. There are also communities like the nearby Robson Ranch active adult community where they have a golf course but it is a public course. Again, not supported by HOA fees. Check to see if the amenities in the community are part of the HOA fees before you rule out that development.

    by LS — March 23, 2017

  24. Swimming pools, Clubhouse ( a place to meet new friends) , Gym ( To keep fit ) most People want ! I would pay for these amenities. I do not Golf but most communitys you do not pay if you don’t join plus you get a beautiful view.

    by Tony — March 23, 2017

  25. Here’s an alternative view on communities. I too looked at some of these mega things. Mostly I didn’t care for the locations out in the countryside. I don’t golf, although usually that’s separate. I had no need to pay someone to sit at a gate all day. If the bad guys want to get in, they will just enter some other way.

    Here’s what I finally bought after a lot of looking. A condo in a small association (16 units) on a major canal with direct access to the river and the gulf. Reasonably priced. Came with a community pool. The larger community (the city) offers pools, golf courses, all sorts of classes, many gyms, activities, opportunities to volunteer, a library, a beach, lots of restaurants, etc., etc. I visited several times before I made an offer (I was in a 6-month rental, so had the luxury of time). Every time I came over, the residents were outside visiting with one another and they made me feel welcome before I was even a resident. I don’t regret for a minute giving up the larger gated, exclusive community concept.

    by Linda — March 23, 2017

  26. Linda: Would you mind giving the name and location of the condo you bought? Thanks.

    by judy — March 23, 2017

  27. Patte and others looking in Florida. We have been searching for a couple of years for a smaller place. At first I thought we wanted the large communities with all the glitz. Recently we came to the reality that we don’t golf, don’t use a ball room, didn’t want a high hoa, etc., and started re-looking at smaller communities with low hoa’s. In the Lake Wales to Sebring area we found several nice communities that fit that description. If all goes well we will be closing on a home in late April.

    by Vicki — March 24, 2017

  28. Judy, I am reluctant to furnish that much information on a public message board. My condo is located on a canal in Cape Coral, Florida. There are over 400 miles of canals in Cape Coral and hundreds if not thousands of such condo complexes. If you’re interested in Cape Coral, I can refer you to a good realtor. Chuck and Randi Lombardo. Their e-mail is I would recommending renting here first while you look around to see if you like the community. I can also refer you to a nice rental at a very reasonable price for 6 months if you provide your contact information.

    by Linda — March 24, 2017

  29. Linda: Thank you for realtor and rental info; not sure about plans in the near future but will leave contact info if interested later..

    by judy — March 25, 2017

  30. Linda, I am a divorced, now single, woman and I am looking for a smaller community, but I want it to be updated. I agree that paying for amenities that one does not or may not use makes no sense. I want it to be somewhat upscale but not loaded with golf courses and not too far from a grocery store and other activities so that I can walk it if possible. Many thanks for your description of your community. I think a lot of us would like such a situation. Welcoming, friendly, neighbors make a nice community no doubt about it.

    by Jennifer — March 25, 2017

  31. Jennifer, Cape Coral is not particularly walkable. With all the canals, it’s sometimes tough to get from point A to point B by car! The park where I play bocce is almost directly across the canal from me so I could walk, but that lovely canal is in the way. 🙂 There are some condos that are within walking distance to a grocery store, but I would not describe them as upscale. Or necessarily updated. You can get upscale and updated by the river, but it will be very expensive and you will have to pay flood insurance. I prefer my nice ordinary condo. It has been updated, but there are things I will be changing over time.

    by Linda — March 26, 2017

  32. Linda,

    I, too, am divorced and looking to become a snowbird this winter, spending summers at my lil place in Wells, Maine, and winters on the Gulf Coast.

    Your community sounds ideal, and I would be most appreciative if you would share with me the info on the affordable 6 month rental you mentioned in your recent posting. My email is:

    Thanking you in advance for your assistance,

    by Diane — March 26, 2017

  33. Diane, you’ve got mail.

    by Linda — March 27, 2017

  34. To all thinking of moving near the beach or anywhere in a flood plane. Hurricane insurance is a requirement, Flood insurance is a requirement not covered by Hurricane insurance, then there is your regular home owners insurance.

    I live in Boca Raton FL about 1 mile from the ocean. This insurance easily cost me 400 per month on top of my usual expenses. My home is valued at around 450K

    If you buy a home purchased prior to 1987 your rates can be increased as much as 25% per year
    Just something to think about if you are retiring on a fixed income.

    by Ron — March 28, 2017

  35. Ron is right about the cost of flood insurance being high in Florida (or anywhere else) if you’re in a flood plain. As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re in a condo on the 2nd floor or above, you usually don’t need flood insurance. So that helps quite a few retirees who aren’t wealthy.

    by Clyde — March 28, 2017

  36. Hello Clyde
    That may be so, but often the cost of flood insurance is reflected in the regime fee which covers the entire structure. It pays to investigate and do due diligence.

    by Moderator Flo — March 28, 2017

  37. Linda, can you send me your email address? I would love to speak with you about your community.


    by Jennifer — March 29, 2017

  38. The cost of flood insurance for my beachfront condo building is included in my condo fees. My mortgage company requires that I submit verification of flood insurance coverage to them every year. If I did not submit this proof, they would take out their own flood policy on my unit at a very inflated cost and bill me for it.

    by LS — March 29, 2017

  39. Flo, you are right that many condos, especially high rises, have the building flood insurance built into the overall HOA fee. I expect my comment about no flood insurance needed on second floor or above applies mainly to contents (personal property) insurance coverage. If you’re in a ground level unit – and maybe even the second floor of you’re very close to water – you need to check to see if your contents insurance, which is similar to renters’ insurance, would cover flood damage. I expect it usually doesn’t. But I also expect quite a few condo owners do not carry contents insurance. It depends on how much your personal property is worth. And condo owners should also seriously consider personal liability insurance because the main HOA policy probably doesn’t cover all liability exposure for individual owners.

    by Clyde — March 29, 2017

  40. Jennifer, there is no private message capability on this board. Where should I send my e-mail address? You will need to furnish yours.

    by Linda — March 29, 2017

  41. Re flood insurance: Yes, it would be included in your condo fees which would be appropriately higher. And rising every year. So, another reason to check the flood zone maps before purchasing a condo.

    by Linda — March 29, 2017

  42. Hi Linda:

    My email address is: I would love to hear from you about your area in Florida.


    by Jennifer — March 30, 2017

  43. We just moved to Gulf Breeze, Fl. from another state. Wow, prepare yourself for sticker shock when you get Fla. drivers licenses and license plates. We are both in our 60’s. We just got our (2) drivers licenses and 2 vehicle license plates…one car is 2005 and the other 2015…are you ready? $975.40!! We were really shocked! Anyhow, we love it here!

    Editors note: Here are FL fees: It is $225 per car registration fee, plus some other fees such as lien fees, if applicable. For vehicles, if you do not currently have a Florida license plate to transfer to this vehicle, you will pay a one-time $225.00 “new wheels on the road” fee, $2 per lien, plus registration fees depending on the weight of your vehicle—range is from $46.15 to $72.40. Once registered the renewal is $43.10.

    by Brenda — March 30, 2017

  44. Don’t forget Flood insurance is separate from Hurricane insurance. If you live near the beach both are required

    by Ron — March 30, 2017

  45. Sharon sent this in looking for suggestions:

    I would like to retire to a community with a therapy pool (warm water as in Glenwood Springs, Co). My arthritic bones
    Can’t tolerate cold water any longer but I would love a public lap pool! Suggestions?

    by Admin — March 30, 2017

  46. Hi, Linda!
    I would also love to hear about your community and the 6 month rental you spoke of in your past message. I am also single, and currently checking out places in Arizona and Florida (Gulf side) as potential retirement destinations.

    If you would be willing to add one more to your list, my email address is

    Thank you for your consideration,
    Linda F

    Thank you

    by Linda — March 31, 2017

  47. Jennifer and Linda, you’ve got mail.

    by Linda — March 31, 2017

  48. Hello,
    Most of the above info and comments contained very useful information! We have been trying to locate a viable community in northern California, which has some of the basic social ammenities, small homes OR living units which are near to shopping, food and medical/hospital services, which don’t break the bank. And it has proven to be much harder than we thought! Our father (86 years young) is from the “Silent Generation”, those born between the early 1920’s to 1940s, which is PRE-Baby Boomer. We have toured several supposedly “active” retirement communities which essentially looked like assisted living facilities, with minimal ‘activities.’ Are there any other viable options for people his age, who are still independent and active which do NOT look and feel like nursing homes? Surely there are other parents like my father, who are very active and still mostly independent, who also continue to enjoy life, but may need support services down the road….??

    by AA Brager — November 7, 2017

  49. There are lots of choices in NorCal. Unfortunately, some are expensive. If you include the Gold Country and go up as far as Redding there are even more choices. I lived in Sun City Lincoln, a Del Webb active adult community. It had lots of activities and clubs. These ranged from concerts on the lawn in the summer to excursions and day trips to clubs. Someone told me that over time lots of “active” communities do turn more like independent living as the residents age. If Sun City Lincoln was a good example, many of the residents were definetly aging! Since there were no care services offered by the community, individuals pay for whatever care they require on their own.

    I’m still not sure I’ve got it all figured out, but it seems to me that the order of care offered goes from activie adult type communities which offer none, to “independent living” which usually offer meals and light housekeeping, to “assisted living” which offer more care and assistance but are definitely like “nursing homes” because that’s what they are. The creme de la creme are continuous care communities which offer all levels of care under one roof. That means no moving, or at least only a move to a different part of the communities as needs increase. has facilities from the central valley to sacramento and the gold country. It would be a good place to start looking. Hope this helps!

    by Laney Humphrey — November 8, 2017

  50. After two years of research and visiting multiple 55+ communities (and at times falling in love with a community and then finding myself changing my mind on the 2nd visit), I finally decided that a 55+ community was not for me. The final trigger was a long weekend with a lovely, helpful realtor in one of the larger communities that I was sure was going to be right for me. In fact, I brought my checkbook and thought the visit was to decide between resale homes (planning on retirement within 6 months). My reasons are obviously not going to apply to everyone — and are not in order. (1) everyone seemed really old. I am not old, and don’t plan on being old. I’m 25-30 inside, even though I’m lumpy, dumpy & grumpy on the outside. (2) the community centers were not really being used (except that the pools appeared to be being used by residents’ families). (3) my realtor was a widow too, and went on & on about how great it was for all of the women to get together for social activities every day, how many single women were on her street, and how many women’s activities there were. She said they go on vacations together and walk in and out of each others homes all the time. I’m an introvert, and worked long hours for 40+ years in a male dominated industry. All this “girl stuff” that she described so happily made me want to hide, but I also don’t want to be the outsider in my new community. (4) we passed a few very neglected homes. She said that the residents had died. While the homes were being sold, the HOA fees were being paid by the community (although the community would file a lien for reimbursemet). We also saw 1-2 ambulances. Again, a community composed primarily of elder residents has different issues… the book Leisureville said the local police and fire departments call the elderly residents “croakers”. With love, of course. (5) all of the houses looked alike. Same palette of siding, door colors, roof colors, etc. offered by the builders. While this may ensure property values are maintained, I found that I really missed individualization. (6) This was at the end of the summer in one of the Southeast coastal communities. The realtor told me that a large number of residents were seasonal. This explained the light use of the facilities and the ghost town atmosphere (yes, it was hot outside). However, I’d prefer full-time residents committed to the community. (7) I subscribed to the local papers, and picked up several months of community newsletters. The activities that were offered were actually very limited, and weighted towards presentations by financial planners, paid exercise classes and others selling things. (8) I decided that I didn’t want to subsidize clubhouses, tennis courts, pickle ball courts, golf courses and other community resources that I wouldn’t use (again, introvert). (9) I couldn’t imagine a kid (or one of my kid’s friends) ever wanting to stay with me if they needed a safe haven in the event of divorce, job loss, etc. I know this is ridiculous, but it did pass through my mind. (9) I overheard some wrangling in a restaurant between residents fighting over a proposed increase in the HOA fee to cover more landscaping of common areas. I can keep going, but you get the idea. I went from thinking 55+ living would be perfect, to realizing it wasn’t a match for me. I grasp that every community is different, but ultimately I want the diversity and privacy offered by my own home somewhere else. Now I just have to finalize my choice of city…and I’m surprising myself by considering moving to a more northern state. I never would have imagined returning to the cold when I started planning retirement. Retirement planning is really a voyage of self-discovery, isn’t it!

    by Kate — November 9, 2017

  51. Kate, you bring up some good points! I also worked in a male dominated industry. I always enjoyed eating lunch or socializing with the guys. We always talked about current events, buying electronics and every day events. Not babysitting issues, cranky babies, daycare, and girly issues. Since I had no kids all that stuff was just alien territory for me. I also, see the pros and cons of living in a 55+ community. Less isolation, some places have a ton of activities if you are inclined. But what turns me off is the HOA fees. Even that wouldn’t bother me if they were reasonable and didn’t go up and up. Had a timeshare for years and seems the owners supported the whole place. Then you get hit with special assessments. When on a fixed income this can be devastating. They had quite a rental business too but not sure where those monies went to. In a way, I do like that there are certain rules to keep people in line. It is amazing how some people will junk up their yards. However, then sometimes the people on the boards get carried away with the rules. If you are looking for activities and are not in a 55+ community maybe you could check out the YMCA, Senior Centers and find places that offer things like pottery making, stained glass, jewelry making, library, church and check out Meetups which are groups of like minded people trying to organize fun things to do such as hiking, biking, crafts, etc.

    by Louise — November 9, 2017

  52. Kate, thank you for the excellent explanation! It took some time to get your thoughts down on paper and I, for one, really appreciate your effort. I am 64 and retired for two years. My wife (53) and I are looking to get away from the cold NE Indiana winters and in two weeks will spend a week in FL doing discovery for future winter retreats. I thought an active community was just what we wanted but your insight had me imagining what it would be like. You pointed out many things that I would not like and so I will have a different perspective as we travel about FL. FYI, the Carolinas are also on our list of states to visit. I really doubt that we will settle in FL which is why we are going their first, to get it out of the way. Cheers!

    by Rob — November 9, 2017

  53. Kate, you described perfectly why I’m no longer living in a 55+ community. As a single with no nearby family, it is nice to know that neighbors will help out, but, even tho’ they weren’t as “neighborly” as the ones you describe, I still didn’t enjoy socializing with them very much. The good and the bad, I guess.
    I have interests and activities I’m passionate about so I decided to focus on them rather than look to my neighborhood to provide them. I guess a new 55+ development which attracts younger retirees would be ideal. Then everyone would age together (that’s what happened at Sun City Lincoln).
    I’m now living near family but in a regular apartment complex. Not even close to perfect either. You’re sure right that retirement planning is a voyage of self discovery. We have to be flexible and open minded to new ideas and opportunities.

    by Laney Humphrey — November 9, 2017

  54. Kate since you mentioned the book Leisureville I thought you were talking about The Villages but then you mentioned it was coastal. Can you say what 55+ you visited?

    by Carol Dugan — November 9, 2017

  55. Carol: I probably visited every 55+ community in Northern FL to upper North Carolina over the last few years – or at least it feels like it. I fell in temporary-lust with a few, but was ready to marry Sun City in Bluffton near Hilton Head. There were many pluses for that community, like its location to the amenities of Savannah while still being able to get to a beach, low taxes, and my belief that a huge community would be more likely to have more options..I still think it’s a great community — just not for me.

    by Kate — November 9, 2017

  56. We were very hesitant to move into a 55+ community. It sure isn’t for everybody, but it has been a wonderful experience for us. I learned to golf and love it. I needed more opportunities for social activities because I had spent so much effort on career development that I had no hobbies. I have dabbled in things at our arts & crafts room. Have taken courses onsite from lifelong learning program. Also, moving from the Midwest to Arizona meant we needed to establish a new network of friends. We don’t take advantage of tons of things, but enough to build that new lifestyle, and our community is very friendly and smaller so it works for us. We socialize just enough but haven’t gone overboard, just say “NO” when it doesn’t interest you. Love the onsite fitness center, pool and restaurant. We are also 20 minutes from city center so we like getting outside of the gates and participate in theater and other events. I always recommend that folks do a 3 month rental when they think they have found the right place. Then you can experience a full season as just a 3 day visit is not long enough to catch the vibe of the community.

    by Loretta — November 10, 2017

  57. I have long thought that isolating retirees and elderly in a 55 plus community is a big mistake. I will only live in a mixed age community. Having too many people of the same age—as they age just limits and stagnates as far as I am concerned. Many people I know look forward to having no young children and teenagers around but I think that life can get boring if one goes that route, although there might be an initial appeal.

    I will be wrapping up my employment with an Episcopal Church in Washington, DC Nov my job was phased out. During the week we have a Wednesday morning service followed by breakfast and a bible study. We have an artist who teaches painting on Tuesday and Wednesdays. We have dinners several times a month with the International Mission group, Mission Group, Men’s Ministry group and various others .All this complete with speakers and a lovely catered meal with wine all for a$ 10.00 donation. We have many activities for people who have the time such as the Flower Committee who arranges flowers, and the Altar guild. There are many other churches of other denominations that also have activities for those who have the time or are retired. We even have a group of volunteers that I found essential who stuffed and prepared our newsletter mailings. They called themselves the “Holy Folders”, and I cherished their help and provided snacks with coffee and tea. One can find activities outside of home if one looks hard enough. If one is an introvert–I have those tendencies sometimes–then a Church or synagogue is a way to ease into activities at your own pace. You can take your time about joining certain groups that may be of interest…or not. For me walkability is BIG must/plus and I am blessed that I can walk to things from my home as well as have access to a bus and I use UBER a lot. One can get to the free museums and have lunch which is cheaper than dinner–or even better afternoon tea.

    I guess is what I am trying to say is that one does not need to isolate themselves in a 55 plus community to enjoy activities and that people of mixed ages nearby can keep you current and younger in your thought process instead of focusing on aches and pains often associated with old age.

    by Jennifer — November 10, 2017

  58. My wife and I have made visits to many 55 communities over the last several years. Many new 55 communities are now being build as part of a larger master plan community with single family homes. This helps retailers, restaurants, and medical facilities to want to be near as they are not just relying on a senior community. It is one way builders are trying to rid themselves of the isolation some feel in a 55 community, but still retain their own amenities.

    by bruce — November 11, 2017

  59. Our experience is that living in a 55+ community does not isolate us. Our place in Delray Beach is in the middle of a great amount of activities nearby and within 30 minutes in Palm Beach and Broward counties. It’s basically like living in any condo, but it is considerably quieter and more peaceful here than in non age-specific places. Not much in the way of noisy neighbors, loud cars and vehicles, etc. The average age here is probably 78-80, but because it is independent living and the units open to a covered sidewalk or walkway rather than an interior hallway, the older ages of most people here (I’m 68) never tend to make me feel older because we don’t see them that much unless we want to. It is a gated community, and that does keep the place a bit more secure, but mostly it serves to keep the place quieter. I can see how a lot of 55+ places can be isolating, but if you don’t want that, pick one that’s in the middle of a lot of action. There are plenty of those, especially in southeast Florida, an area which is rarely mentioned in this forum.

    by Clyde — November 11, 2017

  60. I’ve just finished reading “Leisureville”, and I HIGHLY recommend it if you might be even remotely attracted to the lifestyle a 55+ community offers. Clearly, there is no free lunch. At 65+, I keep forgetting that! Potential future financial obligations for people buying into these communities is scary.


    by RonP — November 13, 2017

  61. Buying into a new or relatively new 55+ community does represent, as Ron indicates, a step into the unknown in terms of future costs, especially if the development company is not yet out of the picture and is subsidizing current costs. When the developer has transferred it over to the residents to run, then things can get a bit murkier. It might often be best to buy in a development that has run itself for a while – after the developer has handed it over completely. We did that (35-year old community) and have been pleased with the HOA costs. This is our fourth year paying monthly HOA dues and they are actually slightly less for 2018 than when we started. And there have been some nice improvements: New indoor pool and one outdoor pool replaced. New pickleball courts and new bar coded entry for residents, so you don’t have to wait to go through the manned lanes. Brand new mini-buses for the transportation system to area shopping, etc. New elevator in our section and significant drainage improvements to drain streets quickly after rains. Buying in a new/newer development can be like buying a pig in a poke, in terms of future costs. My advice: stick with well-run communities that have at least a 10-20 year track record of operating on their own after the development company is gone. Due diligence can’t be overemphasized.

    by Clyde — November 13, 2017

  62. Clyde – – Thanks for the info. My wife and I are moving down to Boynton Beach into a new apartment building in a couple months. We are renting to take our time to find a nice place to live. Your community sounds perfect to us. Thanks again for the helpful info on HOA dues, etc.

    by Bob — November 14, 2017

  63. Bob, if you want more info, please contact me at redwind500(at) We’re just south of Boynton in Delray.

    by Clyde — November 14, 2017

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