September 30, 2011 — Once you start looking at active adult and 55+ communities the enormity of the choices hits you. There are so many styles of communities, and so many choices within styles, not to mention possible locations. It is almost enough to freeze a person. The good news is this, however: there is definitely a community out there that will hit your sweet spot.
In this article we will highlight some of the more common choices in types of communities, give a brief summary of the pluses and minuses for each, and provide links to a sample or two. It should be useful in informing you about your choices. You can always search Topretirements for keywords to help you find what you are looking for. Or, you can use our Advanced Search (from the Search link in our top navigation).
Major types of retirement communities
Age Restricted. There are thousands of age-restricted communities. Most tend to be 55+ because there are some anti-discrimination regulations that come into play at that age, but many communities are 50+, 60+, or some other age. In most cases 55+ means 1 person in the household has to be at least 55, and there are restrictions on how long younger people may live there. An advantage of an age restricted community that appeals to many people is that you will be living with people of your own generation. No noisy kids playing in the street. A disadvantage for many folks is that they don’t like living exclusively with cranky old codgers, and they miss the young folks. At Topretirements we have reviews of more than 400 age restricted communities, although there are undoubtedly more. Most of the Sun City communities are 55+, as are places like Valencia Lakes in Tampa.
Non-age Restricted. Because of the tough real estate market some former 55+ communities have opened up to people of all ages. Many other communities have no formal age barrier, but most of the residents will be 50+ anyway. That’s because these communities have amenities and a lifestyle that attract baby boomers more than younger people. Many of the newer, very large communities in the suburbs of major cities are like this, such as Eagle Harbor near Jacksonville, Florida, or Penn National near Chambersburg, PA.
A Community and a Clubhouse – and no more. There are thousands of developments catering to the retiree that offer mostly a place to live with perhaps a clubhouse for social activity. Often there is a pool or small fitness area as well. The advantage of these communities, often with fewer than 100 units but sometimes much bigger, is that they offer lower costs (since they have only minimal facilities to support) yet have at least a social platform for meeting other people. Many of these communities are hard to find out about, particularly if the original plan sold out and now only resales are available. Crestwood in Concord, New Hampshire is an example of a newer community, and Atlantic Hills in Manahawkin, NJ is one that was built out a long time ago.
New Urban. People who are looking for livability and walkability as important criteria should carefully consider a new urban style community. These communities hark back to a vision of small town life where people didn’t have to drive everywhere and so had ample opportunities to interact with other people while walking about doing their daily activities. Our article on new urban communities has many community suggestions.
Active Adult Communities. This is marketing-speak for a community of retirement age people which promises facilities to provide a more active lifestyle. No one wants to think of themselves as being inactive, after all. The facilities found in an active adult community can vary tremendously. Golf is a focus in many, while others specialize in boating, horses, even astronomy. In a place like The Villages you will find an astounding array of activities – from golf to softball, ballroom dancing, duplicate bridge, theatre and singing groups, and so on. Others, like or Leisure World of Virginia, have a significant array of activities, and in still others the active lifestyle might just be walking trails or a shuffleboard court. One advantage is that you get to live where you can do the activities you like to do. A disadvantage is that many of these communities are in remote areas, so you have to drive to shop or for health care. You will be living with like-minded people – some see this as an advantage while others do not.
Large or small? Some active or 55+ communities are truly vast – often with more than 10,000 residents. There are also communities with only a small number of homes. Really large communities like Laguna Woods Village in California have endless activities, yet smaller ones like Ceres Gleann in Oregon give the opportunity to live in a more intimate setting. It is really a question of style and preference.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs). This is a hybrid concept which provides independent living as well as assisted living and nursing care. Typically when someone moves into a CCRC they live in her own apartment, cooking some of their own meals. As they age and lose some function they usually move into the assisted living part of the facility, where they eat all of their meals communally and receive more daily care. If they become ill or lose mental function they move into the nursing home component. Entry fees for these tend to be high, but so is the security factor of knowing you will be taken care of, no matter what your condition. The Watermark at Logan Square near Philadelphia is a good example of a CCRC. Although marketers of CCRCs wish it weren’t so, very people enter these communities until they are in their 70’s or 80’s.
The List goes on
There are many, many other types of retirement communities to live in. You could live in an urban setting in a building or small neighborhood tucked within the city such as Silver Sage Village in Boulder or Nubanusit Village & Farm in Peterborough, NH. There are co-housing communities where people choose to live in a communal setting, sharing some facilities and living in close proximity to one another. Naturally occurring retirement communities are starting to gain traction as well. In these communities people continue to live independently, yet they often swap services like shopping, transportation, health care, or maintenance to improve the quality of their lives.
For further reference:
More about different kinds of retirement communities
What do you think? What is the ideal kind of community for you to spend your retirement? Please share where and what went into your thinking with your fellow members in the Comments section below. Did we miss any community types?