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What Style of Active Community Hits Your Sweet Spot

Category: Active adult communities

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?

Posted by Admin on September 30th, 2011


  1. Some retirees such as my wife and I do not want a newly built retirrement home because of the state of the housing market and would rather purchase a resale in a built out retirement community. Why not publish a list by region of all built out 55+ communities so we can more easily access them for resales information? That way we and others could avoid the pitfalls of spending to much on new home construction or buying into an incomplete community that might fail.

    by Sandi Hoffman — October 1, 2011

  2. CLRC’s: College Linked Retirement Communities, like Academy Village (SE of Tucson). These communities are sponsored by, or have close ties to, propinquitous universities. Many lectures, classes, courses, university-sponsored activities are offered. Go to Preantepenultimate on left. Index has about thirty search vectors.

    by oldnassau — October 1, 2011

  3. 🙄 I am 68. My significant other is 34. Many communities that fit me will not accept her because of her age. While I understand this, I wonder if there are communities where such age differences are not an issue. It would be great if such active communities were listed as a group.

    by John Jackson — October 2, 2011

  4. John (Jackson), I thought that most age-restricted communities were only that ONE partner needed to be qualified as to “age-restriction.” However, in ones where you “buy into” the community, you pay a LARGE penalty since the surviving partner (usually the younger) could live there much longer… i.e., just like insurance companies, their statisticians take all of this into consideration.
    Oldnassau, guess I’ll need to find one nearer to a community college … I get propinquitous (near), but even considering the etymology of sections of the word, that last one throws me (our monestary uses Old English and words of germanic origin). That said (:grin:), such communities are great … though expensive and pron to “marketing” by the Advancement offices. Also, many larger, non-university-related communities (e.g., The Villages, OTOW, etc.) have education opportunities … plus, with the good ol’ internet, one can get FREE courses from some of the ge=reatest universitoes out there: MIT, UC Berkely, etc., etc.). Yes, online one does miss out on the “cultural” activities of a vibrant campus community. However, one also misses out on all those know-everything, all-night-partying (traditional – teenage) students (I work on a university campus:???:).

    Editor’s Note: Good point Monk, there are tons of communities in non-college towns that have great university or other lifetime learning opportunities. On the issue of one partner being under 55 in age-restricted communities – i would be cautious about generalizing. Every community tends to have its own rules, although the most basic pattern is one member has to be at least 55. I have never heard of charging more or a penalty for 1 partner being under 55. Might exist, I just haven’t heard of it before. You do want to make sure a surviving partner under 55 has the right to keep living there, though.

    by Mad Monk — October 2, 2011

  5. At Colonial Heritage in Williamsburg, only one spouse need be 55 or older. And, they allow 20% of the owners to be 45 and older…so we still have a lot of residents who are working. Our community is about one third built out, but we do have resales for those looking to buy a home that already has established landscaping and upgrades like shutters and other decorator touches. The nice thing about Lennar is that they built the clubhouse, golf course and other facilities first…for all to enjoy…rather than waiting until all the homes were sold.

    by Shirley Kappa — October 2, 2011

  6. :??? One of the biggest factors involved in relocating to a new community for manyis price. Sure, there are tons of communities that have expensive clubhouses and numerous golf courses. The boating crowd has pentyof choices for their new yacht but, many of us are blue clollar workers who had to struggle to put our kids through school. When all is done, the only wealth we may have left is our home equity (which as we all know has been chopped to peices).
    Retirement commutities without all the whistles and bells but still solid and reputable and in a retirment friendly state are (it seems) few and far in between. 😥

    by Mark Crosbie — October 3, 2011

  7. Mark, There are lot more inexpensive communities out there than you think. Some are in new communities, but even more are established ones with a track record and low prices. Look in our State Directories and you will find them. Use Advanced Search for manufactured homes. We have featured a number of them in our weekend newsletters.

    by John Brady — October 4, 2011

  8. Mark,
    There are ‘tons’ of inexpensive places to live in Florida, that are very NICE and have lots of activities that you don’t have to pay for. Any where along US27 from Ocala to Lake Wales. If you want water then you will be paying more, just stay in the center of the state. If you like Florida, do a road trip and you will be very surprised that you CAN afford to retire in a very nice 55+ community. Good luck

    by sandy — October 5, 2011

  9. Dear Editor: Here ( is one that typifies what I meant by an “entry fee.” When they state that the amount is based upon age, it is actually the age of the YOUNGEST partner. There are many of these around the country, many are operated by, or through, a religious faith (this one is Mennonite, but they exist for many sects). That is NOT to imply that one must be of that faith, or even religious at all, to reside there. However, some may be more/less stringent on that issue … or one might be uncomfortable around the majority of the people there (because of differing beliefs … of course, that gets into the whole aspect of whether one seeks sameness in age, beliefs, etc. or diversity in retirement). I have no connection with this site … merely one (of many) that we have looked at. Also, there are the places that are based upon income for the amount of the rent. Some are no more than what one might scornfully call “storage facilities for the elderly,” but many offer activities and are very nice. As has been suggested on this forum, caveat emptor and check places out personally … good websites and having sales reps on forums like this does not always present the more accurate picture one will get by a visit.

    Mark, I second what has already been said. (Un)fortunately (depending upon how one looks at it), we live in a capitalist economy; thus, “you get what you pay for” also applies into retirement. We are actually more in your situation and looking at every penny into retirement … why we are not retired yet … I am 63. Manufactured homes are well beyond the old trailer parks of my youth … though those do still exist … in Florida too. Some of the builders in Florida will send great information (including DVDs and references to the communities that handle their homes). Some have tours of their manufaturing facilties, which are very well attended (from what we saw). Just do internet search on “Florida manufactured homes” and variations on that.

    Many “Happy Trails” to all of us.

    by Mad Monk — October 5, 2011

  10. John Jackson’s situation is similar to my husband and I, although I will be 55 when we plan to move into a 55+ community next year. We have found many communities in Delaware where one member of the couple must be at least 55 and there is no ‘buy in’ to the community other than the purchase of the desired house.

    by Katrina — October 5, 2011

  11. Why is it so hard to find 55+ Manufactured home communities in Georgia? We have so many here in FL. They (the newer ones) are sooooo nice. I lived in Ventura Lakes, Punta Gorda, FL, for several years and loved it. Now I’m looking in Ga. Where are they?

    Editor’s Note: Really good question. Although we might have several in our Georgia Directory of Active Communities that aren’t listed properly, only one (Wymberly in Martinez) shows up in Advanced Search. Anybody know of any that we could review?

    by Margueritte — October 5, 2011

  12. Re: Manufactured Home Communities in GA (or anywhere): Note that for the 2nd query, I merely entered Margueritte’s own terminology. I do love this forum/board/blog very much. However, remember that there is an even larger world out there … a MUCH larger one. Play with any search engine (I used Google), and that world will open to you. Also, for those of our generation who did not grow up computer literate (and perhaps lack children/grandchildren to help), many community colleges offer courses on general computer/Internet use for seniors … I’ve also noted that many retirement communities have such a group in their activities list. You found out (and use) this site, so you must have SOME internet savvy! 😉

    by Mad Monk — October 6, 2011

  13. My life partner and I are searching for gay or gay friendly retirement communities. We have found only a couple and are longing for more advice. We are mid-60s, politically liberal/socially conservative; interested in arts, golf, warm climate. We are just very tired of denying who we are. What is out there for us?

    by Em — October 6, 2011

  14. To Em: check out The Palms of Manasota in Florida ( and Birds of a Feather outside Santa Fe ( Golf courses close by. (The right half of the responses to this thread is missing, so couldn’t read your entire entry.)

    Jan Cullinane, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane — October 7, 2011

  15. Em: (and thanks Jan, we werent aware of these 2). As you are probably aware, there are a lot more cities and towns that are gay-friendly than 55+ or active communities. Most of the former are large cities or college towns. Palms of Mansota appears to be the only really established gay-friendly community, although there are probably more. Several others are just getting started, or planned. Those include (in planning),, and You can also go to our sister site, and find gay friendly towns.

    by John Brady — October 7, 2011

  16. Looking for comments/experience/advice on moving household contents to retirement home. Good experiences/not so good experiences?

    by Kats — October 7, 2011

  17. Thank you Jan & John — I am very confused by Rainbow Vision in Santa Fe. Have you heard about a possible bankruptcy? It looks wonderful, but there are a lot of re-sales at extremely low prices.

    by Em — October 8, 2011

  18. Hi Em,

    I’d contact Joy Silver, President and CEO of Rainbow Vision – I contacted her when writing my book and found her to be very responsive. Her e-mail is

    Jan Cullinane, The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life (Rodale)

    by Jan Cullinane — October 9, 2011

  19. I have been searching many places and find the pros wonderful in most areas but the cons are big: too humid (Asthma); too many children; security concerns etc.

    What we ideally want in a retirement community is mostly 50+ people, ok for some children; gated for security and a separate security force; landscape care; close to Catholic churches; clubs and educational opportunities; I am a 50 plus times a year golfer so lots of golf courses wanted; spouse’s profession is psychiatry so opportunity to utilizing her training (not full time); and overall good community recognizing diversity (we’re both Caucasian) and religious tolerance. Yep, we’re progressives and wouldn’t like to be in the middle of “right wing land.” A place I saw and liked is Abacoa in Palm Springs, FL which has a “town center of its own plus a baseball park shared by two major league teams in the spring.” See:

    Any thoughts on this?
    Editor’s Note: Semi-Retired, Abacoa definitely sounds like a place that might be compatible with you. It’s been on our radar for years because it hosts so many different things, from a university to a ball park! Here is our review:

    by Semi-retired — October 19, 2011

  20. This is a followup to several comments in this thread about gay and lesbian retirement communities. Unfortunately it is bad news, 2 of the communities discussed here have filed for bankruptcy protection.

    by Admin — October 29, 2011

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