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Which is Right for You – A 55+ or an All Ages Active Adult Community?

Category: Active adult communities

April 29, 2020 — The names used by retiree-oriented developments to describe their properties cause so much confusion. In the old days life was simpler – we had old folks homes, retirement homes, and nursing homes. We understood those terms meant, often describing warehouses for the elderly and infirm. Today those concepts have evolved and expanded – now we have communities that are 55+, active adult, retirement, independent living, assisted living, and Continuing Care Retirement Communities. Overseas there are retirement villages. Fortunately today’s choices offer a much richer retirement than in days of old!

Since there is so much confusion and misunderstanding about the two categories most new retirees are interested in, 55+ and active adult communities, we will concentrate on those here.

The terms defined

A 55+ community is fairly self-explanatory. The 55+ part usually means that at least one person living in the home has to be at least 55 years of age. (There are also cases of 50+ or 62+, but they are rarer). The rules are generally spelled out in the HOA documents. In some cases the restrictions must be followed to qualify for HUD senior housing support and avoid discrimination problems. There are three requirements to get that support: At least 80 percent of the units must have one occupant who is older than 55. The community must publish policies and its intention to be a 55+ community. Lastly it must verify the ages of its residents to remain eligibility. There are often rules about minimum age for all of the occupants of the home, which can cause problems for people who have to take in grandchildren or other younger family members. 55+ communities can be age restricted (someone has to be 55), or age targeted (the development is trying to market to that age group).

The types of 55+ communities are widely divergent. Some are full blown resorts with dozens of amenities and a variety of housing types. Others are simple communities with either no amenities, or perhaps just a pool or clubhouse as the single amenity. They can be gated or non-gated.

Active adult communities also vary greatly by size, number of amenities, and type of housing available. They are often referred to as all ages communities. Since there is no official definition of the term, pretty much anything goes, although it is assumed there is at least some type of amenity to give credibility to the “active” part of the name. Low maintenance is a typical feature of both active adult and 55+ communities. The biggest ones like The Villages have hundreds of amenities, clubs, and activities – enough to exhaust anybody! The smallest developments might only offer a pool, small gym, or shuffleboard court. There are also 55+ active adult communities, meaning either somebody in the household has to meet that age requirement or the community is aimed at that age group.

A compromise is a 55+ active adult neighborhood located within a non-age restricted community. Topretirements has plenty of those listed in our State Directories, such as Cresswind Georgia at Twin Lakes, located within the larger all ages Twin Lakes development in Hoschton.

Woodside Plantation in Aiken – 55+ and active adult

So, which is for you – active adult or 55+?

We owe a word of thanks to Larry, a long time Member, contributor and owner of, for getting this conversation started on another Blog post. It immediately got people talking so it seems like people want to know more about it and discuss it too. We have posted some of the Comments it generated at the end of this article.

In reality, there often isn’t a huge difference between a 55+ active adult community and one that doesn’t carry the age restriction. Both can have the same amenities and types of housing. The only real difference might be in the age composition – families with young children and working adults might live in all ages active community. But for a variety of reasons, most non-age restricted active adult communities tend to be made up of people over 50, usually with an average age in the 60s or even older. One reason for this is that the amenities offered are usually geared more toward adults. Golf courses cost money to maintain and many young families don’t always want to pay to support them. Another is that because they are often located well out of town, the schools might not be that good or involve long commutes for children. Lastly, the type of homes tend to be designed for empty nesters and often are not big enough or well-suited for families with young kids.

So, before turning it over to our Members for discussion, here is our attempt to summarize the situation in a few bullet points:

  • Age-wise, 55+ and all ages communities are not always that different in terms of age composition and types of amenities/homes. A good tip is to examine the amenities – are there children’s playgrounds, water parks, or athletic fields?
  • An age restricted neighborhood within an all ages community can be a good compromise. Residents there are not totally isolated from young people, and they have the advantage of big community amenities.
  • If you really have had it with living around young people, or you get your youth fix in other ways (e.g.; grandchildren), go the 55+ route.
  • Before ruling out one or the other, spend some time in the ones that seem interesting and find out for yourself. Are there annoying teens or young kids interrupting the peace, or is there just the occasional youngster that brings a smile to your face?

The Comments made so far:

I wonder how many people who look exclusively at 55+ communities do so because they want to live with people their own age. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with that objective, but it can be accomplished in many communities that do not have in place the restrictions of minimum-age requirements. Consider, for example, the communities that line Highway 17 in North Carolina, just north of Myrtle Beach. These communities are open to residents of all ages but, de facto, are populated almost entirely by mature adults. As one local real estate broker once explained to me, the costs of even a modestly priced community — especially one with amenities that must be subsidized by a homeowner’s association — are beyond the financial wherewithal of young, growing families. So few of those communities ever see a school bus, and the only squealing of children is in summer, when grandma and grandpa are happy to spend time with their grandkids. Likewise rural planned communities where industry is light and the schools, frankly, are not of the highest quality, attract almost exclusively retirees. My point: You don’t have to sign up for the restrictions of a 55+ community just because you want to be sure you are surrounded by folks like you. There are folks like you — and me, I’m 72 — in planned developments that are nominally open to all. Larry. — April 27, 2020 | 


Larry:I totally agree with you on this. I hate to see older people isolating themselves within their own age groups. Financial considerations do indeed keep out many families–if you purchase in an area with good school systems then you will see more children. Younger people keep us all current and young. In our co-op, we are on 15 acres and have four buildings. Most people who have children move-in with a new baby or one on the way and then move on to a house as their family grows. Many of us have enjoyed having a few well behaved children around, but we do not have too many. We also do not have a pool or playground so we are not super child friendly, the parents know this when they choose to move here. The benefits of mixed ages as they come and go are good for our community. We have many older people and I have lived here 26 years. Jennifer — April 28, 2020 


Larry, We never wanted to move to a 55+ community, thought the whole concept of them was somewhat odd. And then we rented a nice house in one (would have rented in any neighborhood, this house was newer, cleared and closer to the area we wanted than the other rentals we looked at). It didn’t take long for us to really enjoy living there and when we decided to buy we did seek out a 55+ place. A couple of the people we became friendly with had moved there from a mixed age community and main reason they moved was to get away from adolescents and teens and their careless parents. As for the schools, I’d suggest that poor school systems are more reason to seek out 55+ communities since the school system reflects the concern and involvement (most of) the parents in the area have for the kids. Jean — April 28, 2020 

I think most people instinctively know when its time to hit the easy button and move to a ‘senior’ community. After spending 10 years in a community such as Larry described, we decided to move to a 55 plus community because we needed a house sized to meet our future needs; activities that don’t require driving to; activities which occur on a retired person’s schedule (as in daytime, not after work). We also wanted the security of a gated community, lawn care included in our HOA, and the ability to ‘lock and leave’ for extended travel without too much worry about what is happening to our house. I agree that senior living isn’t for everyone, but for us it was a very positive move. Alice — April 28, 2020 |


Jean and Alice, my point was only that most of the things you will find in a defined 55+ community you can find in many that have no restrictions on age. Specifically, Alice, off the top of my head, I could probably list a dozen gated communities with every one of the activities and services you identified as important. Larry. April 28.

 Other comments from the past blogs:

Getting away from teenagers:
“We lived two doors down from a kid who all but lived in the Evil Mustang with the Subwoofer. We don’t want to be surrounded by teenagers anymore; been there, done that, and we don’t want to have to experience the teens years for a third time.”

Active Lifestyle:
“There will be the Camp like schedule of daily events- much like a TV schedule- but just as with a TV…you can change channels at will or simply not watch the thing and do whatever the heck you want. We like the idea of being able to explore new hobbies, and easily meet like minded folks, which we think amenity rich adult Communities provide for.”

“There are so many things to do that we have problems working them all in. It is not all shuffleboard and dominoes. I play slow pitch softball 3 days a week, tennis 3 times a week, hit the best gym 2-3 times a week, and still take classes at the Arizona State University learning center here on campus. You can be as active as you like or as sedentary as you like. We are adjacent to Phoenix with all the things a major city offers yet safe and secure with great neighbors in a 2000 sq ft single level home.”

There is a community for everyone:
“The truth is there are communities like that out there but everyone seems to lump “retirement communities” into one general category. There are many different varieties of adult communities. The trick is to do your research and find ones that suit your lifestyle. If you don’t want to end up in a community with “seniors” you are best to avoid condo-like developments and instead focus more on “active” communities. …if you live in an adult community at least you have option to participate in all it has to offer. No one is going to beat down your door and force you to join the bridge club or golf league or whatever. But if you choose to live in a non-adult community you won’t even have that option and you may always wonder “what if.”

Social life:
“I’m on the younger end of this set. I was not even “legal” for the first two months of our stay the first year, and my first impression was “everyone is so old!” However, I have grown to love it. There is a wonderful variety of folks, age-wise and experience-wise.”

“We’ve met so many great new people and we still have our group of long time friends. We’ve found so many things to do to entertain ourselves and that has been the best part.”

All inclusive community:
“Each neighborhood has a pool and the activities and amenities are plentiful – pick and choose what you want to do. We have a couple of restaurants, a small grocery, a cleaners, hair salon, bank, etc. – so we can really stay “on campus” and not have to go anywhere by car if we want. As a golfing community, we take our golf carts everywhere – no DUIs for us! Our community includes homes ranging from apartments to million dollar mansions, and an “independent living” retirement building and an assisted living and an Alzheimer’s unit and we all interact equally without regard to what area we live in. Many people just transition from one type of housing to another as their needs dictate.”

“If you have grandchildren this is something to consider. In FL, a couple had to take custody of their granddaughter and now they are being forced to sell their house because she lives with them. The HOA is threatening to take their house if they don’t get rid of the little girl.”

Comments: So, what is your position? Do you have a preference about a 55+ community vs. and active adult community? Or, would you rather live outside of any type of development? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

For further reading:

Posted by Admin on April 28th, 2020


  1. I’m so glad that you did this article as we are researching locations for our next, and maybe final, move. Personally, I favor a 55+ community because I want to meet people in my age group with common interests. My wife doesn’t want to be around just “old people”. We are age 71 and 65 respectively.

    In researching on the 55Places website, I find all of the types of communities you list in the article which was confusing. One of the largest in the DFW area is Robson Ranch Texas. There, only one person has to be age 40 to qualify. I doubt if there are many families with children there as it is pretty remote and the homes are fairly expensive. Another community listed, which has very nice floor plans and is upscale, doesn’t have any age restriction. It appears to be targeted to retirees as all the plans are single story and on small lots. It is part of a larger community with access to their amenities but also has its own activity center and pool.

    I am anxious for this virus situation to be under control so that we can actively start touring these communities and begin to narrow down our options. However, so far we have only eliminated moving out of the DFW area so we can be near our children, doctors and because of favorable tax benefits.

    by LS — April 29, 2020

  2. Note: These comments by Steve were made in response to those made by Jean & Alice, referenced in the article above:

    Jean & Alice: Agree with you. We moved into a “55” plus community 13 years ago when I turned “55.” Our last home was on a street with mixed ages. The children, preteens and teens ran wild. They would ride their bikes across our lawn; drop their bikes wherever they please on our lawn and driveway and leave their soccer balls in the garden beds. The teens would have loud, crowded parties and beer bottles were left all over the place by the following morning. And – the parents absolutely didn’t care – “they’re just kids.” And – this was an “upscale” neighborhood. Now – 13 years later – when I tour the old neighborhood – it doesn’t look so “upscale.”

    Now, we have an active HOA that ensures all the homes and properties are maintained; generally neighbors are respectful of others (not all); no crime; clubhouse and facilities (which will reopen after the virus is under control); and we have a sense of security. For us, for now – it works however, I know it may not be for everyone.

    by Steve — April 29, 2020

  3. Larry: Hubby and I are happy with our choice. If an active adult community isn’t for you, don’t live in one. Baskin Robbins didn’t make 32 flavors of icecream without reason. Enough said.

    by Alice — April 29, 2020

  4. We live in a community in Arizona that is a master plan with no age restriction, but includes a 55 community. There are amenties for both comminties, gym and pools. Our 55 community HOA pays for both the 55 community and the all age community. The 55 residents are allowed to use the amenties in both communities, but the none age resticted community cannot use the 55 community amenities. Reason is we pay for both community amenities and they only pay for their amenties.
    We are so glad as at least 4 to 5 times a year their two pools are shut down mainly for glass being brought or broke near the pool or a small child doesn’t wear a swim diaper and poos in the pool. The pools then need to be drained cleaned and sanitizes. The 55 community pools have never been closed.
    Also keep in mind some parents let their teenager run wild both at the pools and gym. I have used the none age resticted gym as they have a few machines the 55 community gym does not have. A teen sat texting on the machine not using it as I waited. When he did leave I had to wipe it down before use.

    by Bruce — April 29, 2020

  5. We currently live in a 55+ community and can’t wait to leave. We moved here for some quiet (which we usually have) but I’m not sure that the trade off is worth it. It’s great to be “active” but only if you’re interested in the activities offered. And yes, many activities are held in the evening, not just during the day. One does not always know if a situation is right for them until it has been tried out, and we are too independent for this type of lifestyle. I am so tired of not having any privacy and being on top of my neighbors — I think we had a couple of senior moments when we made the decision to buy here. Sub par lawn care, shoddy workmanship, residents sniping at each other and forming cliques. We would rather pocket the HOA fee and pay for our own lawn care. Just my 2 cents – I know a lot of people are content here, but it definitely is not for us!

    by Fionna — April 29, 2020

  6. It is so simple: Different strokes for different folks!!!

    by Bubbajog — April 29, 2020

  7. And the option doesn’t have to be between a planned 55+ community or a mixed age neighborhood – there are other options! I retired north to Ohio to be near family. I purchased a cluster home in a neighborhood with 80 or so houses, ranging in size from 1,400 to 3,000+ sq. feet. We can’t fence yards, since the HOA owns all the property outside our own patios & sidewalks — including two ponds with fountains and wooded areas. We’re within 5 miles of an upscale shopping area with restaurants and a small theatre, a library, a hospital and medical offices, banks, a public golf course, senior & community centers including a massive luxury pool & gym that rivals LA Fitness (although there’s one of them too), a park with walking trails, three grocery stores and more. Despite having so many nearby amenities, this winter I saw deer and a coyote from my windows. For $200/mo, our HOA does the yard and tree maintenance, snowplowing, shovels sidewalks, cleans gutters and washes exterior windows 1X a year, maintains a wall and an unmanned gatehouse separating the neighborhood from the road, and maintains gas lanterns outside each home. We have a healthy reserve even with the low HOA fee, but do have to comply with exterior restrictions to keep the neighborhood looking the same. The cluster homes have 1st floor master bedrooms, gas fireplaces, two car garages, basements, and more. They were originally sold about 20 years ago starting in mid-200s. Lately resales have been from $250K to 400K for the larger units. Resales occur in a day to 3 weeks. Mine was very 80s, so I did have to do a lot of updating. When I went to my 1st HOA meeting, I discovered that all of my neighbors were retired. Apparently young families want yards for dogs & kids, or a playground – and singles want high rises overlooking Lake Erie or downtown restaurants near the concert venues and other fun stuff. Even though I didn’t intentionally choose a 55+ community, I ended up in one. Well, you know what they say…tell God your plans & listen to her laugh at you.

    by Kate — April 30, 2020

  8. As a postscript, for what it’s worth, this is one of the homes (currently for sale – I don’t know why it hasn’t been snapped up). A realtor in your desired area will certainly be able to let you know if there’s anything similar that seems to appeal to retirees, if you don’t want a planned community but would like mature neighbors.

    by Kate — April 30, 2020

  9. Can your grandkids visit and use the amenities in a 55+ community? What if they want to stay a month?

    by Caps — April 30, 2020

  10. Can you rent out your place If you only use it as a seasonal?

    by Caps — April 30, 2020

  11. Kate, do they have anything smaller in your complex? It is a lovely home as shown but too large for me, just one person. It is well maintained by your HOA and I am sure that you love living there by your comments. Cleveland is not for everyone, but I have at least two patients that have relocated there from Bethesda. One is a lawyer that lives in Shaker Heights now. I went to college in Columbus, Ohio and my parents have a home in a little town north of Dayton, close to the Indiana state line and they like it a lot. The costs are certainly a lot less than many other places one could retire. They travel a lot since there is not a lot going on where they live.

    by Jennifer — April 30, 2020

  12. Hi Jennifer. There are smaller homes in the neighborhood but they don’t seem to come up for sale very often. I agree that the one listed currently for sale is too big for one person — I have a similar home and wish I had been able to wait for a smaller one. This was just an example though. By the way, there is a completed Pulte 55+ Sun City development in North Ridgeville, OH), about 20 min. away, which has a wide range of options. I’ve noticed that the homes there also sell very fast. I considered the Columbus area briefly, and noticed they have some cluster homes too. I suspect this housing option is growing in popularity between retirees and busy professionals who want a single family home but don’t want to deal with landscapers or other property upkeep.

    by Kate Tanski — April 30, 2020

  13. One of the things that we frequently find interesting at Topretirements is the misunderstanding that a lot of developers have about their own markets. We will get a call from someone from a community that says – please take down the review you have of our community at – we are not a 55+ community! As in, very outraged that someone would consider the property as 55+, even though our reviews state whether a community is 55+ or all ages. The point being, almost every development that has amenities that appeal to retirees or near-retirees – like clubhouses, fitness centers, tennis and pickleball courts, walking trails – is going to attract people who are in their 50s and older. In many cases if the developers did a census they would find that their communities already have a majority of owners who are not that young.
    Our goal has been to list reviews of as many communities as possible that might appeal to the Topretirements audience, which is overwhelmingly 50+. We know you want choices, and are confident you will choose one that fits what you are looking for.

    by Admin — May 3, 2020

  14. We had a great comment from Nancy about some issues she is experiencing in a new HOA. We moved it to this article as a better fit and where there is more information and help.

    by nancy — May 4, 2020

  15. Always consider the age of a 55+ active adult community. For example, the first community of this type, Sun City Arizona, began in 1960, and the median age is now 73 (median, not average age). Once people move into an active adult community, they generally stay and age in place. I suggest that people thinking about moving into a 55+ community look at how long it’s been around for two reasons – the median age, as well as the ease of meeting people and forming new friendships in a well-established community. Yes, you want to be sure it’s viable and the infrastructure is there, but you also want to establish relationships.

    Jan Cullinane, author, The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement (AARP/Wiley)

    by Jan Culllinane — May 6, 2020

  16. Have a look. Fawn Lake in Frederickbsurg is where I live. The place is a mixed-age community gem that your readers might enjoy reading more about. And now that we’ve been retired for a while we’ve developed a much better appreciation for what we have. So, why consider leaving, you ask? It comes down to; the need to downsize our living quarters; the quest for warmer winters (me); and the amazing growth in the area – including rush our traffic. Fredericksburg is ideally located between DC and Richmond on I-95 and there’s lots of history here too, including 3 major hospitals. Every time we venture out to look at another community we realize it would be like taking what we have and moving it elsewhere – including traffic. My quest to find what we have without Golf is headed nowhere. My only hope is that we’ll eventually find our way to Spruce Creek in Florida and find a Summer escape in a cooler northern state.

    by Nomadic Pilot — May 19, 2020

  17. My wife and I are interested in exploring life in a master planned community, but we are stuck right now because of corona virus. We don’t want to fly anywhere, and driving over a several day period isnt very appealing. Has anyone had any luck exploring communities virtually – talking with sales people, viewing the amenities, checking out houses online, etc. It seems like maybe it is possible, and better than not being able to do anything. If anyone can weigh in on this, it would be appreciated. Thanks

    by DougI — August 3, 2020

  18. Dougl….check out 55 communities online….You can choose the state and then areas within that state. Homes that are for sale both by the builders and people selling. Will give a short overview of the community and amenities. Remember these are a bit of a sales site and may not be totally upto date.

    However, we did find our realitor on that site and she assisted us in both community and home.

    by Bruce — August 4, 2020

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