September 24, 2021 — Retirement is a modern concept. Not that long ago you worked until you dropped, or couldn’t do the job. The invention of pensions changed that for many people. Then, when Social Security started paying benefits in 1937, retirement became possible for almost everyone.
Until recently, once you retired you lived where you always did, moved in with your children, or, when you could no longer take care of yourself, transitioned to an old folks or nursing home. The landscape changed mightily in 1960 when Sun City opened with its active adult lifestyle and extensive amenities. Suddenly the idea of having fun in retirement became popular, and ever since people have been figuring out new ways to enjoy retirement.
Co-housing, Continuing Care Retirement Communities, and 55+ communities all have their devotees. But most of the innovation has come from the retirement industry, whose retirement offerings are geared to put money in their coffers when you buy into their dream.
What kind of retirement can you dream up?
You don’t have to choose a retirement off the shelf. Maybe you can think up a solution that fits your needs better. In this article we will discuss some possibilities, but we hope you will contribute even more ideas in the Comments section at the end.
Note that there are a many ways to approach starting a creative retirement. You can try one of the less traditional approaches, like cohousing. You can go off on your own and find a solution that is less mainstream. Or, most adventurously, you can be a pioneer and create your own retirement solution, perhaps sharing it with like minded people. It is your retirement, so whatever works for you is the right solution!
Move in with family or friend. Often this occurs when a couple or single person combines housing with one of their adult children. But sometimes it happens when siblings and their partners, if any, combine forces. This could take many forms – such as a spare bedroom, in-law apartment, or even building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in the backyard. Our friend Skip and his wife built a new home for their retirement with a small apartment. That way they could help out their single parent daughter, and she could help them too. California is working on a new law that would permit multi-family homes on almost every property, which would make it a lot easier for solutions like this.
Join an intentional community like Shepherds Village in West Virginia, or Pilgrim Place in California. In this off the shelf approach you can join a community that already exists, or is in the planning phases. The organizers have done the hard work of securing the property, making up the rules and principles of the organization, and finding buyers. You might have a chance for input into those original decisions, or more likely you will participate as the organization moves forward. Cohousing is a form of intentional living, where you have your own living space but share recreational and dining facilities.
Buy a home or lot in center of town and create your own. Mrs. Topretirements frequently proposes new retirement solutions for us. Lately she has put her eyes on a vacant lot near downtown where we would design our dream (downsized and universal designed) home for retirement. Walking to church, shops, and the library would be a huge advantage of this solution. So far the lot isn’t for sale, so we shall see what happens.
Tiny house community. We are not sold on the idea of a tiny home for retirement (climbing into a loft to go to bed isn’t that appealing), but there are many folks that love these minuscule and portable homes. The advantage is that you can use them as an ADU, or put many homes on a relatively small property, producing an instant retirement community if permitted by zoning laws. You could add amenities and make the community even more appealing.
RV community. These are in hot demand by investors, so buying one won’t be cheap. But you could create your own if you are very adventurous and if zoning permits it, even adding amenities like pool, clubhouse, walking paths, etc.
College affiliated community. There are many communities that already exist that are affiliated with a college or university. Usually you can take classes and use many of their facilities. Other advantages are that you get to interact with younger people and not feel you are locked up with a bunch of old people. At Topretirements we found 25 University affiliated communities using Advanced Search. Some of them include Mirabella at Arizona State U, The Village at Penn State, and Holy Cross Village in South Bend, IN.
Buy an existing multi-family building. In many ways this is one of the most imaginative, and challenging retirement solutions. There are almost always some properties in every town that could be converted into a new retirement community for you and a small group of friends or relatives – a la Golden Girls. A bed and breakfast, small nursing home, multi-family home, small apartment building, hotel, resort, or motel – all of these could be great for retirement living with some work and modifications. If the property is near the center of town that would even be better. Along with the opportunity of designing your own retirement solution, there is also risk, expense, and uncertainty with any of these properties. There is also the need for vetting potential residents, plus establishing rules and policies for governance. Embarking on a plan like this requires careful thought and some expertise.
Bottom line. There is no reason you have to buy into a retirement solution that someone else invented. You might be able to come up with one that fits you better. That probably involves more work and some risk, but it could be worth it. Please share your ideas, no matter how wild and crazy, in the Comments section below.