Active adult communities. For some people, the very idea is a turnoff. They prefer to live where they’ve always lived, where they have roots and ties to the community. But a growing number of seniors consider active adult communities to be their reward for decades of hard work. If you still aren’t sure where you want to live after the kids are grown, this post describes the pros and cons of active adult communities.
What Are Active Adult Communities?
Active adult communities are master-planned neighborhoods where everything, even your home, is designed for adults over the age of 55. That age restriction is why some people call them 55+ communities.
Most active adult communities are teeming with amenities. They also offer residents a wide array of activities. Offerings vary, but most 55+ communities have:
- Bocce, pickleball, tennis courts, and more
- Community clubhouse
- Community pool(s)
- Fitness center
- Golf course(s)
- Parks and/or picnic areas
- Restaurant and/or bar
- Trails or pathways for biking and walking
You also typically find myriad class offerings, from yoga and Zumba in the fitness center to woodworking and pottery in the clubhouse. In addition, active adult communities usually offer residents lots of opportunities to meet their neighbors and make new friends.
The Pros of Active Adult Communities
Although one person’s pro may be another’s con, the following are considered the pros of active adult communities:
- The amenities may be the biggest pro, particularly the golf courses and resort-style pool areas. But most active adult communities also have at least one restaurant as well as a clubhouse that’s the center of daily activity.
- A busy social life is another big advantage. Social isolation is always a danger, particularly after retirement, but 55+ communities are teeming with activities to enjoy with friends and neighbors. And, since everyone is over age 55, there’s a greater likelihood of finding people with shared interests, shared experiences, and similar backgrounds.
- A quiet neighborhood, without teenagers’ loud parties or young children running around, is one advantage of the 55+ age restriction.
- Many residents say they just feel more comfortable knowing that everything is designed for people over 55. Fitness classes, community spaces, even the homes are built with seniors in mind.
- Most adult communities offer greater security. First, since so many residents are retired, houses don’t sit empty all day. Second, many communities have their own security patrol, typically in the form of seniors who volunteer with the local police. Finally, many 55+ neighborhoods are gated.
- A 55+ community also offers convenience, with easy access to grocery stores, restaurants, healthcare providers, and more.
Many of these communities are also in warmer climates. This makes them a big hit with anyone who’d rather soak in the sun than shovel snow.
The Cons of Active Adult Communities
Although the popularity of active adult communities is growing quickly, most people prefer to stay in the home they’ve always had. Or, they may be ready to downsize, but they prefer to live in a more “inclusive” neighborhood. Common cons of active adult communities include:
- Many seniors don’t want to live in a neighborhood where everyone’s the same age. They like the sound of children playing and having neighbors with more varied backgrounds and experiences.
- Multigenerational family living arrangements are impossible in a 55+ community.
- Those amenities aren’t cheap; most 55+ communities charge higher-than-normal HOA fees. They may also have yearly or quarterly fees to cover the cost of golf courses, pools, fitness classes, and more.
- If you’re an introvert, already have plenty of friends, or are uninterested in golfing and swimming, then those amenities probably don’t interest you.
- Location is also an issue for some, since most adult communities are in suburban or rural areas. If you prefer to live in the heart of the city, you probably get all the excitement and activity you want that way.
Finally, many seniors prefer to stay in the community where they spent decades building roots, especially if their children and grandchildren live there.
How to Choose an Active Adult Community
If you decide the pros of active adult communities outweigh the cons, your next step is finding the perfect one for you. It’s easy to compare builders and communities thanks to the internet.
Compare amenities carefully; some communities are very… generous in how they describe their offerings. Physically visit the neighborhoods that look good on paper. Talk to the residents about daily life, but also visit message boards and Facebook pages. These offer a good picture of daily life and how the property management company responds to complaints.
Ask whether the community allows prospective buyers to spend the night at the property. Originally, few offered this, but it’s become much more common in recent years. For the price of a hotel room, you can spend a couple of nights in a fully furnished home and enjoy all the benefits of being a resident.
Common Restrictions for Active Adult Communities
The most common restriction for active adult communities is, of course, the 55 and older guideline. How this looks in practice, though, varies.
Most communities allow a percentage of their residents to be under age 55 (typically 20 percent). But this exception usually has a caveat; namely that at least one member of each household must be over age 55. They may also place limits on how young that spouse can be, with 40 typically being the youngest and 45 much more common.
Some communities make no exceptions; every resident must be over a certain age. However, in these communities, the age restriction is usually 62 and older. The Housing for Older Persons Act protects these properties from lawsuits for age discrimination.
There may also be restrictions on how long younger visitors may stay, even if that visitor is your child or grandchild. Limits vary, so check the community’s guidelines, particularly if you have college-age children who still live at home during school breaks.
Some active adult communities set income and resource limits. They may also have guidelines pertaining to whether residents have a criminal history.
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