As you are exploring your senior living options, you may have looked at what is referred to as an “active adult community.” These are 55 and over “age-restricted” or “age-qualified” communities, typically meaning that someone in the residence must be at least 55 years old.
What defines an active adult community?
Active adult communities aren’t much different than any other residential community, aside from their age requirements, but most are designed with a retirement-friendly, low-maintenance lifestyle in mind. (Note: There are other types of age-qualified communities for seniors as well, among them continuing care retirement communities [also called CCRCs or life plan communities] and rental retirement communities.)
These communities can be comprised of single-family houses, as well as multi-family patio homes, condominiums, or townhomes, with units that are owned by the resident (as opposed to a rental community). Often, this type of 55 and over community will be built near shopping, restaurants, parks, and other attractions, since residents are still eager to live an active lifestyle into their retirement years.
Interior maintenance and daily upkeep are the responsibility of the homeowner within active adult communities, however, low-maintenance or maintenance-free exteriors are usually provided, paid for by the resident through their monthly home owners’ association (HOA) dues. Residents are able to enjoy other aspects of their retirement years, without the burden of maintaining a yard or dealing with other exterior home maintenance chores or repairs. Other than the HOA dues (and a mortgage payment, if applicable), there are no other monthly fees required for residents in an active adult community.
Unlike some other senior living options, active adult communities do not have on-site dining facilities for residents, nor do they provide any type of healthcare services, however the HOA dues of these communities frequently do pay for certain communal amenities. From golf courses and tennis courts, to pools, clubhouses, and more, these shared facilities put the “active” in active adult community!
The pros and cons of choosing an active adult community
When looking at the many different senior living options that are out there, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of your various choices. And while the advantages and disadvantages of any decision are in the eye of the beholder, for active adult communities, here are a few key points you may want to consider…
- Low- or no-maintenance exteriors: This is possibly the top selling point for people who choose an active adult community. After years of mowing, snow-blowing, raking, and painting, ditching exterior maintenance is very appealing! Many residents are downsizing from the home they raised their family in, and the smaller interior square-footage to keep clean is attractive as well.
- Opportunities to make friends with other retirees: When you move someplace new, there’s something to be said for having a conveniently located group of potential friends. In active adult communities, residents are all pretty much in the same place in life, having worked hard for many years, raised a family, and now looking to enjoy a relaxed retirement, so it is easy to find people with whom you have much in common and wonderful friendships can result.
- A quiet, mostly kid-free environment: While adult children and grandchildren are of course welcome to visit, the 55+ age requirement for residents means that active adult communities are usually nice, quiet places to live. Younger visitors are usually encouraged to be considerate of this expectation.
- Amenities: An active adult community will provide you with many opportunities to get exercise, socialize, and stay spry into your retirement years. In addition to the aforementioned amenities like pools and fitness centers, these communities’ residents will often organize social events, affinity clubs, volunteer groups, and other ways to stay active and involved.
- Lack of age diversity: Since active adult communities usually require a minimum of one person in the residence be at least 55 years old, there is a lack of age diversity within the community, and not everyone perceives it to be appealing to live in a community with people who are so homogenous age-wise.
- Younger family members can’t take advantage of your real estate investment: Some people are part-time residents of their active adult community, meaning they only live there for a portion of the year (e.g., so-called “snowbirds” who relocated to warmer climates just for the winter months). If you view your active adult community residence as a real estate investment, it is important to consider that family members who are under 55 will not be permitted to use the property without a senior present.
- No care services are included: Active adult communities do not provide assisted living or healthcare services of any kind as part of your monthly HOA fee, and there are no on-site healthcare facilities. It is of course an option to arrange for in-home care if needed, and some active adult communities may even have contract arrangements in place with third-party homecare service providers, but ultimately, these communities would fall under the same category as “aging at home.”
This list of pros and cons is far from comprehensive; you will likely have others to add to your personal list. It’s also important to note that some of these attributes of active adult communities are also applicable to other types of retirement communities. For example, on the “pro” list, most CCRCs also will offer residents a variety of amenities and social events to encourage mental and physical activity. And as for the “con” list, independent living rental communities and senior living apartments, for example, typically will not provide on-site healthcare services as a part of their monthly fees.
Is an active adult community right for you?
As the Baby Boomers reach retirement age, active adult communities are becoming more and more popular in the U.S. These new retirees don’t see themselves as “old folks,” so the idea of a senior living community that offers—even facilitates—an active lifestyle is appealing to them. Ditching exterior home maintenance chores frees residents of active adult communities to enjoy their retirement years and do more of the things they love.
But it is important to consider the key feature that is absent from these communities: healthcare services. If you like the peace-of-mind offered by a retirement community that is equipped to provide on-campus long-term care or nursing care services if and when you should need them—such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC)—then an active adult community may not be the right senior living option for you.