As America ages, more and more people are learning about and enjoying the benefits of 55 Plus Communities. These are also known as Age Restricted Communities, Active Adult Communities, or Independent Living Communities.
Over 41 million Americans are in the age range of 55 to 64 years of age. This concentrated demand has gotten the attention of housing developers who try to anticipate and meet the distinct requests of this age group. Designed communities are sprouting up in every state and many communities have waiting lists for new residents and award entry by use of random lottery.
Contrary to common belief, these communities are not old-age homes. Residents must be at least 55 years of age, but do not have to be retired. In fact, many residents are in their peak earning years of their careers in their mid-fifties. Many are choosing to ease into retirement by phasing into a part time work schedule. Some 55+ Communities might offer medical assistance services, but as a general rule, 55 Plus Communities are not nursing homes. Most residents are still leading active and productive fully mobile lives.
A 55 Plus Community is an age-restricted community. At least one member of the household must be at least 55 years old. Rules differ amongst communities, but generally rules specify that other adult residents in the same household are over 40 years of age. A child living at home must be more than 18 years of age.
Residents of the 55 plus communities buy, rent, or lease their units. Depending on the community development style, these units can be individual homes, condos, or attached apartment style.
All buildings and facilities within these communities are designed with the aging population in mind. Easy access and easy use are the common themes. Walkways and entrances are wide and barrier-free for wheelchair access if necessary. Little things like the use of door levers rather than round door knobs show thoughtful consideration was put into the planning of the details.
It is a common question. The Fair Housing Act does not list age as a protected class against housing discrimination. A community qualifies as a 55 Plus Community if at least 80% of residents are a minimum of 55 years of age or all current residents are over 62 years of age. Meeting either of these guidelines allows the age-restricted community to limit the age range for residents. Generally, this means no children under the age of 18 years of age are allowed to be permanent residents.
55 Plus Communities differ from 62 Plus Communities. 62 Plus Communities specify that 100% of residents must be at least 62 years of age with no exemption or clause to allow younger residents.
Home ownership is a personal decision which requires consideration of your and your family’s situation. Common concerns amongst Americans in the 55 to 64 age group are maintaining physical health, preventing memory loss, and keeping access to affordable housing.
In a Nation Council on the Aging survey from a few years ago, 43% of professionals fear that older Americans will fall prey to financial scams while 38% worry about older adults maintaining affordable housing.
75% of older Americans intend to stay in their home for the rest of their lives, but only 47% believe that their communities are adequately preparing to meet the needs of the aging.
55 Plus Communities help to alleviate these concerns for the aging, their families, and professionals.
Maintaining an active, robust lifestyle improves the body and the mind as well as bolstering a positive mind set. By freeing up time otherwise spent on maintenance, residents of age restricted communities are able to allocate time to more important interests, like visiting or helping family, a proper exercise regime, or charitable activities.
A sense of community is strengthened by living amongst neighbors of the same age range. It can be relieving to know that others have the same concerns and have the same experience. No one is facing a problem alone.
Studies have shown that maintaining mental function is aided by social interaction and continuous learning. Professionals stress importance of keeping active socially. The social and activity clubs inside 55-plus communities increase interaction and mental stimulation.
These communities are designed to anticipate the needs of aging residents, especially the potential for mobility issues in seniors. They are built barrier-free. That might not currently be a required feature, but there’s no telling what the future may hold. Remodeling a structure to accommodate decreased mobility can be very expensive and in some cases not economically feasible. Consider if this is a possibility for you or your family members.
Some people are more comfortable on their own. There are rules in these communities that are designed to benefit the community as a whole.
If you are used to living on acres of land and suddenly move into a close community you should not be surprised to feel a little claustrophobic. It can feel stifling to have so many people in close proximity. New 55 and older communities’ residents might feel a loss of privacy or loss of freedom if their lives aren’t in alignment with the community guidelines.
These communities can become homogenous with so many residents being the same. What is good in one regard by providing like-minded experiences can be a negative if residents value wide diversity and exposure to younger points of view. It’s common for residents of 55+ communities to become even more stringent in their views when they are strengthened by the agreement of so many of their peers.
A purchased residence in a community is an asset. Owners of condos or apartments inside 55 plus communities are able to bequeath inheritance as they see fit. A beneficiary may own the residence regardless of age, but must abide by the age restrictions in place. In the case of inheriting a residence at an age younger than community restrictions, renting out the unit might be an option if there are no bylaws specifically restricting rentals. Check community policies if there’s a possibility of a beneficiary less than 40 years of age. These residences are able to be sold if that is preferred.
Not inconsequentially, in the economic downturn some time ago, 55 Plus Communities saw less of a decrease in value compared to non-age restricted housing values. This is attributed to the available amenities and lifestyle convenience offered by such a designed community.
Just like other real estate options, 55 Plus Communities have a variety of styles, amenities, and pricing. There are multiple locations in every state, with popular warm weather locations having a multitude.
Most importantly, where do you want to live? This is a personal decision and should be weighed with much thought and planning. Would you prefer to live in a warm climate? Or, is staying close to grandkids or other family members more important? If considering moving to another state, consider tax implications of that new state. There are 55+ Communities in every state with multiple price ranges.
According to AARP, over the next 8 years 1 in 4 drivers will be 65+. Location matters. Many of these communities are conveniently located to points of interest and medical services. Consider what you want to have close by. Will family members be visiting or are you looking to be near family? What are your hobbies or interests? Or, where do you work or want to work?
Pricing in each 55+ community varies by design, what is offered, and location. Some communities have “membership levels” which are tiered pricing for use of desired amenities by group. An example of this would be unlimited golf vs. a pre-set number of rounds of golf, vs. pay as you play.
55-plus communities have been compared to high-end resorts due to the amenities that might be included. Will you use the amenities being paid for? Talk to a local real estate agent to discuss comparable non-age restricted options in the same area.
What are the community’s policies on house guests and visitors? Because these are communities which require a minimum age of 55 years, many have policies that specify a time period when they consider a habitual visitor to be a resident. What if a grandchild wants to stay with you while attending school in the area or a grandchild younger than 18 moves in while a family is having health or financial upheaval? Some 55 plus communities cap stays at a month.
55 Plus Communities usually have rules to maintain the “55” classification. Usually, at least 1 resident must be at least 55 years of age. Some communities then allow a minimum of 40 years of age for adults or at least 18 years of age for children of residents. How flexible are the communities on your short list?
Don’t overlook discussing your plans with your family. How do family members feel about your thoughts of moving to a 55 Plus Community? They undoubtedly want the best for you and what will make you happy, but may have valid concerns. Ask for their input and discuss the implications of a residence in a 55 Plus Community.
Finally, many adults will ask: how do I find 55 plus communities near me? Search and compare communities, amenities, pricing models and your important criteria.
It’s your values and priorities which will help you determine what is right for you. Consider carefully your current lifestyle and what you anticipate for your future. What are your individual concerns or thoughts about your future and the aging process? Would you miss hearing children playing outdoors or riding their bikes in your neighborhood or would you be thankful finally to avoid streets with kids darting out in front of you? It’s a personal perspective.
55+ Communities are the right choice for many aging Americans who want to focus attention on activities and experiences rather than on home maintenance. These adults enjoy the serenity of quiet neighborhoods with mature neighbors and available services. Many 55 adults decided that the value of time is the greatest asset they possess.