The concept of 55+ communities is simple: people 55 or older live in a planned community with a variety of amenities that cater to the senior resident. These residents usually live an active and healthy lifestyle so the amenities are geared toward that. The reality is that there are many variations of this concept.
For instance, some communities require only a minimum number of residents must be 55 or older, leaving the possibility that young families may become your neighbor. And that’s fine for many seniors. It’s just something to be aware of.
Deciding if a 55+ community is right for you is like any other major decision. You’ll need to do some research, explore your options, and recognize potential pitfalls. And ultimately, you’ll want to visit the community you’re interested in.
The Appeal of 55+ Communities
So why do people choose a 55+ community? The well-designed communities have all of the residents’ needs in mind. You should be close to hospitals, shopping, dining, and local attractions. Some like the physical security that a community provides whether it’s a gated neighborhood or on-site security patrols. Others like to live with their peers without children in the neighborhood.
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Many communities have conveniences (the amenities mentioned below) that seniors find irresistible. Another convenience is that all of your expenses—taxes, insurance, utilities, etc---are wrapped up in one fee. The maintenance and care of your property is basically eliminated: no more mowing the grass, raking leaves or replacing a leaky gutter.
Types of 55+ Communities
In general, 55+ communities are for active adults desiring to live with their peers. And while many communities offer general amenities in a suburban setting, others are more focused on a particular lifestyle or location. Here are a few examples:
- Golden Girls Housing for women who want to share a home
- Luxury Hi-rise condos in the city
- Manufactured homes community in the country
- College town communities
- RV retirement parks
- Golf and resort communities
- Sailing retirement communities
Amenities in 55+ Communities
The kinds of amenities you’ll find vary greatly from community to community. But in general, most will have a clubhouse and exercise facilities, indoor/outdoor pools, hobby and craft clubs, security and maintenance.
Others offer golf courses, marinas, tennis courts, on-site health care, restaurants, professional entertainment, walking trails, billiards rooms, card rooms, library/media center, bocce courts, lakes for fishing, and many other lifestyle related options.
For seniors needing some assistance with living, there are communities with this option.
The Law and Age-Restricted Communities
You’ll find many variations of age-restricted communities such as 55+, 62+, and 65+.
The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the Housing for Older Persons Act, which says that housing must include at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, regulates these communities.
This means one spouse can be under the required age. Also, those under 19 cannot be permanent residents. These communities are usually noted as “age-qualified” in their marketing brochures.
Then there are those communities that are marketed to a certain age group—“age-targeted”—but are not age-restrictive. This means that younger couples with kids are permitted to live there. And for many seniors, that’s just fine.
As you research locations and community amenities, also consider other aspects that won’t be mentioned in the glossy brochures.
- What are your neighbors like? Talk to them. Do they live there all year or part-time? Are they the kind of people you’d want to have over for dinner? Do you share the same interests?
- Is the developer on solid financial ground? If there are structural issues, do they have the resources to resolve those issues? What if homeowners start to default? Can they weather that kind of storm? Ask to see a copy of their budget and profit and loss statement. This should be readily available from the homeowner’s association (HOA).
- Is there a reserve fund for maintenance? This is often called a “sinking fund” and is money set aside for things like roof replacement, air conditioning replacement, etc. This is usually a line item on the HOA’s budget.
- Find out who owns the land adjacent to the community. What are the plans for the land? You don’t want an airport being built next door.
- What rules will you have to follow? Some communities don’t allow residents to display flags of any kind, including the American flag. You can't park an RV in the street or in your driveway. You might not be able to paint your front door a different color. You may not be able to have a jungle gym in your backyard for the grandchildren. Make sure to check out the detail buy asking to see a copy of the HOA’s bylaws.
Updated: Sep 02, 2011
Comments Comments... Read them below.
|Ronde Sue Davis On Mar 7, 2013
Looking to relocate to warmer climate. 55 yrvold divorced woman. Would like gulf coast side Florida St Pete area or more north. Any ideas for housing? On limited income as disability retirement due to recent back, surgery.
|Mildred Rangel On Jan 14, 2013
Looking for Senior Housing Options-Can you send me information or website on 80/20 buildings or other options . I reside and work in NYC.
|margaret mack On Dec 30, 2012
I am looking for a 55 plus park with modular homes in georgia or north carolina
|Jill McKean On Feb 2, 2012
The management of our 55+ park, Creekside Estates in Medford, Oregon, is telling us that HUD requires a re-survey every two years to qualify for 55+ status under the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995. They want us to provide them with documented proof of age. We have lived in this park for 11 years and this is the first time the management has mentioned this. Is this true?