Gated senior communities have become quite popular, and with good reason. Gated communities, with their secure and protective atmosphere, appeal to many because living in such a community provides privacy, security and a feeling of exclusivity.
Most gated senior communities, and senior retirement communities in general, are located in the southern and coastal states, locales where temperate weather conditions exist. Many gated communities are emerging around large cities. California and Florida are the states with the largest number of gated communities, followed distantly by Texas.
Gated senior communities may consist of a neighborhood of over 55 restricted single-family homes, apartment communities or senior living communities. Senior living communities may include independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehab and/or memory care facilities.
Types of Gated Senior Communities
There are three main types of gated communities. Let’s look at each of them.
Automatic Security Gated: Communities with automatic security gates are the most common type of gated communities you will encounter. They are cost effective and easy to operate but have some security drawbacks.
Automatic gates typically have a gate arm which raises and lowers or large metal gates that swing open. They are generally opened by pressing a button on a garage door remote that is programmed to work with the gate.
These gates also have a call box which enables residents to permit visitors, mail carriers and service personnel to enter the community. Each resident has their name programmed into the call box. Visitors type in the resident’s code which then rings to their phone. The resident enters a certain designated code on their phone which opens the gate allowing the visitor to enter.
If the resident needs to enter the community but does not have their remote, they can enter a code to automatically open the gate as well. Residents often share this code with friends and service personnel, which then compromises community security.
Some communities with automatic security gates may have security cameras monitoring the gates as well. These cameras can be an added layer of security, recording who has entered and exited the community.
Guard Gated Communities: Guard gated communities are more secure than automatic gated communities, but they are also more expensive. They typically have a guard shack with a gate attendant. In some communities, the attendant is a hired professional. In others, residents take turns staffing the gate.
Most have two lanes entering the community, one for residents and one for non-residents. The resident would be able to open the gate by one of the following means:
- Punching in a code on a call box
- Using an electronic card
- Using a remote control
- The gate attendant sees a sticker on a resident’s windshield and opens the gate
Anyone attempting to enter without cause is not allowed entrance. Attendants would need to be notified by a resident of expected service personnel and visitors or they will not be allowed into the community.
Since some guard gated communities only staff gates during the day and revert to the automatic gated system at night, if you want 24-hour guard gated security, you will want to verify that the gate is staffed at all times.
Guard Gated with Roving Patrols: A community that is guard gated with roving patrols is the most secure, but it is also the most expensive. In addition to the guard gates already discussed, these communities have roving patrols which provide several valuable functions.
The first is that they drive around the community looking for anything that appears suspicious or out of place.
When residents will be gone for extended periods of time, the roving patrols may do periodic house checks, checking the windows and doors to make sure the house is secure and ensuring that everything appears in order.
The roving patrols can help residents with things like flat tires or dead batteries.
And lastly, they help visitors find where they are going within the community.
Benefits of Living in a Gated Senior Community
Living in a gated senior community has its perks. Let’s look at them now.
- Traffic is limited in the community. Gates restrict unwanted visitors. People are not able to drive through the community to get from one place to the next; they are forced to drive around. Less traffic means more serenity and peace.
- Sense of intimacy: With exclusive amenities like swimming pools and community centers and with community festivities and celebrations, residents get to know others within the community and can develop close friendships.
- Sense of security: Traffic in and out is monitored in neighborhoods that are guard gated and recorded in automatic gated neighborhoods with security cameras. Criminal activity is reduced, and gates can be locked down to prevent a criminal from exiting the neighborhood, making it easier to capture them in the event of a crime.
- Privacy: Since traffic from outside world is limited, gated communities provide greater privacy.
- Homeowners’ associations: Gated communities have homeowners’ associations which means rules are put in place to keep the neighborhood looking good.
- Fewer solicitors: Solicitors will have a harder time getting into the neighborhood.
- Gated communities limit crime. Although some burglaries do occur, they are less frequent in gated communities.
- Peaceful and beautiful: Gated communities are often beautifully landscaped. Many have their own private parks and walking trails, giving you a peaceful and beautiful place to enjoy the great outdoors.
- Better sales price: Because homes are better maintained and because gated communities create a scarcity effect, with fewer homes for sale within the neighborhoods at any given time, you’re more likely to get a better price should you decide to sell your home.
Things to Consider
There are also some issues you’ll want to consider when choosing to live in a gated senior community, which may include:
- Higher home costs: Homes within these communities may come with a higher price tag.
- Ongoing costs: It’s expensive to hire professionals to staff the gates in a guard gated community. The costs can be minimalized in larger communities … the more houses there are, the more the costs are spread out. Roving patrols can be even more costly to pay for the salary of additional personnel, the purchase of vehicles, vehicle maintenance and gas.
- Homeowners’ associations: Although homeowners’ associations have their benefits, some find them to be too constraining with all the rules that have to be followed. Homeowners’ association fees are often costlier to cover the fees already mentioned plus the cost of road maintenance and upkeep.
- Slower entrance and exit: Waiting for gates to open and close takes time. Peak hours may mean waiting in lines to enter and exit the neighborhood for both you and your visitors.
Cost of Gated Senior Communities
Many choose to live in a gated senior community because of the added security and the amenities available to the community members which could be anything from a small community park or swimming pool to a community center or a golf course. These amenities come with a cost, most which have already been addressed.
The costs of living in a gated senior community can vary greatly. One of the biggest determining factors is the type of home you choose to live in.
Whether you choose to live independently in a single-family home in a residential gated community or you choose to live in a gated assisted living community, these choices will have an impact on the price. Prices even vary greatly in a single-family home depending upon size, features and location.
How to Pay for a Home in Gated Senior Communities
How you pay for a residence in a gated senior community will be determined by several factors, one being where the residence is located. If you are purchasing a single-family home in a residential neighborhood, you’ll make the purchase just as you would any other conventional home.
If you choose to live in an independent living community, you’ll generally need to do so as self-pay.
Self-pay options include:
- Reverse Mortgages
- Some Life Insurance policies with long-term care services permit a certain percentage of the life insurance policy’s face value to be used for specified care locations.
- Long-term care annuity contracts
- Life Settlement
- Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) Buy-In: You move into their retirement community prior to needing care, generally as an independent living resident. CCRCs generally require a substantial deposit – the “buy-in” – which is usually partially refundable as part of the care recipient’s estate upon death. As your care needs increase, you move within the community. Premiums do not increase to cover this care, but they are initially higher than you would normally pay for less care. Some limits do apply and vary from community to community. As care needs increase, so would your ability to use other options to pay for that care such as long-term care insurance and Medicaid.
Payment options for other long-term care choices, such as assisted living, include all the self-pay options plus the following:
- Long-term care insurance: See our long-term care page for more information about this option.
- Medicaid: Some states allow Medicaid to cover some forms of home care or assisted living.
- Eligible military veterans and their spouses may use Veterans Benefits to pay for long-term care at specified community types such as assisted living.
Finding a Gated Senior Community
The following resources can help you locate a gated senior community.
- ElderCare Locator can help you. Their phone number is: 800-677-1116
- Your local Area Agency on Aging will be able to help you locate a gated senior community.
- Contact your local Chamber of Commerce.
- Use our senior community search.
- Call our helpline.
Gated senior communities are gaining in popularity. For many people, the benefits of living in a gated senior community easily outweigh any drawbacks. Having a layer of security between your home and the rest of the world can be quite comforting. When trying to decide what type of community best meets your needs and lifestyle, it’s always in your best interest to take the time you need to weigh all your options.