As we start contemplating our retirement, many of us will opt to move. Some of us will stay in the same town and move to smaller digs, others will finally move to that new dream location or someplace where our dollars will go further. Figuring out the perfect location is a big challenge and no one place is right for everyone. But, rest assured, there is a lid for every pot.
On our retirement planning website, GangsAway!, there is information that helps you figure out the “where” piece. But once you figure out the general area or town you want be in, then comes the next question. What kind of home? Another house, a condo, a rental? Or, what about an active adult community? Or a 55+ adult community? For some of us, the idea of a pre-planned, organized, and managed community sounds terrific. No fuss, no muss. And, probably for an equal number of people, it sounds awful.
I was in the latter group. I didn’t know much about active adult communities (AAC) and my pre-conceived notion was that they were old folks towns. But since founding our retirement site, I’ve done a lot of research and a lot of looking at the current AAC landscape. I’ve realized it’s pretty different from the AAC landscape of yesteryear. There are as many different price points and personalities as there are communities. Some are well run, some, not so much. And there are way more of them than you’d imagine.
The good news is that many of today’s progressive community management companies have done their homework. They are re-imagining and configuring these communities to meet the needs of baby boomers who are looking for something very different from the previous generation. The right combination of price, location and personality depends on the person moving there, of course. But I’ve come to see the appeal of a well-run community. Some of them seem pretty fabulous, like living in a resort that’s a perfect fit for you.
Also, if you move somewhere new and buy a regular house in a regular community, it’s not so easy to meet people and get involved when you are without schools and jobs to help you engage. An AAC can mitigate all that and create instant connections. The key seems to be finding the right community that reflects your personal style, education, and political and personal outlook on life and is within your budget. You might find a place that is physically beautiful but makes you feel like an alien when conversing with your neighbors. So it’s important to make sure you like the homes and amenities as well as your potential new neighbors.
Here’s a sampling of the kinds of options, varied price points and locations we’ve found out there. Let us know what you think of these locations in comments and on GangsAway.com, so that other people can benefit from what you know.
Sun City West: This is a large 55+ resort style living community with 7 golf courses, Olympic sized indoor swimming pool, shopping, bowling alley, and billiards room. Sun City West has over 100 chartered clubs with everything from arts to dance and fitness to travel. There are over 30,000 residents and the community includes a library, restaurants, and a village store.
Victory at Verrado: Verrado began as a community for all ages. Located in Buckeye, this new 55+ neighborhood at Verrado will open In January 2015; they will be the first phase of the Victory District, a smaller 55+ community within the larger multi-age Verrado community. This concept of a 55+ community within a larger community keeps older people more connected and speaks to the changing attitudes of the boomers. It also gives the option for multi-generational living, 20 miles of walking, hiking, and biking trails, a vibrant Main Street, and a Tom Lehman designed golf course.
Encanterra Country Club: In a word, golf. Located in San Tan Valley, this is a comparatively smaller more traditional AAC for real golf enthusiasts with courses also designed by Tom Lehman. Four restaurants, poolside dining, and resort style living. They have an athletic club and a spa.
Sun City Festival: Also in Buckeye, and feels like living in a resort with a huge recreation center, golf course, pool, and spa. Lots of activities like tennis, pickleball, and even a softball field. Close enough to Phoenix if you need a bigger city fix.
The Villages: Located in central Florida with over 100,000 residents and sprawls over 30,000 acres. The Villages is so big that it is a town unto itself and totally self-contained. The primary mode of transportation for residents is golf carts (fun!). This enormous AAC appears to have everything: entertainment, shopping, houses of worship, recreation, medical facilities, and restaurants. Kind of like a very big adult camp. On the flip side, you are living in a huge community where you will rarely see young people or kids — but hey, maybe that sounds good to you. Some people love it… some people hate it. Again, a lid for every pot.
On Top of the World: Located in Ocala, this is a larger active adult community and is located in horse country. Multiple clubhouses, pools, game rooms, dog parks, 15 miles of walking trails, classes, outdoor sports courts, restaurants, and even a weekly farmer’s market.
Sun City Hilton Head located in Bluffton has a 45-acre town center, golf, and a performing arts center. Computer labs, two championship golf courses, three clubhouses, fitness centers, and outdoor and indoor pools, all just 30 minutes from beautiful Savannah. Also, Coastal Carolina Hospital is right in the area.
Sun City in Summerlin, is located right outside of Las Vegas and is the largest AAC in Nevada. It offers clubhouses, fitness centers, pools, and a theater. Live in a quiet resort but close enough to Vegas when you want some real action.
Laguna Woods Village is an active retirement community, with horses and riding trails, 200 active clubs for everything from Pickleball to painting. The community is gated, with security. There’s a 27-hole golf course. It’s 10 minutes from Laguna Beach. Prices range from $100 thousand to $1 million, depending on size and view. The community was originally built in the early 1960s, most owners have updated, but the original construction is 50 years old. There are 18,000 residents, local homeowner governing bodies, and city government.
Niche Active Adult Retirement Communities
Indian-American Iggy Ignatius bought land outside of Orlando, Fla., in Tavares in 2008, and with the help of friends and veterans in the community, he started constructing Phase 1 of ShantiNiketan. With 54 condos and a common clubhouse for dining and recreation, this community is for seniors of Indian origin. Everything at the complex is cultural, starting with the food offered to the Hindu gods displayed in the prayer room. A two-bed, two-bath condo costs approximately $160,000, with a monthly expense of $800 per person including food, housekeeping, and taxes.
Carefree Cove is surrounded by 165 acres of forest and natural beauty. It was developed exclusively for the gay and lesbian community and is located in a very gay-friendly area of North Carolina. A gated, safe neighborhood is home to 87 natural and rustic-flavor, single-family home-site lots averaging 1 acre in size. The climate is temperate with comfortable summers, distinct autumns, a skier’s paradise come winter, and crisp, green springtime. Carefree Cove is centrally located near Boone, NC. The area is know as the High Country.
Rocinante located in Summertown, TN is a community for aging hippies. Residents build their own homes and then peace out! Stephen Gaskin and his wife, Ina May, started The Farm in Tennessee – a true commune, in the 60s. Now 60-something himself, Stephen describes himself as a man for whom simplicity is a precondition of everything he does. He can’t go without some project happening, so he has started a new one: “The Rocinante Project.”
So as you can see…THERE IS A LID FOR EVERY POT! Just make sure your lid fits tight.
Earlier on Huff/Post50:
Some retirement communities have lowered the age-admission bar to 50. But therein lies the rub: Just because they let 50-year-olds in, doesn’t mean everyone who lives there is 50. Do you really want to be the only 50 year old in a community where most people are in their 80s?
A retirement community can be a little evasive when you ask about the age of residents, in part because it’s constantly changing. The average age of residents tends to rise as the community matures, so while the average age of new buyers might be on the young side, you want to be sure you know the average age of all the residents who live there. It’s an important distinction. One surefire way to evaluate who your neighbors will be is to check out who the recreational programs cater to. Is it heavy with clubs for marathoners, tennis players and Pilates classes? Or is loaded with offerings like knitting, Mahjong and bridge?
People come to a retirement community expecting to find a built-in circle of friends with similar interests. It’s flawed thinking. Just because two people are the same age doesn’t mean they like the same things.
The solution is to find people “with the same major” — people interested in the same things as you are. This thinking has fueled what is known as affinity retirement communities — places developed around a specific interest. There are some retirement communities for artists — like California’s Burbank Senior Artists Colony, a rental community with opportunities to engage in visual arts, theater and writing. Or a place based around a specific occupation, like Nalcrest, a community about 70 miles east of Tampa, Florida for retired mail carriers where, no surprise here, no dogs are allowed.
For many, retirement community living starts to look more appealing when they find themselves spouse-less. Whether it be through death or divorce, the prospect of flying solo after decades of having a partner is often what drives people to consider living in an age-restricted community. But the odds of winning the remarriage jackpot are probably better in Vegas than in a retirement village. Experts suggest that if marriage is your goal, you should stay active, pursue your own interests and look beyond the retirement gates for a date.
Studies have shown that active people are happier and healthier. With this in mind, you will want to pick a retirement community that keeps you engaged. One thing to consider is a community in or near a college. Colleges and universities frequently let seniors audit classes for free. College campuses also have many free and low-cost cultural offerings — concerts, art shows, visiting authors. Retirement communities tend to be built out in deserts or on the outskirts of town where land is cheaper. It may be worth paying a premium for locations closer to the things that will keep you happiest — and that includes being near old friends and family.
While some retirement communities have swing sets and little playgrounds for visiting grandkids, others cap the number of days that minors can spend the night. The idea is that they don’t want under-aged residents moving in on a permanent basis. This kind of policy may feel draconian to those who cherish every hour with their grandkids and want the little ones over as much as possible. It also might preclude your adult kids from returning to the nest if they can’t find jobs. It’s best to check the community’s policy about visitors who are younger than the minimum age requirement and make sure you are in agreement before you commit to living there.
Retirement is all about living on a fixed income, right? You know what’s coming in each month and it’s important to know what’s going out. Make sure you know what’s included in your monthly homeowners association dues. While “use of the clubhouse” may be included, morning yoga classes may be extra. Front Porch, one of California’s largest not-for-profit providers of senior living communities, lists this as one of the top questions to ask. The devil is in the details, after all.
While your immediate concern may be whether you will be able to maintain an active lifestyle, some thought needs to be given to whether this is a home in which you can age in place. Front Porch suggests prospective residents asK: Will I be able to get around to appointments and run your errands if I can no longer drive? What kind of emergency response systems do you have? While it’s hard to envision looking that far down the road, it gets back to the not-trusting-anyone-older-than-30 idea: The day will come sooner than you expect when you might appreciate a community bus to the supermarket or a dining room in which to take your meals.