55+ Communities

Between exterior maintenance, housekeeping, and handling repairs, homeownership comes with its fair share of frustrations. And as adults age, these frustrations may amplify. But older adults who are still independent, active, and social may feel that it is too early to move to a typical residential senior community like an assisted living community or nursing home. 

55+ communities, also referred to as active adult communities, senior lifestyle communities, senior apartments, and retirement communities, offer an ideal solution for adults who are ready to relieve themselves of home maintenance and the stress that comes with it. These age-restricted communities are specifically tailored for adults who desire a lower-stress lifestyle and want to live in a community of their peers, but who do not yet need any regular personal care or medical assistance. 

There are almost 50,000 retirement communities in the United States, and trying to choose one that’s the right fit for you can feel overwhelming. We’ve created this guide to help you learn more about active adult communities to determine if it’s the right choice for you. We also offer some guidance on paying for a retirement community and how to choose a community that will feel like home. 

What Are 55+ Communities?

55+ communities

55+ communities are age-restricted communities specifically for adults over the age of 55, or in some cases, age 62. Unlike other senior care types, active adult communities do not provide any personal care services or medical assistance. These communities’ residents are expected to live entirely independently, including doing their own grocery shopping, laundry, and cooking or otherwise obtaining their meals. However, some age-restricted communities may offer some lifestyle services such as housekeeping and planned on-site activities.

Additionally, some 55+ communities offer amenities for active seniors such as clubhouses, fitness centers, tennis courts, pools and spas, game rooms, and golf course access. These communities provide a stress-free lifestyle for seniors who no longer wish to deal with arduous home maintenance tasks and other duties associated with homeownership – but do not yet need regular assistance and are still completely independent. Active, independent seniors are best-suited to take advantage of these communities’ amenities and social opportunities. 

What Are the Types of 55+ Communities?

While all 55+ communities are age-restricted, other features and qualities can vary greatly depending on the locale. The real estate in these communities ranges from apartment complexes or condos to single-family homes in a gated community. 

In general, 55+ communities can be broken down into two main types: senior apartments and senior lifestyle communities. In this case, “senior lifestyle communities” refer to any age-restricted communities composed of single-family homes or different housing types within one community. 

Senior Apartments

Senior apartments can resemble standard apartment complexes, the key difference being that senior apartments are restricted to residents above a certain age, typically 55 or 62. The building and the individual units are also likely to feature senior-friendly design, such as walk-in showers, handrails in the bathroom area, and no-slip flooring. 

Most senior apartment complexes do not offer lifestyle services or luxe amenities like tennis courts or regular housekeeping. However, they may have some basic amenities on-site for residents to enjoy, such as a fitness center, covered and reserved parking, or a cafe where residents can purchase coffee and snack items. These apartment complexes may also have a resident coordinator who can organize on-site activities, events, and interest groups. Many seniors may find that, despite the cost being similar to other apartments in the area, senior apartments are more appealing because of the social environment and benefit of living in a community of other older adults. 

Senior Lifestyle Communities

Senior lifestyle communities are 55+ communities that feature a range of housing types, from standalone houses to townhomes and condo buildings. While senior apartments are typically constrained to one or two buildings, senior lifestyle communities are much larger, some spanning tens of acres. There are usually separate buildings that house a community clubhouse, fitness center, cafe, or other activity spaces. Because of these communities’ larger size, they are more likely to have amenities like a swimming pool or tennis courts on-site. 

These communities are designed with older adults’ safety in mind. Expect to find well-lit sidewalks, secure entrance and exit points, and wheelchair-accessible buildings. Though interior housekeeping is typically not an included service of 55+ communities, exterior maintenance such as lawn mowing and autumn leaf cleanup is handled by community staff.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Retirement Communities?

Age-restricted communities can be an excellent solution for older adults who are ready to live a stress-free lifestyle but who do not yet need regular personal care assistance. Though medical care and daily assistance are not readily available at these communities, residents still reap many benefits, including: 

  • Maintenance-free living 
  • Socialization and opportunities to form relationships with neighbors
  • Planned activities, events, and outings for residents
  • Senior-friendly design features like single-floor living and walk-in showers
  • Safety and security provided by a locked gate, on-site security guards, alarm systems, or a combination of the above
  • Convenience to on-site amenities and local destinations like shopping centers 
  • Coordinated transportation for residents to run errands or visit other local attractions
  • An active lifestyle with fitness amenities on-site 
  • The ability to retain complete independence while letting go of cumbersome tasks like yard maintenance 

Who Is a Good Fit for a 55+ Lifestyle Community? 

Senior lifestyle communities are an appealing option for independent older adults looking to simplify their lives and reduce the stress associated with traditional homeownership. However, because these communities offer less care and assistance than all other senior care types, they are not the right choice for everyone. Below, we describe some of the types of people who are well-suited to thrive in a 55+ community. 

Seniors Looking for a Stress-Free Lifestyle

Even if you are still wholly active and independent, dealing with homeownership hassles can be enough motivation to relocate to a senior residential community. Adults who find themselves in this situation are a good fit for senior apartments and 55+ communities because they’ll retain their independence while handing off maintenance tasks to community staff. Other aspects of 55+ living that contribute to a stress-free lifestyle include on-site amenities, a built-in group of friends to socialize with, and easy access to interior maintenance and repairs assistance. 

Active and Independent Seniors 

55+ communities are the best option of all types of senior living for older adults who are still active and independent. Choosing a 55+ active adult community over a different kind of senior community prevents you from spending unnecessary money on services you won’t use, like prepared meals or other personal care assistance. Additionally, all community residents will be similarly active, so residents may be more engaged in community activities and interested in socializing with their neighbors. 

Recently Retired Adults 

Post-retirement is an excellent time for adults to relocate to a 55+ community if they’re hoping to fill their new free time with activities, socializing, and simply enjoying their freedom rather than spending their days dealing with home maintenance. On-site amenities like a fitness center or tennis court provide easy access to entertainment. Additionally, planned social activities and events provide opportunities to explore new hobbies and interests. 

Adults Who Enjoy Socializing

One of the main draws of active adult communities for many people is the social aspect. Due to the age restrictions, residents of senior lifestyle communities tend to be in the same life stage as one another, making it easy to form friendships. If you want to make new friends, spend lots of time socializing, and develop strong relationships with your neighbors, a 55+ community is the ideal setting. Whether you prefer to make plans on your own or you’re interested in participating in scheduled group activities, 55+ communities will make it easy for you to find other active adults with whom to spend your time. 

Who Should Consider a Different Type of Senior Living?

55+ communities do not offer any personal care assistance, making them an impractical choice for some seniors. Below, we discuss some situations that would make someone a poor fit for an active adult community and provide alternative senior living suggestions. 

  • If you’re interested in an all-inclusive lifestyle but are still active, consider an independent living community. Like 55+ communities, independent living facilities do not provide personal care or medical assistance. However, these communities offer some more advanced services like prepared and served meals, transportation services, housekeeping, and laundry – typically all included in one monthly bill. 
  • Adults hoping to move into their “forever home” should look into continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). CCRCs offer a continuum of care on-site, so residents can access higher levels of care as their needs change over time without needing to move communities. Even if you’re still very active and independent, a CCRC can be a good option if you want to avoid a move in the future. 
  • Seniors who are beginning to need assistance with their activities of daily living (ADLs) like meal preparation and personal grooming are better suited for an assisted living community. Assisted living facilities (ALFs) provide personal care assistance to residents as needed, allowing them to retain as much independence as possible. Note that ALFs do not offer 24/7 skilled nursing care or regular medical care, 
  • Skilled nursing homes are the most appropriate option for seniors who need regular or advanced medical care, such as those who need help managing a chronic condition. Most skilled nursing facilities also accept residents on a short-term basis for rehabilitation following an injury, illness, or surgery. Because the focus in these communities is on medical care, there are typically fewer amenities and social activities than in an ALF or independent living facility. 
  • If you’re caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, a dedicated memory care community will be best. These communities specifically care for adults with memory impairment and provide the high level of care, supervision, and caregiver expertise needed to keep seniors with dementia safe. 

What Are Typical Retirement Community Services and Amenities?

Retirement Community Services and Amenities

Because residents of 55+ communities are expected to be completely independent, these communities do not offer as many services as other senior living types. However, these active adult communities still do provide amenities and services for the benefit of their residents. Most of the amenities in these communities enable socializing and wellness, such as common lounge areas for residents to gather, fitness centers, and tennis courts. 

Keep in mind that services such as regular housekeeping and prepared meals are typically not available at 55+ communities. Residents should be able to prepare their own meals, clean their units, and do their laundry, or hire an outside service provider to do these things for them. 

Common Active Adult Community Amenities and Services

55+ communities aren’t a clearly defined housing type, and some will have more services and amenities available than others. Some types of 55+ communities, like senior apartments, will have fewer on-site amenities than more luxe, and most costly, resort-like retirement communities. While the amenities and services vary, below are some of the most common. If any service or amenity is a “must-have” for you, be sure to ask each community whether or not they offer it.  

  • An on-site fitness center with group exercise classes
  • On-site swimming pool or jacuzzi
  • Golf course access
  • Laundry facilities 
  • Organized social events and interest groups
  • Reserved parking 
  • Secured entry and exit points or on-site security guards 
  • Common areas, such as a resident lounge or clubhouse 
  • Exterior maintenance such as landscaping services 

What Is the Average Cost of 55+ Communities?

Because the services and amenities provided are limited, 55+ communities tend to be the least expensive senior living type. Most 55+ communities cost the same as comparable homes in planned communities in the area. However, senior lifestyle communities with on-site amenities tend to be priced slightly higher than average home costs. To get an idea of how much it would cost to live in a retirement community in your area, look up housing costs for similar homes. For example, to gauge senior apartment pricing, look at the average monthly rates for standard apartments in your zip code. 

Every retirement community can set its own pricing structure. Some communities may charge a standard monthly rate that just covers rent and charges additional fees for any extras like reserved parking, Wi-Fi, and electricity bills. Others will charge an all-inclusive monthly payment that includes all amenities and bills. So, while one community may appear more expensive than another, it may be because the monthly cost is all-inclusive. Be sure to ask each community what is and is not included in the quoted monthly price. 

If you’re looking into a homeownership community rather than a rental, find out about any homeowner’s association (HOA) fees. Additionally, some senior communities require residents to pay an initial “buy-in” fee or a lump sum payment in addition to their housing costs. In some cases, the buy-in fee may replace monthly HOA fees. 

How Can I Pay for a Retirement Community? 

Financial assistance programs available for other types of senior living cannot be applied for 55+ communities. Programs like Medicare, Medicaid (including its associated waiver programs), and long-term care insurance can not be used as a payment source for a 55+ community because these communities do not offer any type of personal care assistance or medical care. 

However, if a retirement community’s cost is too high for you to cover completely out-of-pocket, other assistance options are available. Some ideas for sources of financial assistance include: 

  • Life Insurance Settlement: If you have a life insurance policy, you may be able to access your benefit early or sell your policy to a third-party company for a cash settlement. Keep in mind that this prohibits your heirs from benefiting from your policy, and you likely will not receive the total benefit amount if you settle or access it early. Still, this can be a good option for adults who need access to financial resources to pay for senior living, but be sure to consider all of the pros and cons seriously. 
  • Reverse Mortgages: If you’re age 62 or over and currently own your home, you may be eligible for a reverse mortgage. Reverse mortgages are a loan that you take out against your home’s value, allowing you to access liquid cash for your home’s value without needing to sell it immediately. Though the loan does need to be repaid with interest once the home sells, reverse mortgages can give you the freedom to move into a retirement community without having to rush to sell your current home first. 
  • Annuities: Annuities allow seniors to receive a steady, predictable monthly payment throughout their Golden Years. Upon opening an annuity account, one pays a lump sum, which is then redistributed to them in regular increments over time. Annuities are a great way to ensure that you always have a predictable income even after retirement and are a useful payment source for senior living expenses. 

How Do I Choose a 55+ Lifestyle Community?

How to choose 55+ community

Choosing a retirement community to call home is no easy task. A great place to start is our senior living directory, which you can search by entering your zip code at the top of this page. You’ll be able to see a curated list of retirement communities in your city and view photos, descriptions, and contact information for your top choices. In addition to searching the directory, the following three tips can help you find the best retirement community for you. 

Determine your priorities and limitations

While looking through your options for retirement communities in your area, try to get clear on these three things: 

  • Budget: How much can you spend per month? Is there wiggle room for additional amenity or HOA fees?
  • Preferred Setting: Do you want to live in a senior apartment complex where you’ll be living closer to neighbors, or would you prefer a sprawling retirement community? 
  • Must-Haves: Are there any amenities or services that are “must-haves” for you, like an on-site pool or in-unit laundry? 

Once you know your budget and the type of community you’re looking for, it is much easier to narrow down your search. Getting clear on your priorities and limits from the start can save you valuable time and prevent you from putting effort into researching or visiting communities that don’t meet your needs or fit your budget. 

Tour some communities in your area

While online profiles can provide you with a wealth of information about a community, the best way to know if it’s the right fit for you is to visit. Tours allow you to see details that may be hard to grasp when looking at an online profile, such as residents’ participation in activities or the community’s noise level. Ideally, you’ll be able to tour several of your top choices so that you can compare them. When you’re on your tour, bring a notepad or use your cell phone’s notes application to jot down the pros and cons to refer to later when making a decision. 

Sometimes, touring a community in-person isn’t possible. In these cases, a virtual tour is a great option. Ask a community representative to give you a “live” virtual tour using a video conferencing app rather than sending a recorded video so that you can see the community in real-time. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance

If you’d like some personal guidance selecting a 55+ community, call 800-304-7152 to speak with a local advisor, completely free of charge. SeniorHousingNet’s trained local advisors can provide you with one-on-one assistance locating retirement communities that meet your needs and setting up tours with your top picks. This free resource can greatly simplify your search for a retirement community and speed up the process of finding the right community for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Much Does It Cost to Live In a Retirement Community? 

Retirement community costs resemble standard housing costs. To get an idea of how much a retirement community will cost, look up average home prices in your area. You may want to add an extra 5-10% to those prices to estimate for amenity or community fees. Additionally, you can view price information for communities in the SeniorHousingNet directory. 

What Should I Look for in a Retirement Community? 

The main things you should look for in a retirement community are safety, convenience, and if the community fits with your lifestyle. You should also be sure to only look at communities that fall within your budget. If you have any amenities that are considered “must-haves” for you, that should also be taken into consideration at the start of your search for a community. 

What Are the Advantages of Living in a 55+ Community?

The advantages of living in a 55+ community include maintenance-free living, a social environment, safety and security, and convenience to on-site amenities. Living in a 55+ community makes it easy to socialize and form friendships with other older adults and stay active and engaged, especially if the community has on-site amenities like a fitness center or tennis court. 

Can I Buy a House in a Senior Community? 

Yes, in some cases, you can buy a house in a senior community. Some 55+ communities are rentals, while others are designed for homeownership. If you hope to purchase a home in a senior community, be sure that there are options for purchase in your desired community. Also, be aware that you may have to pay an initial “buy-in” fee on top of your home’s price and/or a monthly HOA fee. 

Should I Move Into a 55+ Community? 

Generally, you should move to a 55+ community if you meet the age requirements and are independent, active, and ready to transition to a maintenance-free lifestyle. Only you will know for sure whether or not you should move to a retirement community. If you require regular personal care assistance or medical care, you should not move into a 55+ community because that care is not provided. 

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