Active Adult Communities

Active Adult Communities

Developers market active adult communities (AAC, also called retirement communities) to seniors who would enjoy living in a planned community that offers organized leisure and recreation activities. The community's responsibility for the outside and inside maintenance of the units is also a plus. Even as they downplay this aspect, developers design these communities primarily for seniors, but the current practice is to leave off the "retirement" label. Children are welcome, but usually only as temporary guests, and some communities even has specially designated recreation facilities such as swimming pools for this younger group (Suchman, 2001).

Typical occupants of AACs are persons in their late 50s through early 70s who are healthy and have active lifestyles with no signiicant impairments. Married couples predominate, but the percentages of divorced, single, or widowed occupants are on the rise. These seniors tend to be more affluent, and many have sold their previous homes and are able to pay cash for their smaller, but often luxuriously designed, new dwellings. For the less well-off cooperative-owned units, attached row housing, or manufactured homoes are available.

At one end of the spectrum are smaller residential subdivisions or high-rise apartment and condominium complexes that offer scaled-down recreation amenities, such as clubhouses and health clubs, hobby areas, tennis courts, or swimming pools. At the other end of the spectrum are the large, self-contained, recreation-rich retirement complexes - truly towns - such as Sun City, Leisure Village, or The Villages, in states such as Arizona, California, and Florida that tens of thousands of seniors call home. These residential complexes can be spread over thousands of acres, offer recreational activities that make the social programs of even the most luxurious cruise ship look meager, and offer all the establishments and services found in a larger town or small city. Although they come with such traditional amenities such as golf courses, tennis courts, clubhouses, and swimming pools, the newer communities also offer fitness centers, spas, computer and investment clubs, educational classes, softball leagues, movie theatres, jogging and bicycle trails, water aerobic classes, cross-country skiing and ice-skating (in the Midwest or Northeast, of course). In these larger communities, the means of transportation is also distinctive. In one large Florida retirement town, 9 out of 10 residents get around in golf carts.

Although these communities are often associated with the warmer climates of Florida, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, and California, seniors can easily find them in northeastern and mid western states, such as New Jersey, Michigan, Virginia, Illinois, and New York. These developments are targeting retirees who seek to remain in their familiar states, such as New Jersey, Michigan, Virginia, Illinois, and New York. These developments are targeting retirees who seek to remain in their familiar states and communities - despite the unfavorable weather - to be close to family, friends, and their favorite clubs. Many states seeking the positive economic impact of this age set - Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Maine, and Tennessee - are now aggressively marketing their communities to older consumers (Golant, 2002a).

These places are more attractive to certain groups of seniors than others. Their security and predictable future are certainly pluses. Along with their security guards, these planned communities have strict population and land-use controls. They will also appeal to seniors who are not enamored with all the trappings of a youth-oriented society or who dislike comparing their looks and vitality with 20 and 30-year-olds. Rather, they enjoy being with others with similar life histories, backgrounds, and interests.

However attractive this type of community may be to some, it is obviously not for everyone. Some seniors cannot easily pull up stakes from where they have lived for a long time. Also, some people get bored engaging in the same leisure activities every day and interacting with the same people. Other seniors seek neighborhoods where they can live among younger people. Then there are senior whose circumstances change while living in a recreation-focused community. The onset of a debilitating health condition or the loss of a spouse may suddenly make it unattractive.

Choosing between a Multi-Age Setting and a Seniors-only Community

Clearly, there are benefits to each type of development - a community peopled with a variety of ages, possibly including children, or a retirement community for seniors only. It is important for you to advise your senior clients who are considering a move to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each housing option against their personal desires. Among the items to consider:

  • individual values, preferences, and desires
  • hobbies and other interests
  • religious or spiritual practices and communities
  • health and future possible medical needs
  • access to transportation
  • financial resources
  • access to and types of support from family, friends, and others

The information above is reprinted from Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues with permission from Society of Certified Senior Advisors® . Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.