Over-55 Retirement Communities: Is Active Adult Living for You?
by Mr. Boomerina (Raymond Gregoire)
You may be thinking of moving to an over-55 retirement community now that the kids are gone, but there are many pros and cons to consider before you take the leap and buy a retirement home in an active-adult community.
I will try to give you as many things to consider as I can, but in the final analysis, the decision will be based upon your own personality.
The Pros of Living in a Retirement Community:
- 1. Good Prices: Retirement communities have reasonably priced, one-level homes, offering 2, 3 or 4 bedrooms with over a dozen styles to pick from. These range from 1000 square feet to 4000 square feet.
- 2. Custom Features: With new communities, you get to add your own personal touches (Jacuzzi bath, granite countertops, etc.), which of course will add to the price.
- 3. Golf Courses: Most communities have a golf course, a large community clubhouse, a pool, a gym, yoga classes, tennis courts, restaurants, etc. Larger developments have several golf courses, clubhouses, and so on.
- 4. Mowing the Lawn: Exterior landscaping is handled by the Home Owners Association.
- 5. Organized Clubs: There are many free clubs to match your interests, such as bridge, travel, photography, computers, singles, painting, poker, billiards, etc. The list is endless.
- 6. Curb Appeal: Community rules regulate the upkeep of homes, yards, exterior paint colors, etc.
- 7. Making New Friends: Being an over-55 community, you will find many people your age to befriend.
- 8. Safe Neighborhoods: Generally, these communities are safe, with very low crime rates.
- 9. Very Quiet Neighborhoods: I swear it seems like “lights out” is around 7:00 PM.
- 10. Widowers: If you are a widower (or divorced male), you will love this place. Widows outnumber widowers 30 to 1.
- 11. Group Activities: If you’re a joiner or a follower, you’ll love living in a 55+ community.
The Cons of Living in an Active Adult Community:
- 1. Remote Locations: Large tracks of land are needed to build large retirement communities, so most are located way out in the suburbs or rural areas. If you are a city person, away from the amenities found in the city, you will not like a 55-plus retirement community; and you will yearn for the restaurants, theaters, museums, art galleries, and occasional muggings the city offers.
- 2. Resale Values: Selling your home in a 55-and-over community is more difficult because your potential buyers must be over 55, limiting your prospective buyers.
- 3. Higher Taxes: Being out in the suburbs, your home will not appreciate in value as much as a home in the city, and to add insult to injury, you most likely will not be part of any town or city, resulting in higher taxes levied by the county. (This varies by area. For example, some communities are exempt from school taxes.)
- 4. Rules, Rules and More Rules: It seems that Home Owners Associations love to make up more and more rules. We once could recycle our junk mail in the clubhouse post office, but some control freak on the board said, “No more, as it delayed people from leaving, thus tying up parking spots. One of my junk mail pieces must have slipped out and some power hungry 30-something working for the HOA sent me a nasty threatening note.
- 5. Few Men: If you are a widow (or divorcee) looking for a new partner, forget it. There are very few widowers or single guys here.
- 6. All White: Looking for diversity? Forget it. Communities are 99% Caucasian and most people fit within the same socioeconomic background.
- 7. Junior High: If you loved junior high, my wife says you will love our 55-and-over community.
Random Information About Retirement Communities:
This info is neither good nor bad, but should be included:
- 1. Low Income Units: Many people use showers in the clubhouse to save money on water and gas. The price you pay for your fancy house helps fund the lower-income units.
- 2. Low-Tech Age Group: Many people use the internet in the clubhouse because it’s free and they probably don’t know how to set up Wi-Fi in their own houses.
If you think like the herd, you will love an active-adult community. If you make your own rules, you will feel like you’re in prison. I would strongly suggest renting in an over-55 community before buying, to see if the lifestyle fits your needs and personality.
Commentary from Tina Boomerina (Mrs. Raymond):
This is Tina...
I would like to add a few thoughts after reading through my husband’s article:
We have just moved out of our active-adult community near Seattle after I did everything reasonable, over the course of 10 years, to adjust to my surroundings. In my opinion, living in a retirement community is like being held captive on a cruise ship... a cruise ship that is going nowhere.
And, yes, I am the “city person” to which Raymond referred in the article. When I was living out in the sticks, I missed the energy, the artistic vibe, the creative buzz… the energy… that happens spontaneously whenever you mix people from different age groups and ethnic backgrounds. And, I couldn’t find a decent Chinese or Mexican restaurant… forget about Ethiopian food... out in our suburb.
Retirement Communities Have Positives:
Even though I constantly talked about moving back to the city, there are good things about planned communities.
The main thing is the affordability factor. You can find a new (or fairly new) one-story house that is not located in a crumbling, ungentrified “inner suburb”. If you want the city, the only one-story homes (without exterior stairs, and within the good parts of the city) are expensive, high-end condos, which often come with monthly dues of $1500 or more. And, with overhead like that, I’d eventually be showering at the gym, with my retirement-community friends, to save money.
Another positive thing is that almost everyone is new to the retirement community, so it's fairly easy to meet new couples and make new friends.
Will You Like It? Will You Fit In?
I feel I must correct my husband's misstatement in the sentence about junior high. In actuality, I said that our active-adult community was like a rerun of "high school", not "junior high". So, if you were popular in high school… or you felt at home in high school… you will bloom and thrive within a retirement community. If you were a cheerleader or a member of the pep-squad & school-spirit group, you will feel right at home in any active adult community. That world is your oyster... and you'll have another shot at becoming prom queen.
If you hated high school, like I did, you should rent a home before buying.
Retirement Community or Small Town... The Conclusion:
Ray and I ended up moving to an inexpensive home (about half the price of our former digs) in a small town in Eastern Oregon, and so far, I love this place.
Every now and then, Raymond gets sad because our little box of a home is surrounded by other houses, and he can’t sit on the deck and look at the signature green (of the golf course) like he used to. But, that's because we're in the middle of a small city... so centrally located that we can walk to little restaurants.
But, Ray is coming ‘round. He’s found a store with “real” French bread and wonderful Boston cream pies. And, once he gives this town a chance, I think he'll like it as much as I do.
If you live in an over-55 adult community, let me know if you love it or hate it. Everyone likes different things. And, finances are often the deciding factor. But, even if we won the lottery, Ray would never live in a city. So, we compromised, by downsizing to a cheaper house in a cute, little town with a big level of hipness.
More Retirement Articles for Extra-Hip Baby Boomer Women:
- Main Photo - Our Last House Near Seattle: Ray and Tina Gregoire.
- It's Nice to Have a House on One Level: Ray and Tina Gregoire.
- Social Activities in Over 55 Retirement Communities: Wikimedia Commons, Frank Mayne.
- Too Many HOA Rules in 55+ Retirement Communities? Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
- We May Not Have a Golf Course View, but We Have Beautiful Oregon: Photo of Smith Rock about 20 miles from our home, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
- We Now Live in a Small Town With Rock Concerts: Photo of Summer Sunday Concert in Bend, Oregon, Wikimedia Commons, Jenny Furniss. NOTE: I may not go to many rock concerts, but I can walk to this venue if I ever do.
- Active Adult Communities are Like High School: Photo of Mercer Island High School (the scary school my kids went to) Cheerleaders, Wikimedia Commons, Jeff Hitchcock.
What do you think? Where have you chosen to retire (or to retire in the future)? I'm always curious about that... and any other thoughts you have on the subject. Leave a comment at the bottom of the page. It won't show up until I have time to approve it. Tina