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Over-55 Retirement Communities: Is Active Adult Living for You?

read about retirement communities

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.

    retirement communities

    It's Nice to Have a House on One Level

  • 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.

    retirement community

    Social Activities in Over 55 Retirement Communities

  • 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.)

    read about retirement communities

    Too Many HOA Rules in 55+ Retirement Communities?

  • 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.
bend oregon retirement

We May Not Have a Golf Course View, but We Have Beautiful Oregon

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.

bend oregon concert

We Now Live in a Small Town With Rock Concerts!

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 a retirement community

Active Adult Communities are Like High School

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:

Costa Rica Retirement: What's it Like Retiring to Costa Rica?

Retired or Unemployed Baby Boomers: 6 Income Opportunities

Baby Boomers Want to Retire in Southwest Florida

Boise Makes Best Retirement City Lists: Forbes, CNN, USNews, Huff Post

 

the pros and cons of retirement

Main Photo - Our House Near Seattle

Photo Credits:

  • 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

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

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21 Comments

  1. kay kerns

    Hi I'm glad you are liking your new place. I would probably not like a retirement community much, but it's great to have this information. Thanks!

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Kay,

      Ray is wondering why he is here. He misses the retirement community near Seattle. I, on the other hand, LOVE LOVE LOVE Bend so far... but I haven't lived through the icy roads and the freezing winds of winter.

      Well, I've stayed at vacation-rental houses at neighboring Sunriver (resort area) several times during winter (to go skiing at Bachelor) when my kids were little, so I know I'll be fine after summer is gone, as long as I have the right clothing to keep this old body warm.

      I'm not sure you would like the cold part of the year in the high desert of Oregon, but I know you would enjoy the sunshine. I mean... even when it's cloudy and rainy, we usually get reasonably long sunshine breaks throughout the day. It's not as dark and damp as Seattle. And, the dryness is helping my arthritis. I think you would like this place.

      If you don't end up moving to Arizona, you might check out Eastern Washington or Eastern Oregon. Bend is fairly expensive, but there are other places (small towns) in the area that are more reasonably priced. And, houses / rents are cheap in most areas outside of Boise, Idaho.

      I just wish Ray would give this place a try. He's a little older... too old to be a boomer by a few years... so he doesn't like the laid-back / hippie / party / vacation / fun-loving / easy-going / not-always-according-to-plan / let's-go-fishing vibe of the area. Hey, it's not all hippie slackers here, but this is not a big city. Everything is a bit slower (Hawaiian time?) than Seattle and everything is different from the corporate life where people are truly competent at jumping through hoops. But, this is Bend; not everything is done on Ray's timeline.

      On the other hand, you would like this place and I doubt you'd like a retirement community... well, maybe you would like a retirement community when you're 10+ years older. It just wasn't for me.

      It was the only affordable place in the area with one-story houses and it was nice to have a one-story house. However, Bend has free concerts in the park and other groovy stuff, so I'll just have to go up and down stairs... maybe the stairs will make me skinny.

      T

      • kay kerns

        Bend sounds really cool! It sounds a bit like Mt Shasta actually. I would like it I think. As long as there's sunshine I don't mind the cold as much. Glad you are ok. I will bear what you said in mind in case AZ doesn't work out. I think it will eventually.

  2. Linda Beltz

    Christine and Ray, I love your article on retirement communities. This is exactly why we bought the house across the street from you in Bend for our future retirement. Love Bend-skiing, snowboarding, SUP, biking, trail running, you name it. Bend has a vibe of it's own centered around outdoors, art and beer. You should check out John Paul Designs on Bond St. He made our 25th anniversary rings. Based on the fashion on your website, I think you may like his organic, industrial style. Tell him Linda Beltz says hi. We look forward to meeting you when we are back in Bend.on Labor Day. Keep up the fun postings on your website. Linda

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Linda,

      Wow. Cool. And, I love jewelry (who doesn't) so I'll check out your jeweler. I don't "have" birthdays anymore, but I might decide to have a birthday if jewelry is involved.

      I'm looking forward to meeting you. We're still unpacking, so I don't know many people here (yet)... and it sounds like you know quite a bit about the area and the people who call Bend "home"... or "second home".

      So, thanks for the comment. Ray feels like he's lost all his friends (after moving), and I keep telling him he'll meet wonderful, interesting people who will become his new friends. He just needs to get out there and give Bend a chance.

      Let's get together and have some fun!

      Tina (and Ray)

  3. Karen

    Hi Tina!

    Glad you are settling in and are liking Bend!

    It's so funny as I was reading about the retirement community I couldn't help but think I cannot believe you lasted as long as you did.

    You are SO RIGHT about Retirement Communities being like High School. I remember 30+ years ago visiting my grandparents in Florida and it being like that with the cliques and such.

    I remember a few years after my grandfather passed all any woman at the complex would talk about was Bill. Bill this and Bill that . . . because he was the only man in their group. This man was a hideous specimen but because he was all they had on the man front you'd think the guy was Adonis. So fellas, if you NEVER had luck with the ladies a retirement community is definitely for you!

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Karen,

      I love Bend. And, I have to remind everyone that there are people who think the 55+ community (where we used to live) is a little slice of heaven. I'm just not one of them.

      Also, I'm glad your grandfather finally found his groove... That makes me smile.

      ........

      I mean... our place wasn't Sun-City bad. I'm sure it was better than most "active adult" places. We went on trips to China, New Zealand, Austria, etc. with our travel group. However, the "hip" people "with means" who accidentally ended up in our community often moved on after a year or so.

      My husband and I went to our "community" for reasons of economics. In the $700-800k price range, you can get a piece of crap teardown (house) in Seattle in a so-so neighborhood or you can move out to the boonies where we lived and get a new, boring place. Sure, you can go lower than $800k in the Seattle area, but your place will be smaller, crummier, and in a crappier location.

      .....

      Or... you can get out of Dodge, find a small town without the cliques and prom queens, and pay about half as much.

      .......

      Anyway, I can only imagine what a 55+ community is like in Florida. I've been to Florida ONE TIME to look around (just to get the general gestalt of the area) and I was shocked by how unsafe I felt in most of the state. I think I would rather be a homeless woman in Santa Barbara... walking the streets with my shopping cart filled with hats and maxi dresses.

      Your comment REALLY made my day. Thank you KAREN ... and I'm sending a little smile out to your grandfather! He finally made BMOC.

      T

      • Tina-Boomerina

        PS

        Karen, I just realized you might be the chick from Long Island, so I have to say that the people from the East Coast who lived in our "active adult" community liked it a lot more than the people from the West Coast. I mean... we had deer in our backyards... and coyotes.

        If you're a retired teacher/librarian or you're currently a travel agent (or you're trying to live off commissions and you need a captive audience), the place I hated might be the place for you.

        If you dream about running away to Thailand or Paris to become an artist or a musician or a belly dancer... you should retire in an area like Durango or Bend or Boulder rather than ANY kind of planned community.

        People who like rules and order and controlling other people end up having WAY too much time on their hands once they retire.

        The only bad thing about Bend is the shopping. You HAVE to shop online here... but, fortunately, that's my favorite thing to do. (Shopping online is what I write about.) T

  4. John

    What is BMOC?

    • Tina-Boomerina

      John,
      Ummmm.... I guess I'm dating myself with that anacronym.

      BMOC stands for Big Man on Campus... like the quarterback (the heartthrob for all the girls and the nemesis of all the wannabe-jockful guys). I've usually heard BMOC used when talking about self-assured, domineering, A--hole jocks, but I suppose it could be any self-assured, domineering, A--hole student body president or leader of the debate team. (Karen, I'm not saying your grandfather is a jerk... rather... I'm saying he's finally the hot guy on campus.)

  5. Rev @ Hobsess

    Thank you so much for this article. It is hilarious!

    We have thought about this kind of arrangement but was a little leery of living in a bubble. You certainly helped us make the decision not to!

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Rev,

      Yes, it was like living in a bubble. That's a perfect way to put it. Some people like bubbles... others feel trapped.

      Actually my husband is sulking because we moved away. Oh well. tuffsheet. I tried it his way for 10 years.

      T

  6. 206Bonz

    "Anyway, I can only imagine what a 55+ community is like in Florida. I've been to Florida ONE TIME to look around (just to get the general gestalt of the area) and I was shocked by how unsafe I felt in most of the state. I think I would rather be a homeless woman in Santa Barbara... walking the streets with my shopping cart filled with hats and maxi dresses."

    I had to comment WHAT A RUDE thing to say. I am glad you don't like it in Florida because the less rude people that move here the better I like it. I have lived in Florida all my life. I don't know where you went, but I have been in many places around the state and never felt unsafe.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      206,

      Sorry, 206. I did not like Florida. It's a nice place for a "beach vacation", but I don't think I'd want to live there. I apologize for offending you with my honesty. I don't like California or Las Vegas, either. All three areas are too hot for me.

      I suppose if I grew up in Florida I would know where to go. We were on a roadtrip and my husband is cranky on roadtrips, so I'm sure that colored my overall view of Florida. But, the safety issue was real. We were in a town near Disneyworld and there were gang kids on the street near the 7-11... what does that mean to you? (I don't care if the little gangstas are selling pot, but this felt a little more sinister.) I've seen the same thing near Disneyland. And, we were staying in low-end hotels both times... I'm sure it's safe if you stay at a Disney hotel. And, there were parts of Tampa that were sketchy, too.

      I'm sorry I was rude, but I'm from the Pacific Northwest, so Florida is about as different from Seattle as you can get. We visited friends in Aventura, Florida, and their little gated area was lovely. Also, if I had yelped some hotels and restaurants... in order to know where to stay and where to eat... I'm sure I would have had a better trip.

      I'm glad you like Florida. I have several aunts and uncles and cousins who live there. They love it. However, Florida is just not for me.

      The beaches were beautiful and homes on the beach or near the beach are much less expensive than similar places on the West Coast. Our roadtrip was just a quick jaunt around the state to see if my husband and I could agree on an area that we both liked. Well, he likes Florida and I don't. I mean, I like the people, I just don't like flat parts of the country because I get lost without a few hills and mountains for landmarks... and I didn't like the alligator we saw in some "canal thing" at Celebration, Florida... when we were wandering around that little planned community.

      All of thhe areas we looked at were too low density. I'm a city gal. I like to be able to walk places if I'm in the mood. I don't even own a car, but my husband does.

      There were good things about the state. Shopping was awesome. The people I met were lovely and friendly. The key lime pie was amazing... actually all the food was great.

      My former neighbors in Seattle were from Florida... and the husband (Miami born) missed Florida but the wife (Mississippi born) was happier in Seattle. I think you had to grow up in Florida or go to Florida for summer vacations as a child to get into the swing of it.

      We were hoping to find an inexpensive house in Florida for retirement. My husband only cares about the cost of living. I would rather eat Top Ramen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in order to live in an area that suits me.

      I was NOT saying I dislike Floridians, so you shouldn't take it personally. I was not being rude to the people of Florida. And, I know a woman who has lived all over the world (Asia, London, etc.) and she decided that Ft. Myers was the best place she's ever lived. She can live anywhere and she chose Ft. Myers.

      I DID like Winter Park, but my husband thought it was overpriced... so my husband and I did not agree on any area.

      In reality, it's a good thing we don't all want to live in the same city because the price of houses and rentals would go through the roof as we entered into bidding wars over the same few pieces of property.

      And, I've heard people say how they hated Seattle (rainy, cloudy, unfriendly people)... but I've never been upset by their comments. I know Seattle is not for everyone.

      If it's any consolation, I didn't like several parts of the South of France. The beaches were all rocks and the people were terrible snobs, although that didn't bother me in Paris. And, I want to tell you that the "homeless in Santa Barbara" line was an attempt at humor. However, I do like Santa Barbara... although my bank account doesn't.

      I'm sure you would dislike the Pacific Northwest more than I disliked Florida. It's not the Floridian people... they were great. I would vacation in Florida... but it's not the right place for me to live. I'm sure I would get along with you... if we were standing in line at the grocery store chatting. But, I've lived in several places I hated (Las Vegas, Orange County California... more), and I'm heading towards the end of my life. And, this time I got to choose an area I like.

      Tina

  7. elle

    Personally I don't like the idea of living in a senior facility. I will be 55 in approximately 5 years and no thanks. Once you are an adult I think age-segregation is silly. Having friends of every age is better for you, especially if you're older. What happens when most of your buddies die off? I have friends 20 years younger than me and 20 years older and everything in between, and I'd like to keep it that way. Being in a community that is so heterogeneous narrows your world and your views of the world. I don't want that or need it. Also, I don't like the warehousing of older people, it strikes me as bizarre, do we hate our elders that much that we want them out of sight out of mind? There's an old woman that lives next to my husband and me, she is happy, active, alive and part of our community. She must be 90 or older. My grand aunt is older than her and she still lives in her own home as well. I'm glad both of them have elected to stay in her own homes, and I want to be just the same when I'm their age.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Elle,

      Oh, I heartily agree. The only reason we went there was because it had affordable one-story houses. I felt trapped in an old-folks ghetto. Hey, there were nice people there... but it felt strange. The age segregation was only ONE part that made it feel like high school. It's so hard to explain. I was trapped in a generic, fake environment like Disneyland. And, I've never liked Disneyland.

      I am sure many older people would rather go to a retirement area than get a rundown older one-story house. I know I was happy to pay $400k rather than $800k for something similar in a normal, unsegregated neighborhood... or a condo with dues around $1800 a month (that's on top of your mortgage if you don't have the cash to buy it outright). I mean Seattle real estate is bonkers.

      It's a pain to run up and down stairs all day, but other people spend a ton of money to do that at a gym. I'm going to start thinking of it as a perk.

      Tina

  8. Jack

    This is so cool!
    I have all those albums, and ready to retire, but live in TN, too
    Cold in winter.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Jack, we moved to the high desert in Oregon and after buying the house, I read that it gets REALLY cold in winter (sometimes). I've been in this area for skiing, but I read something about minus 20 on someone's blog. I guess I'll have to go shopping for a better parka. I've never been in cold like that... but I'm NOT moving..
      T

  9. Barbara

    My husband and I are 68 and retired to Bend, Oregon. My girlfriend and her husband retired to a beautiful, new, 55 and older community about an hour outside San Francisco. We love Bend for all that it offers in outdoor activities, culture, restaurants, music, skiing, camping, hiking, kayaking and friends, lots of friends. We are not ones to live inside "the box" and both disliked high school. Bend offers us a lifestyle that we truly enjoy. My girlfriend and her husband love their community because it is close to San Francisco, offers instant friendships, includes all organized social activities, they are in warm weather most of the year, and they live in a brand new house with brand new furnishings. It is perfect for them. I say: to each their own. I wouldn't give up Bend and she wouldn't give up her community. I know one thing though, after reading this article, we would not fit into her community, at all. Thank you for writing this.