Active Adult Communities: Your Definitive Guide for 2024

Active Adult Communities: Your Definitive Guide for 2024

Learn what sets 55+ communities apart

By Arthur Bretschneider Updated on Dec 21, 2023

As older adults redefine the aging experience, they are also reshaping expectations about senior living communities. The active seniors of today won't settle for anything less than an engaging, fulfilling lifestyle in retirement, and because of this, active adult senior living communities have emerged as an increasingly popular option for those looking to maintain independence and social connections.

These age-restricted communities are specifically designed to cater to those who want to embrace a dynamic, maintenance-free lifestyle while enjoying access to various amenities and activities.

What is an active adult community?

Active retirement communities are an example of a master-planned community that offers residences and amenities to people who are 55 and up. In some cases, the communities are age-restricted, with the Fair Housing Act requiring that 80% of the residences have someone at least 55 years old living there.

People living in active adult communities may rent their homes, or they may own the condos, single-family homes, apartments, or townhomes making up the community. Typically, all outside maintenance is provided to homes in the community, with homeowners or renters handling the inside maintenance.

Additionally, active retirement communities appeal to those who want to enjoy retirement living and stay active. They're often located near shopping, recreation, restaurants, and entertainment, providing residents with plenty to do.

The amenities in active living communities can range from modest to lavish, with some retirement communities boasting swimming pools, tennis courts, and even golf courses. Unlike other types of senior living communities, active adult providers don't offer on-site dining facilities or medical care. All amenities are typically paid for through the homeowner's association (HOA) dues.

What are active retirement communities like?

55+ communities, also known as active adult or age-restricted communities, are specifically designed to cater to the needs and interests of individuals aged 55 and older. These communities offer an attractive blend of quality housing, enhanced amenities, social and recreational activities that promote overall well-being and a fulfilling retirement experience. With so many flavors that cater to different interests and preferences, residents can choose the perfect setting that aligns with their passions and lifestyle. '

In general, these communities create a sense of camaraderie and unity among residents, as they are surrounded by like-minded individuals who share their hobbies, experiences, and desire for healthy and active living during their golden years.

Each 55+ community has its own rules about various lifestyle choices — noise or parking regulations, for instance. But all 55+ senior living communities share restrictions regarding the age of their residents.

While the younger spouse of a 55+ adult may live in the senior living community (and stay there if the older spouse passes away), one person who is at least 55 must live in every home. In addition, no children may live in the community.

Ready to explore active adult options?

8 types of active adult lifestyle communities

While most of these active lifestyle communities are built to balance a collection of interests and levels of engagement, there are some communities developed around a curated set of interests and hobbies to promote an active adult lifestyle for those with specialized interests:

  • Golf-centric communities: These communities are built around championship golf courses, catering to seniors with a passion for golf, offering easy access to play, golf-related community events, and beautiful golf clubs. Some examples of activities and events might include:
    • Golf tournaments and leagues: Regularly scheduled competitive events for varying skill levels, providing opportunities for residents to compete and socialize with fellow golf enthusiasts.
    • Golf clinics and lessons: Professional instruction for beginners and experienced players looking to improve their skills, techniques, and strategy on golf courses.
    • Club fittings and equipment demos: Sessions with experts to help residents find the perfect clubs and gear, as well as offering demonstrations of the latest golf technology.
    • Themed golf events: Fun and casual events such as "Nine and Dine," where residents play a shorter round of golf followed by a social dinner, or themed tournaments like scrambles and charity fundraisers.
    • Golf travel outings: Organized trips to nearby or international golf courses, offering residents the chance to experience new challenges and destinations.
  • Nature-focused communities: Developed with an emphasis on outdoor recreation and natural surroundings, these communities feature nature trails, parks, and scenic landscapes to encourage hiking, biking, birdwatching, and other nature-oriented pursuits. Some examples of activities and events might include:
    • Guided nature walks and hikes: Led by local naturalists or experienced staff, these outdoor excursions help residents explore nearby walking trails and appreciate the native plants, wildlife, and ecosystems within their community and local parks.
    • Birdwatching and wildlife observation: Organized outings or workshops aimed at spotting and learning about local and migratory birds, as well as other fauna, fostering an appreciation for biodiversity and conservation.
    • Gardening clubs and community gardens: Spaces where residents can come together to grow flowers, vegetables, and herbs, promoting community bonding and a connection to nature.
    • Outdoor fitness and wellness classes: Tailored programs like tai chi, yoga, or meditation conducted in peaceful, natural settings, encouraging a healthy and mindful lifestyle.
    • Environmental stewardship and conservation projects: Opportunities for residents to engage in activities that protect and restore natural habitats, such as tree planting, invasive species removal, or participation in citizen science monitoring programs.
  • Waterfront communities: Situated near water bodies like oceans, lakes, or rivers, waterfront communities offer residents easy access to water-related activities such as boating, fishing, kayaking, and serene water views. Activity calendars might consider:
    • Boating and sailing excursions: Organized group outings on the water, allowing residents to enjoy leisurely cruises, fishing trips, or sailing adventures while soaking in the picturesque waterfront views.
    • Watersports activities: Opportunities for residents to participate in activities like kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, or windsurfing, catering to varying skill levels and interests.
    • Waterfront events: Community gatherings such as beach parties, lakeside picnics, or sunset happy hours, allowing residents to mingle and appreciate their waterfront surroundings together.
    • Fishing tournaments and clinics: Competitive events or instructional sessions where residents can learn or showcase their fishing skills, while enjoying the local aquatic environment.
    • Beach and waterway clean-up initiatives: Group efforts to maintain and preserve the cleanliness and beauty of their community's shoreline, waterways, or adjacent areas, promoting environmental stewardship and community pride.
  • Equestrian communities: Designed for seniors with a love for horseback riding, equestrian communities include stables, riding trails, and other horse-related facilities and activities, often set in picturesque rural locations. Offerings might include:
    • Group trail rides: Organized outings where residents can explore the community's riding trails and scenic landscapes on horseback, fostering camaraderie among horse enthusiasts.
    • Riding clinics and lessons: Professional instruction for riders of all skill levels, coaching on various equestrian disciplines, techniques, and horsemanship skills.
    • Horse shows and competitions: Regularly scheduled events where residents can participate in or attend various equestrian sports, such as dressage, show jumping, or western riding, creating a supportive and competitive community atmosphere.
    • Social gatherings: Equestrian-themed gatherings, such as barn parties, trail ride picnics, or guest speaker presentations, allowing residents to connect over their shared passion for horses and equestrian lifestyles.
  • Arts & culture-focused communities: These communities cater to seniors with a passion for arts, culture, and lifelong learning, offering access to workshops, art studios, galleries, cultural events, and education programs. Art-focused communities might organize events around things like:
    • Art workshops and classes: A variety of instructional sessions in different art forms, such as painting, drawing, pottery, or photography, catered to various skill levels and interests, encouraging creativity and self-expression.
    • Gallery openings and art exhibitions: Regularly scheduled events showcasing residents' artwork or featuring local and visiting artists, promoting community engagement and appreciation for diverse artistic styles.
    • Cultural outings and trips: Organized visits to museums, performing arts centers, or cultural festivals, offering residents the opportunity to experience and learn about various art forms and cultural heritage.
    • Live performances and open mic nights: Community events where residents can showcase their talents in music, dance, theater, or spoken word, fostering an atmosphere of support and creativity among neighbors.
    • Lecture series and guest speakers: Presentations and discussions featuring artists, art historians, or cultural experts, providing insight and inspiration for residents passionate about arts and culture.
  • Continued Learning Communities: These active senior communities prioritize lifelong education, offering seniors access to ongoing learning opportunities, workshops, seminars, and partnerships with local universities and institutions to nurture intellectual growth and personal development.
    • Lifelong learning seminars and workshops: A diverse range of classes covering various subjects, such as history, science, literature, or current events, providing intellectual stimulation and engagement for residents with different interests.
    • Book clubs and discussion groups: Regular gatherings where residents can share their thoughts and opinions on selected readings or explore various topics of interest in a supportive, intellectual environment.
    • University partnerships and guest lectures: Collaborations with local educational institutions, offering access to campus events or hosting guest speakers who bring their expertise to the community.
    • Volunteer programs and community outreach: Initiatives that connect residents with local organizations for volunteering, mentorship, or sharing their knowledge and expertise, fostering a strong sense of purpose and community impact.
  • Luxury Communities: These upscale communities offer luxury amenities, refined living spaces, and personalized services catering to the sophisticated taste of seniors. This kind of luxury active adult lifestyle often boats amenity-rich feature resort-style pools facilities, gourmet dining options with multiple restaurants, and a wide range of premium social and recreational activities to ensure a truly exceptional retirement experience.
    • Upscale amenities and facilities: Access to resort-style amenities and wellness centers, such as indoor and outdoor pools, fitness centers and trainers, and spa facilities, providing residents with premium leisure and relaxation experiences.
    • Fine dining options and wine tastings: A selection of on-site gourmet restaurants, along with culinary events, such as chef's table dinners, sommelier-hosted wine pairing sessions, or cooking classes, catering to the refined taste of residents.
    • Concierge and personalized services: Dedicated staff members assisting with various needs, such as personal shopping, event planning, and travel arrangements, ensuring a hassle-free and luxurious lifestyle for residents.
    • High-end social events and galas: Regularly scheduled gatherings, such as black-tie affairs, themed parties, or exclusive charity events, offering opportunities for residents to socialize, network, and enjoy an elevated atmosphere.
    • Access to world-class recreation and entertainment: Organized outings to nearby golf courses, cultural venues, or entertainment events, allowing residents to experience the finest leisure activities and attractions in their surrounding area.
  • Balanced Interest Communities: These communities cater to a wide range of interests and lifestyles, providing seniors with a variety of amenities (like indoor and outdoor pools) , social activities and recreational centers that promote overall well-being, social interaction, and a fulfilling retirement experience. This balanced model is the most common type in this category of senior living. And lest you think you'll be bored at a more balanced type of community, here is a sample of routine set of offerings in a weekly calendar:
    • Variety of social events and activities: A diverse calendar of gatherings, such as potlucks, holiday parties, and themed events, allowing residents to socialize, make new friends, and enjoy a sense of community.
    • Recreational facilities and sports clubs: Access to various amenities, such as swimming pools, tennis courts, the fitness center, and sometimes even bocce ball or pickleball courts.
    • Interest-based clubs and groups: Opportunities for residents to join or form clubs catering to shared hobbies, such as gardening, knitting, book clubs, or woodworking, fostering a spirit of camaraderie and shared passions.
    • Local excursions and day trips: Organized outings to explore nearby attractions, such as cultural venues, scenic parks, or shopping destinations, allowing residents to enjoy the best of their surrounding area and maintain an active, vibrant lifestyle.

6 benefits of living in a a 55+ active adult community

Active adult communities provide so many benefits tailored to this new generation of older adults, and in our view, signal a new era of our social disposition toward aging. The communities of today are focused on not only meeting basic needs, but on ensuring a comfortable, fulfilling, and engaging lifestyle throughout the retirement years.

  • Socialization and camaraderie: These communities host a variety of social events, clubs, and activities that bring like-minded residents together, fostering strong connections, friendships, and a sense of belonging and community.
  • Amenities and recreational activities: Residents have access to a broad range of facilities and recreational options, such as swimming pools, fitness centers, and sports courts, supporting an active and healthy lifestyle catered to their interests and preferences.
  • Low-maintenance living: Many of these retirement communities provide groundskeeping, exterior maintenance, and other services, allowing residents to enjoy a worry-free, independent lifestyle without the burden of extensive home upkeep.
  • Age-appropriate features and design: Homes within active adult villages are often designed with accessibility, safety, and convenience in mind, including single-story floor plans, wheelchair-friendly layouts, and built-in safety features to support aging in place.
  • Planned activities: Over-55 communities emphasize personal growth, enrichment, and engagement through a variety of workshops, seminars, and interest-based.
  • A community of your peers: It's relaxing to spend time with people in the same life stage. Many 55+ communities offer classes and activities to help people with similar interests get together.

5 disadvantages to living in an 55+ active adult community

While this kind of active adult lifestyle is very appealing to many, there are a few drawbacks:

  • Age restrictions: These organizations typically have age restrictions (e.g., 55+), limiting the possibility of living near younger family members or friends, and potentially creating a less diverse social environment. In fact, some recent studies have shown that intergenerational living positively impacts the aging process by promoting social engagement, boosting mental health, and enhancing overall well-being for seniors.
  • Homeowners association (HOA) fees: These communities often require the payment of monthly or annual HOA fees to cover maintenance, amenities, and services, which can be an additional financial burden for residents on a fixed income.
  • Limited rental opportunities: If you're not yet ready to commit to purchasing a home, some communities may only offer a limited number of rental properties or may not allow rentals at all, potentially limiting your options.
  • Rules and regulations: Many have strict rules and regulations regarding aspects like exterior home modifications, parking, pets, and visitors, which could feel restrictive depending on your lifestyle and preferences.
  • Fixed activity schedules: While planned activities and events can be a significant advantage, they may not always cater to each resident's specific interests or availability.

How much does an active adult community cost?

The cost of living in an active adult community can vary greatly depending on 5 key factors: such as location, amenities, size of the home, and the types of services provided.

  • Location: The geographic location of the community can significantly impact the cost, with popular retirement destinations or areas with a high cost of living generally reflecting higher prices for residences and amenities.
  • Amenities: The range and quality of amenities offered within the community, such as fitness centers, swimming pools, and clubhouses, can influence the cost, with resort-style facilities likely commanding higher HOA fees.
  • Size of home: The type and size of the residence, such as single-family homes, townhouses, or apartments, will affect the purchase or rental price as well as ongoing maintenance expenses.
  • Services provided: With varying levels of services offered, such as maintenance, landscaping, security, or concierge services, the cost of living in an active adult community will differ based on the comprehensive nature of these services.
  • Homeowners association (HOA) fees: The cost of monthly or annual HOA fees, which cover the upkeep of common areas, recreational amenities, and other services, can significantly impact the overall affordability of living in an active adult community, and these fees may increase over time.In many cases, these fees typically cover the upkeep of common areas, recreational amenities, and landscaping.

It's essential for potential residents to carefully evaluate their financial situation and budget before deciding to move into an active adult community. Keep in mind that the cost of living can be higher in these communities due to the convenience, age-specific design, and additional features compared to non-age-restricted neighborhoods.

How to find affordable active adult communities in high-cost states

Even in a state with a high cost of living, though, it's possible to find affordable options. For example, adults who prize the great weather in Southern California or who want to be near family there can head to towns like Hemet or Apple Valley to buy homes starting in the mid $200,000s.

Typically, these homes are located in 55+ communities with resort style amenities, such as golf courses, a resort style swimming pool, and low HOA fees of around $150 per month. Some are even a gated community with fitness centers, walking trails, and more.

Along the Gulf Coast of Florida, active adults can find homes set in retirement communities filled with lakes and the recreational amenities that go along with them, again beginning in the $200,000s. All in all, these communities make active adult living a breeze.

How expensive are high-end active adult communities?

Looking for a more posh community on the higher end? High-end active adult communities featuring homes with prices approaching $2 million are available for those seeking expansive ocean views, marinas, polo grounds, or high-rise views over exciting cities such as Chicago.

Expect to pay monthly fees that average around $5,000 for the luxurious lifestyles provided at these high-end communities.

It's often possible to find more affordable options in the same retirement communities, with smaller homes beginning in the high $300,000s and monthly fees in the $3,000s in these same communities.

What is the largest 55+ community in the U.S.?

Currently, the largest 55+ community in the United States is The Villages. The Villages is a renowned, expansive, and thriving senior living community that has become one of the most popular retirement destinations in the United States.

Designed specifically for active adults over the age of 55, The Villages offers a wide array of amenities and recreational facilities, including golf courses, swimming pools, fitness centers, and an extensive network of walking and biking trails. With its unique blend of diverse social clubs, organized events, and numerous dining and entertainment options, this community promotes an engaging, active, and fulfilling lifestyle for its residents. 

Located in just a little over an hour outside of Orlando in Central Florida, The Villages boasts a pleasant climate and convenient access to nearby attractions, making it an ideal location for retirees who seek a vibrant and comfortable living environment.

Active adult vs other senior living communities

Active adult vs independent living

Active adult and independent living communities share a lot in common. Both consist of homes that residents own or rent, and both provide exterior maintenance services and recreational options.

Independent living communities, though, have many services that aren't available in active adult communities. Independent living communities offer housekeeping services, as well as on-site meal plans of various sorts.

In addition, residents of independent living communities can take advantage of personal care services and some health care services on-site. Staff members are typically available to help residents as needed. Both active adult and independent living communities typically offer:

  • Age restrictions
  • Condos or apartments
  • Educational, recreational, and social activities

And while independent living communities will often offer transportation services, they cannot provide single-family homes as active-adult communities often do.

Active adult vs. assisted living

While active adult communities are designed for those who are able to live independently, assisted living communities can cater to those who need a little help with the Activities of Daily Living, such as bathing, grooming, and managing medication.

Assisted living communities also provide all meals for their residents, something you won't find in an active adult community. Assisted living communities offer:

  • Help with ADLs
  • Medication management
  • Personal care
  • Housekeeping
  • Meals
  • Transportation
  • Memory care (sometimes)

However, it's important to remember that just because assisted living residents cannot live as independently as those in active adult communities doesn't mean they aren't having as much fun socializing, exploring, and living their best lives.

How do I choose an active adult community?

You should think about the kind of lifestyle you're looking for as well as what you can afford. Some considerations as you look for a 55+ community include:

  • Cost: Your costs include rent or mortgage plus your HOA dues — and you still have to pay for your own meals, health care, and other personal expenses. Add up the numbers to see what you can afford.
  • Location: If you don't like the greater area you're living in, it may not matter how much you like the 55+ retirement community you're considering. Make sure you choose an area you love, with the weather and activities you prefer.
  • Amenities: Golf lovers won't be happy if they end up in a 55+ community with no golf course, while others might not want to pay for a golf course they don't use. Check out the amenities at the retirement community to see if they match your personality.

Find the right retirement community for you!

All in all, active retirement communities offer a vibrant and fulfilling lifestyle for those entering the golden years of their lives. These communities have become a haven for individuals seeking companionship, adventure, and a sense of belonging.

By embracing the concept of active aging, residents are empowered to lead lives full of purpose, engagement, and continued growth.

In essence, active retirement communities go beyond providing a place to live—they offer a supportive and nurturing environment where individuals can thrive and live life to the fullest.

So, as we embark on this next chapter of life, let us embrace the spirit of active retirement and look forward to a future brimming with endless possibilities.

Start your search today!
written by:
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Arthur Bretschneider is CEO and Co-Founder of Seniorly. As a third generation leader in the senior living industry, Arthur brings both deep compassion and a wealth of practical experience to his work at Seniorly. Arthur holds an MBA from Haas School of Business and has been featured in the New York Times and Forbes Magazine as a thought leader in the senior living space. Arthur is a passionate and vocal advocate for improving the lives of older adults through community, and believes strongly that structured senior living environments can positively impact the aging experience.

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