Retirement should be the best years of life, yet the collective mindset seems to be doing it the hard way. Rather than consider a retirement community, the overwhelming majority of older adults have already decided to stay in their homes as long as they can.
For some, this is a gaping blind spot full of misinformation.
The greatest advantages of 55+ communities are residents are happier and live longer healthier lives. This is largely due to keeping active and sharing good times with others. In addition, they retain a focus on fitness and their overall wellness.
An extensive study by ProMatura found residents of retirement communities were happier and healthier than their counterparts. In fact, 55% identified their quality of life had improved over the past year.
Delving deeper into this, the 11 undeniable advantages of living in 55+ communities are:
1. Active Lifestyle
Retirement is considered the time to slow down and do all those things you never had time for. In a perfect world, each of us would focus on the important things such as pursuing our interests, keeping active and healthy.
An active lifestyle is one of the big advantages of living in 55+ communities. The better ones offer a wide range of activities and things to do. There’s something for everyone such as fitness classes, social events, games, outings and much more.
Each day offers something fun and interesting to look forward to. A key component of this is the interaction with others.
In contrast, retirees on their own might struggle to fill their days. All too often, mundane tasks, such as grocery shopping or running errands, become the highpoint of the day or even the week.
These folks might turn to the television as a way to fill the hours. According to Pew Research, Americans over the age of 60 average four hours and sixteen minutes a day in front of their sets. This can begin the downward spiral into a “couch potato”, which is neither healthy nor a productive way to pass time.
2. New Friendships
After retirement, our social circles tend to shrink. Work friends often disappear and other friends might move away or otherwise lose touch. Men are especially vulnerable as they tend not to have as developed social networks as their female counterparts.
Often the best way to create new friendships is finding others with similar interests. Participating in activities you’re interested in ensures meeting like-minded people. For example, a yoga class would be filled with others interested in yoga.
Our article, Ways to Make Friends in Retirement, provides numerous other tips to create new relationships. In a 55+ environment, everyone is around the same age with lots of free time which also makes it easier to expand friendships.
A common theme is how supportive everyone is. They’ve created a tightly knit group by paying attention and looking after each other. If one of them were to wind up in the hospital, the rest would be sure to visit and help out.
These friendships and social interactions are vital to both health and happiness. In fact, studies reveal positive relationships are highly correlated with longer healthier lives.
3. Sense Of Community
Ever since caveman days, humans have lived in groups. While largely a survival instinct back then, this has evolved into a primal need for belonging and acceptance.
The proverb “no man is an island” means no one is truly self-sufficient. We need the company of others to thrive. In a real sense, we all need our “tribe” and be around others with a common purpose.
In modern society, this manifests itself as a sense of community. Most residents of these retirement villages are keenly aware of this and go out of their way to include others. As a result, many newcomers feel welcome and report feeling right at home.
This might be a big contrast from their previous neighbourhood. Populated with young working families, everyone was busy. In all probability, they may have barely known their neighbors.
4. Wide Range of Amenities
One of the biggest selling features is the wide range of amenities. This is where the larger properties really shine. In fact, almost every amenity imaginable is available.
For example, the property might include a social center, fitness facility, theater room, swimming pool and much more. In conjunction with all this, the daily event calendar might list several social events, wellness programs and special interest courses.
There’ll always be lots of events and things to do. Some properties might offer specialized activities such as golf. This could include memberships and reduced fees to nearby courses.
Other property amenities could consist of an administration office, convenience store, laundromat, dining options and other services. Additionally, businesses catering to older adults are generally located nearby.
These could include a medical clinic, pharmacy, grocery store and so on. Many of these will be within walking distance or a short drive away. Often free or low-cost transportation is available which would alleviate the need for a vehicle.
5. Lower Cost of Living
At first blush, these places seem rather expensive. According to Investopedia, the median national monthly cost to live in a retirement community is $2,522. However, there are several factors which potentially reduce the overall cost of living.
As a general rule, property values can be significantly less. In some instances, these can be half of what would otherwise be expected. This is bore out by Steve, a former elementary school principal on Quora:
“At the time I bought my condo several years ago, I figured that I was paying less than half of what I’d have to pay for a similar home outside of the community.”
Three reasons housing tends to be less expensive is:
As a case in point, the average selling price of a home in Phoenix is slightly over $400K. Whereas, homes in Sun City start in the low to mid 200s. Interestingly, it’s located only 22 miles away and boasts seven recreation facilities and golf courses.
Home Owner Association (HOA) Fees
HOA fees can range from as little as one hundred to thousands of dollars per month. Whether this is a good deal or not depends upon what’s included and the perceived value to the individual.
For instance, a facility which boasts a membership to nearby golf courses, would be a waste of money to a non-golfer. Likewise, access to recreational facilities, fitness programs or social activities would be of little value to someone not interested in them.
This is why understanding what’s included (or not) is so important. Some examples which may be included with the HOA include:
For many residents, the entire value of these services often isn’t fully appreciated. They view the HOA as an exorbitant monthly cost not realizing it could actually be saving them money in the long run.
This is especially true when considering all the recreational and social aspects of their new lifestyle.
In addition, the property maintenance and risk of major expenses (such as a new roof) are included.
Other Cost Savings
Other factors which might promote further cost savings could include:
While not a direct cost savings, the peace of mind gained by dealing with the future on your own terms is something to keep in mind.
6. Low Maintenance Lifestyle
Another one of the many advantages of living in 55+ communities is the low maintenance lifestyle.
Tasks such as snow removal or yard maintenance are seldom fun. Not only are these strenuous, they also require having the tools and equipment. At this stage in life, perhaps it’s time to let someone else do the heavy lifting.
This frees up time to pursue what you want such as improving your golf game, the daily activities, or visiting with friends / family. In addition, if travel is on the agenda, it’s comforting to know everything is taken care of.
The downside is this convenience comes at a cost. While the home ownership association (HOA) fees might seem over the top, they could be worth every penny. Depending upon the property, they could include:
Compared to the time and expense of maintaining a regular house, this maintenance-free lifestyle is appealing.
7. Travel Flexibility
Anyone contemplating more travel is a prime candidate. This is the time in life when many folks desire to get away while they’re still young and healthy enough. The beauty is the ability to pack and go whenever you want.
With all the outside maintenance taken care of, it’s never been easier to get away. This flexibility is great for getting away on a family visit or snapping up that last-minute cruise deal. For others, they might be planning an extended vacation such as a month-long European adventure.
Almost for certain, there'll be fellow residents also interested in travelling. There could even be a travel club complete with presentations. The best part is there might be some amazing group deals available with new-found travel partners.
8. Safety And Security
The majority of these complexes strive to create a safe and secure environment. From a safety perspective, walkways and common areas will be well lit and free of tripping hazards. Smoke detectors and fire alarms would be operational to ensure everyone’s safety.
Protection measures would be in place as appropriate for the area. These could consist of gated access, cameras and security staff. The mandate is to ensure the safety and security for all residents. These measures could include:
Another big factor are the residents themselves. They’ve gotten to know their neighbors and tend to look out for one another. They’ll likely report any suspicious activity and have a vested interest in making this a good place to live.
9. Modern Age-Appropriate Living Quarters
Another big plus are the modern living quarters with an emphasis on age-appropriate floor plans. What sets them apart are the open single level designs focused on the needs of older adults. They come in all shapes, sizes and budgets.
Some factors to consider for your new home include:
Related considerations might include the common areas such as a recreation room, fitness facility, swimming pool and green spaces. All these contribute to improving quality of life.
Ironically, an overwhelming majority of the population desire to age in place. According to a recent survey by AARP, nearly 90% of adults over 65 want to remain in their homes.
Understanding this phenomenon explains why so many new retirees launch into home renovations. Not only are these expensive, they’re disruptive and often drag on for months.
Although upgrades make the home nicer, seldom will these costs be recovered at time of resale.
Moreover, there are limits on what’s even feasible to change. For instance, knocking out walls (especially load bearing ones) or major plumbing changes can be cost prohibitive. Even after extensive upgrades, the floor plan may still be less than optimal.
In addition, the average family home is larger than a retired couple (or a single person) requires. And, they’ll be paying for all this extra space in their utilities and property taxes.
10. Controlling Your Future
Often-overlooked is taking control of your own future. The majority of the population indicate a desire to age in place and live out their lives (or as long as they can) in their home. No one likes change and it feels more comfortable to stay put. However, this can lead to problems down the road.
As we get older, we slow down and even basic chores become more challenging. It all creeps up and we compensate the best we can. However, when something happens such as a fall or other medical emergency, a crisis arises forcing them into care facilities.
Unfortunately, they’ve left it too late. One might argue their health would have been better had they moved into a 55+ complex sooner. In addition, their retirement years may have been happier due to the social interaction and all the things to do.
An often-heard phrase of new residents is “Why did I wait so long to move here”. These folks made the choice to downsize and wish they'd done it sooner. As human beings, we all crave control, especially over our own life.
Making the decision to relocate while you’re still able makes the transition much easier. It also gives you time to downsize, make well thought out choices as to what to donate, give to family members or throw away.
Also, your family will no longer be responsible for dealing with everything if and when you can’t. They’ll appreciate the foresight and thoughtfulness more than you know.
11. Promotes Independent Living
Everyone likes to believe they’ll be able to take care of themselves forever. However, some of us will need a little help to get by. This is another undeniable advantage of 55+ communities as they promote independent living.
In fact, compared with the cost of long-term care, this extra support would be but a fraction of the cost. As a case in point, someone who fell and broke a hip would require temporary support during their recovery. After that, they'd be fine on their own.
Some typical support services include:
In addition, the entire layout of the property promotes independent living. This includes wide walkways, good lighting, safety rails and ramps (rather than stairs).
Closing Thoughts on Advantages of Living In 55+ Communities
The age-old question is “what is the secret to living a long happy life?”. Countless studies suggest it’s about the quality of our relationships, having something to look forward to and maintaining good physical / mental health.
A strong argument can be put forth these retirement communities might be the answer. The better ones promote active lifestyles with a focus on health and wellness. Fellow residents look after each other and create a close-knit neighborhood.
This isn’t to suggest it's the best choice for everyone. Our article, Disadvantages of Retirement Communities, explores the downsides and other aspects to consider.
As with every life decision, it comes down to what best meets your needs.