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As we move towards retirement age, many of us begin researching potential retirement destinations. Age-restricted communities, which generally cater to adults over the age of 55, are becoming an increasingly popular residential option for seniors looking to remain physically active and socially engaged. Much like country clubs, these communities tend to offer amenities such as neighborhood clubhouses, walking paths, tennis courts, rec rooms, and more. Unlike retirement homes, these communities generally do not provide residents with care-related services. Outdoor home maintenance is generally covered by membership fees.
Not all age-restricted communities are alike, however. Be sure to take the following aspects into consideration when deciding whether or not a particular retirement community is right for you.
Some retirement communities are explicitly age-restricted. In these communities, the majority of homes must have at least one resident over the age of 55. Children and teenagers are generally prohibited from residing in these communities. Leisure communities, on the other hand, may be age-targeted but free of any explicit age restrictions. These neighborhoods tend to offer similar amenities as age-restricted communities, such as shared facilities and golf courses.
Age-restricted communities can be found in most regions. Sunny and warm places, however, tend to offer the widest variety of community options. Would you like to live within driving distance of your family, or are you interested in moving to a different state? Research the options that are available outside of community gates, too. Consider the neighborhood’s proximity to shopping, entertainment, and dining establishments, and choose a safe, low-crime area. If you plan to live in the community long-term, research the region’s public transportation system and healthcare facilities; these resources may become increasingly important to you as you age.
Visiting a retirement community is the best way to determine its potential as your future neighborhood. Are residents genuinely happy to be there? Do people show up for scheduled activities and events, or does everyone seem to avoid the neighborhood clubhouse? The “vibe” you get from the community and your potential neighbors is perhaps the single most important factor in choosing a community. When possible, book multiple-night stays at potential communities to give yourself a chance to absorb the energy of each locale.
Housing options can vary wildly from one retirement community to the next. Consider your space requirements and personal budget. If you’re looking for a small apartment or condo, research communities that offer these housing options. Other communities offer larger and more expensive homes. Consider downsizing to make your retirement more affordable.
Costs & Fees
The cost of living in an age-restricted community is often much higher than the sticker price of purchasing a house or condo. Research the costs and fees associated with living in the communities you’re considering. Some neighborhoods may charge maintenance and recreation fees on a one-time or annual basis. You may also need to pay membership fees to join clubs or participate in events hosted by the community. Be sure to take all of these costs into consideration when narrowing down your options.
Amenities, Activities, & Events
Age-restricted communities are designed to provide residents with ample opportunities to engage in leisure activities. Most communities will offer certain staple recreation options, such as golf, tennis, fitness classes, and tabletop games. Which leisure activities are you most invested in, and which hobbies are you interested in picking up? Ask yourself these questions when looking into the opportunities offered by each retirement community. If you’re musically inclined, seek out a community that offers a music club, hosts frequent concerts, or provides transit to local theaters and music halls. If you notice that one of your favorite activities is missing from a community, check to see if members have the opportunity to start neighborhood clubs for themselves.
Rules and Governance
Before purchasing a home in a retirement community, read the fine print. Who manages the community, and in what manner? What sort of rules does the homeowners’ association enforce? If you’d like to have your grandchildren stay with you for a few weeks each summer, be sure to find a community that allows youth visitations. Look into the financial health of the community as well. Don’t settle for a community that is experiencing significant financial troubles, as cost-cutting measures may cut into the community’s maintenance and recreation funds.
Choosing a retirement community is a major life decision. Begin researching potential options a few years before you plan to move. Visit the communities you are considering and stay overnight to get a feel for the housing, amenities, activities, and atmosphere. By visiting different communities and speaking with current residents, you can discover whether or not an age-restricted community is right for you.
Photo: Robert Kneschke (c) fotolia.com