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What Is a 55+ Community?

A 55+ community is a type of location designed to accommodate people that are at least 55 years of age or older. In general, the atmosphere, layout, and amenities are meant to provide for the needs of this age group, rather than, for example, young families. The area may have very specific stipulations on who can live within the community with the goal of keeping the residents in this upper age limit.

So why do people choose a 55+ community? The well-designed communities have all of the residents’ needs in mind. You should be close to hospitals, shopping, dining, and local attractions. Some like the physical security that a community provides whether it’s a gated neighborhood or on-site security patrols. Others like to live with their peers without children in the neighborhood. Many communities have conveniences (the amenities mentioned below) that seniors find irresistible. Another convenience is that all of your expenses —taxes, insurance, utilities, etc – are wrapped up in one fee. The maintenance and care of your property is basically eliminated: no more mowing the grass, raking leaves or replacing a leaky gutter.

In general, 55+ communities are for active adults desiring to live with their peers. And while many communities offer general amenities in a suburban setting, others are more focused on a particular lifestyle or location. Here are a few examples:

  • Luxury communities

  • College town and university communities

  • RV retirement parks

  • Golf and resort communities

  • Religious specific communities

  • Active senior communities

  • Single only communities

  • Gated communities

The kinds of amenities you’ll find vary greatly from community to community. But in general, most will have a clubhouse and exercise facilities, indoor/outdoor pools, hobby and craft clubs, security and maintenance. Others offer golf courses, marinas, tennis courts, on-site health care, restaurants, professional entertainment, walking trails, billiards rooms, card rooms, library/media center, bocce courts, lakes for fishing, and many other lifestyle related options. For seniors needing some assistance with living, there are communities with this option.

You’ll find many variations of age-restricted communities such as 55+, 62+, and 65+. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the Housing for Older Persons Act, which says that housing must include at least one person who is 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied units, regulates these communities. This means one spouse can be under the required age. Also, those under 19 cannot be permanent residents. These communities are usually noted as “age-qualified in their marketing brochures. Then there are those communities that are marketed to a certain age group — “age-targeted” — but are not age-restrictive. This means that younger couples with kids are permitted to live there. And for many seniors, that’s just fine.

As you research locations and community amenities, also consider other aspects that won’t be mentioned in the glossy brochures.

  • What are your neighbors like? Talk to them. Do they live there all year or part-time? Are they the kind of people you’d want to have over for dinner? Do you share the same interests?

  • Is the developer on solid financial ground? If there are structural issues, do they have the resources to resolve those issues? What if homeowners start to default? Can they weather that kind of storm? Ask to see a copy of their budget and profit and loss statement. This should be readily available from the homeowner’s association (HOA).

  • Is there a reserve fund for maintenance? This is often called a “sinking fund” and is money set aside for things like roof replacement, air conditioning replacement, etc. This is usually a line item on the HOA’s budget.

  • Find out who owns the land adjacent to the community. What are the plans for the land? You don’t want an airport being built next door.

  • What rules will you have to follow? Some communities don’t allow residents to display flags of any kind, including the American flag. You can’t park an RV in the street or in your driveway. You might not be able to paint your front door a different color. You may not be able to have a jungle gym in your backyard for the grandchildren. Make sure to check out the detail by asking to see a copy of the HOA’s bylaws.

There is no limit to what they can cost. The type of community, the size of the accommodations, and the location all play a role. Generally speaking, some of the higher end locations can be just as expensive, if not more so, than owning a home. Some 55+ communities are neighborhoods with walkable streets and single-family homes. This is ideal for the active, healthy individual who still wants to have the freedom of living in a home.

Finding 55+ communities may seem like a challenge, but now more so than ever, 55+ communities are marketing themselves. This means it is getting easier to locate these locations.

It is also important to note that each location is very different. Do not assume that any one location is going to offer all of the services desired. We strongly recommend that you visit several locations first hand and do your homework before making any decision.

If you would like assistance in considering your options or finding a community that meets your specific needs, please feel free to contact me @ 626-524.4158. We would be happy to help you with any questions you may have.

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