Generation X and baby boomers are reshaping the definition of 55-and-better communities, also known as active adult communities. No longer are these retirement havens whispered about or hidden away. Instead, today's 55-and-better communities go far beyond retirement. They are vibrant centers of activity and camaraderie where residents can engage in social activities while enhancing their personal connections. From walking trails and fitness centers to continuing education classes and art studios, 55-and-better communities offer what this demographic craves – plenty of opportunities to help them stay mentally and physically active.

In 2020, approximately one-sixth of the United States population was 65 or older, according to the United States Census Bureau. With the aging demographic projected to grow, there’s an increased need for housing solutions that accommodate the preferences of older adults. Communities geared towards those aged 55 and above address this demand by offering amenities, services, and living environments specifically tailored to their lifestyles.

What is an active adult community?

Active adult communities offer independent living enhanced by resort-style amenities and diverse social activities. Housing options in these communities range from condos to townhouses, single-family homes, apartments, and mobile homes. Many of these communities enjoy convenient proximity to restaurants, shopping centers, and local attractions.

Legal recognition criteria for 55-and-better communities

If you're familiar with 55-and-over communities, you might wonder how they can legally enforce age restrictions. Active adult communities can enforce age restrictions thanks to the Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA). HOPA was enacted in 1995 to address housing discrimination against older individuals, providing them with protections and accommodations.

The following criteria must be met for a community to be recognized as a legal 55-plus community:

  • At least 80% of the units must be occupied by an adult who is 55 or older.

  • The community must publish and follow policies demonstrating its intention to function as a residential community for adults 55 and over.

  • The community must meet the age verification regulatory requirements set forth by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

It's important to note that although these communities are primarily designed for individuals aged 55 and above, many provide exceptions for a resident's spouse and children.

Common misconceptions

Despite their growing popularity, misconceptions still exist regarding 55-and-better communities' lifestyles. These misconceptions may stem from outdated stereotypes, limited perspectives, a lack of awareness of services offered, and generalizations about older adults.

There's a misconception that 55-and-better communities limit independence. In reality, these communities prioritize residents' autonomy. This means that residents can choose activities in which to engage, set their own pace and enjoy a lifestyle that aligns with their preferences.

Active adult communities are sometimes perceived as monotonous or lacking in activities. Contrary to this belief, these communities provide numerous amenities and activities to cater to residents with diverse interests.

What draws people to 55-and-better communities?

Active adult communities can be attractive to older individuals facing increasing physical limitations. As people age, keeping up with home maintenance and yard work can become overwhelming. Fortunately, many homeowners' associations (HOAs) within 55-and-better communities offer landscaping, exterior maintenance, and property repairs, easing the burden on residents. While homeowners are still responsible for maintaining their home's interior and backyard, HOAs handle common areas, including lawn mowing, landscaping, and general area maintenance. Some communities will even handle landscaping on properties, providing convenience and alleviating the physical strain of ongoing property maintenance for older individuals.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), approximately 25% of community-dwelling Americans aged 65 and older are socially isolated, with many feeling lonely. Given these statistics, it's no surprise that 55-and-better communities are increasingly sought as havens for social connection and companionship among older adults. Many active adult communities offer daily activities, community programming and events such as classes and other social and leisure activities. This offers unique opportunities for individuals to connect with like-minded peers with similar life experiences and interests, which can foster a sense of belonging in life.

Watch and learn how FirstService partners with communities to elevate their lifestyle offerings.

Other reasons people choose active adult communities include:

Amenities – 55-and-better communities typically offer many amenities to enhance residents' quality of life. From luxurious clubhouses equipped with theatres, fitness centers, swimming pools, and spas to golf courses and tennis and pickleball courts, there are many opportunities for socialization and leisure. Many of these communities also offer concierge, housekeeping, and transportation services to enhance residents' convenience and comfort.

A quieter atmosphere – Active adult communities generally offer quieter living environments than residential neighborhoods with younger children.

Enhanced safety and security – Many 55-and-better communities are gated. Guests visiting these communities typically need approval from residents to enter.

“Active adult communities are cherished for their vibrant social atmosphere, diverse amenities, and the profound sense of belonging they foster among residents,” said Jeff Edelstein, director of residential hospitality at FirstService Residential. “From lively gatherings to shared experiences, these communities offer more than just a place to live; they provide a thriving community where friendships flourish, and residents can enjoy their later years to the fullest."

Discover five key factors to consider when selecting the ideal lifestyle community. Read: How to Choose the Right Lifestyle Community for Your Needs

The future of 55-and-better-communities

There’s a growing trend of seniors embarking on a journey to higher education. As a result, University-Based Retirement Communities, also known as UBRCs, are emerging across the country. These communities provide older adults with a distinctive living arrangement, placing them near university campuses and granting them access to educational resources.

“There is no age limit to curiosity,” said Mindy Anderson, director of lifestyle at FirstService Residential. “While conventional notions of retirement may suggest a time for relaxation and leisure, UBRCs present a different perspective, where residents prioritize lifelong learning and intellectual engagement.”

55-and-better communities have evolved beyond their traditional role as simple retirement destinations. No longer solely reserved for retirees seeking a quiet life, these communities now cater to a diverse range of individuals seeking vibrant, active, and fulfilling lifestyles. As the US population continues to age, these communities are reshaping perceptions and redefining what it means to live well in later years.

Discover more about 55-and-better communities by contacting FirstService Residential.

Monday February 26, 2024