What to Look for in a 55+ Community What to Look for in a 55+ Community

Many retirees hope to stay in their own homes as they age, but a number of seniors realize the benefits of considering a 55+ community. A 55+ community combines the privacy and independence of having your own space, with the ability to tap into a community of your peers and access the resources many seniors start to find they need as they age.

But as with any type of senior care, whether or not a 55+ community is right for you has a lot to do with finding the right 55+ community. To narrow down the options and find something that actually meets your needs, here are a few factors to consider in your search.

Location

Any decision we make throughout our lives about where to live has to take location into consideration. There are a few issues tied up in this category:

  • You want to be close to friends and family. A move to a 55+ community ideally shouldn’t cut you off from the social connections you already have. It may not be a dealbreaker for you if a community’s in a different city than your kids or grandkids, but make sure you consider what the move there will mean for your ability to see your loved ones as often as you want.
  • You should like the climate. We can’t control the weather, but we can decide not to live somewhere that snows frequently if we hate the cold. You know what kind of climate you’re used to and what you like, make that a consideration in your search.
  • You should live close to activities you like. If you love nature, choose a community close to lots of parks or the beach. If you love shopping, make sure your community is within easy reach of the stores you like. Research what’s nearby that relates to your interests.

You don’t want to live somewhere that makes you feel isolated from the people and activities you like most.

Accessibility

Part of what often makes aging in place difficult for seniors is that your average home isn’t built for the particular needs that seniors start to have as they age. Homes and apartments in a 55+ community often are. Look for a 55+ community that includes features like ramps, wide doorways, and pull bars in the bathrooms that make the spaces more accessible to seniors.

If you move into a home that’s already built with your potential future needs in mind, you can likely save yourself the trouble of dealing with costly home modifications down the line.

Housing Options

Not all 55+ communities offer the same types of housing. Would you prefer an apartment, or do you like the extra space of a home? How many rooms do you need? Are there housing features like a balcony or yard you consider an absolute must?

Consider what the options are for the main communities you check out and which ones best meet your needs and preferences. Most communities will include floor plans on their website, so you can quickly rule out those that aren’t a fit for what you want.

Security

While generally speaking, 55+ communities will be more secure than typical neighborhoods simply due to being full of retirees who come and go throughout the day and know most of their neighbors, different communities offer varying levels of security.

If you want some extra peace of mind, you can look for a gated community or one that offers security guards on staff. Another factor that can make a big difference in a senior’s safety is vicinity to a hospital, so make sure you know how close the nearest emergency room is (and learn a little about its reputation).

Affordability

There’s little point in checking out 55+ communities that are outside of your price range. Don’t fall in love with an option you can’t have. Check your budget and gain a clear picture of what you can afford before you start your search. Then stick with looking at 55+ communities that fall within your budget.

Rules You Can Live With

55+ communities typically have HOAs or something similar that provide certain rules and guidelines everyone in the community is expected to follow. These can include things like not allowing boats or RVs to park in the community, or not allowing anyone under 55 years of age to stay for longer than a set amount of time.

Make sure you understand all the rules in advance before settling on a home. If you love your RV or want to keep open the option of watching you grandkids for a summer, then you don’t want to find yourself living somewhere with strict rules against those things.

Activities

What hobbies do you have now, and what types of hobbies would you like to pick up? Most 55+ communities will provide a number of activity options for residents to participate in. That could include:

  • Exercise classes
  • Trips to nearby museums
  • Regular game nights
  • Gardening
  • Movie nights
  • Volunteer projects
  • Quilting groups
  • Crafts
  • Book clubs

That’s just to name a few. See if there are activities at the community you’re considering that match your interests.

If there’s something you love that you don’t see on the activities list yet, you may be able to start a new group or regular activity yourself, so don’t rule a community out just because they don’t have, say, a woodworking class. But do check what they have now to get a sense of what’s popular in the community and how well it matches how you like to spend your time.

A Sense of Community

One of the most important things a 55+ community has to offer is a sense of community. The only way for you to really get an idea of whether or not a place you’re considering has a good sense of community is to go and visit. Talk to residents on your visit. Ask them about the friends they’ve made, the social activities they participate in, and if they’ve seen many conflicts amongst residents.

Determining whether a 55+ community is a good fit is as much about the people as anything else the community has to offer. Before committing, take some time to get a sense of the people that would be your neighbors if you moved in.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.

3 Comments

  1. Ridley Fitzgerald August 8, 2018 Reply

    It’s good to know how to find a senior community. My parents need to find a place like this because they can’t really can’t take care of themselves at home anymore. Finding a good location is smart because my mom is very sensitive to the cold.

  2. Rosie Beckett October 15, 2018 Reply

    My husband and I are thinking about moving to a retirement community now that all of our children have moved out, so I am glad that I found this article. It makes a lot of sense that you say to look for a community that is close to friends and family because this way we can keep the great connections we have with our children and grandchildren. Also, I will make sure that the community has activities that my husband and I will both enjoy because we want to make sure that we stay active and get a lot of exercise.

  3. Randy Chorvack September 16, 2019 Reply

    I agree that you want to make sure you can see loved ones as often as you want because family is really important to me. My mom is thinking of moving into a community like this, so we’re trying to help her find one that’s still close to us. That way my family and I can visit her any time she wants and she won’t feel lonely.

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