Among the many senior living options available in today’s marketplace is the “active adult community.” But what exactly does this term mean, and what distinguishes an active adult community from other senior living options? Here are answers to some of the questions people commonly have about this particular type of community.

Q: What is an active adult community?

A: An active adult community is a type of planned community designed specifically for people ages 55 and above. Typically, an active adult community contains single-family homes as well as a range of amenities such as a clubhouse, pool, and/or outdoor common areas. Residents of these communities usually must pay homeowners’ association (HOA) dues, which covers the cost of outdoor maintenance and other community amenities.

An important key feature of an active adult community is that they are what’s referred to as “age-restricted” or “age-qualified” communities. In most cases, this means that someone residing in each residence must be at least 55 years old. Because of this, you will sometimes hear active adult communities referred to as “55 plus communities.”

(Note: There are several other types of age-qualified communities designed for seniors as well, such as continuing care retirement communities [also called CCRCs or life plan communities], rental retirement communities, and senior apartments.)

Aside from their age requirements, active adult communities aren’t much different than any other residential community. Homes are owned by the resident (as opposed to a rental community) and can be comprised of single-family houses, multi-family patio homes, condominiums, or townhomes. Because residents of this type of 55+ community are still eager to live an active lifestyle into their retirement years, these communities often will be conveniently located near shopping, restaurants, parks, and other attractions.

>> Related: How Do Age Requirements Work at a CCRC or Other Senior Living Community?

Q: What is covered by the HOA fee in an active adult community?

A: Most active adult communities are specifically designed to offer a retirement-friendly, low-maintenance lifestyle, and their homeowners’ association (HOA) fees help facilitate this.

While interior maintenance and daily upkeep/cleaning are the homeowner’s responsibility within active adult communities, low-maintenance or maintenance-free exteriors, as well as any community amenities are typically paid for by residents through their monthly HOA dues. Shared facilities like pools, golf courses, fitness centers, tennis courts, and more truly put the “active” in active adult community!

No more mowing the grass or painting the house: This low-maintenance lifestyle allows active adult communities’ residents to enjoy their retirement years minus the burden of maintaining a yard or dealing with other exterior home maintenance chores or repairs. And they also can take advantage of amenities like the community pool, tennis, golf, clubhouse, or walking trails without the hassle of upkeep.

Q: What other costs are associated with living in an active adult community?

A: Aside from HOA dues and a home mortgage payment (if applicable), residents in an active adult community usually have no other required monthly fees. But bear in mind that the HOA fee only covers exterior maintenance/repairs and the costs associated with other communal amenities. Expenses such as utilities and homeowner’s insurance usually are not included in the HOA fee.

There are other expenses that active adult community residents might incur, as well. If a resident would like help with interior upkeep/cleaning, for instance, they would need to contract with a housekeeper. Additionally, unlike some other senior living options, active adult communities do not have onsite dining facilities for residents, nor does the monthly HOA include any meals for residents. All meals are the responsibility of the resident.

It is particularly important to understand that active adult communities also do not provide any type of onsite healthcare services for residents. If a resident is in need of in-home care — assisted living services, for example — they would need to contract on their own with a home healthcare provider to obtain those services.

>> Related: Understanding the Different Forms of Independent Living

Q: What are some of the advantages of living in an active adult community?

A: There are a number of attractive aspects to choosing to live in an active adult community during your retirement years.

  • Low- or no-maintenance home exteriors: This is among the top selling points for seniors who choose to move to an active adult community. Mowing, snow-blowing, raking, and exterior painting are all in the past! Oftentimes residents are downsizing from the larger home they raised their family in, so less interior square-footage means less space to keep clean, which is appealing as well.
  • Making friends with other retirees: Residents of an active adult community are all at a similar place in life. Many have worked hard, raised their family, and now are looking forward to their retirement years. Having ready-made access to a group of potential new friends is another perk of living in a 55+ community.
  • A quiet, predominantly child-free environment: The requirement that someone in each residence be at least 55 years old means that active adult communities are typically nice, quiet places to live. Of course, adult children and grandchildren are welcome to visit, but visitors are usually encouraged to be considerate of the quiet nature of these communities.
  • Amenities: Whether you’re looking to get some exercise, socialize, or stay active in some other way in your retirement years, active adult communities have something for you! On top of activities like tennis or swimming, residents often will coordinate social events, affinity clubs, volunteer projects, or other ways for community members to stay active and involved.

Q: Is there any downside to choosing this type of senior living community?

A: With any big decision, there are likely to be pros and cons, though each might be in the eye of the beholder. For those seniors who are considering an active adult community for their retirement years, it is worth keeping a few potential drawbacks in mind.

  • Lack of age diversity: The minimum age requirement of active adult communities — necessitating that at least one person in the residence be at least 55 years old — means that there is inevitably a lack of age diversity within these communities. This might be attractive to some people, but others might find the age homogeneity to be undesirable.
  • Loved ones under age 55 can’t take advantage of your real estate investment: The age restrictions of active adult communities can be a drawback in certain cases. If you perceive your active adult community residence to be a real estate investment, keep in mind that friends and family who are under the age of 55 will not be permitted to use the property without a senior present.
  • No care services are included: Depending on your proclivity to prepare for life’s unknowns, the fact that active adult communities do not provide onsite assisted living or healthcare services of any kind might be seen as a negative. Of course, residents can always arrange for in-home care if they need it, but residents of this type of 55+ community effectively operate the same as other seniors who are “aging at home.”

>> Related: What’s the Difference Between Assisted Living and Nursing Care?

Q: Is an active adult community the right senior living option for me?

A: Active adult communities are a popular senior living option in the U.S. with many retirees drawn to the low-maintenance, carefree, active lifestyle they facilitate. The name alone — active adult — appeals to many new retirees who don’t view themselves as “old” or even “seniors.”

But there is perhaps one key consideration in particular that should be factored into the decision about whether this is the right type of senior living community for you. It is a feature that is absent from active adult communities: healthcare services.

If you are a person who crosses bridges when you come to them, who doesn’t lose sleep over “what ifs,” then the fact that an active adult community does not offer onsite healthcare services may be of no consequence to you.

If, however, you are the type of person who likes to be prepared for life’s unknowns, who finds peace-of-mind in planning, this lack of onsite healthcare services might be a dealbreaker for you. For this type of person, a retirement community that is equipped to provide onsite long-term care or nursing care services if and when you should need them — such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) — may be a more attractive senior living option.

Senior living options to meet differing needs and budgets

When looking at the many different senior living options that are available on the market today, it is important to consider what features are most important to you and then weigh your various choices. As such, there definitely are pros and cons to choosing to live in an active adult community. (You likely even have pros and cons that we didn’t include in our lists above.)

It’s also important to keep in mind that some of the attributes of active adult communities also apply to other types of retirement communities. For instance, like an active adult community, most CCRCs also provide their residents with a variety of amenities and social events to encourage mental and physical activity. And also like an active adult community, independent living rental communities and senior living apartments typically do not provide onsite healthcare services as a part of their monthly fees.

myLifeSite can help you get educated about the various types of senior living communities. This senior living decision flowchart can help! And if you decide that a CCRC is the best choice for you, be sure to check out our free online community search tool!

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