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Active Senior Living Communities for Active Adults

6 minute readLast updated December 9, 2022
fact checkedon October 19, 2023
Written by Claire Samuels
Reviewed by Leslie Fuller, LMSW, CDPLeslie Fuller, a Licensed Master Social Worker and Certified Dementia Practitioner, is the owner of Inspired Senior Care.
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Many recent retirees and other baby boomers want to stay active and social, whether than means sports, spas, or off-site events. Retirement communities are adapting to meet their needs for a fun, stylish, and carefree lifestyle — with independent living options that seem more like resorts than retirement communities.

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What are active senior living communities?

Active senior living communities come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes referred to as age-restricted retirement communities, independent living communities, or 55-plus housing, they offer seniors a variety of living and lifestyle options. From apartments, condos, single-family home subdivisions, or mobile home parks, active adult living communities are great for older adults looking to age in place in private housing.

Active senior living communities typically feature:

  • Senior-friendly amenities. Many communities offer extensive perks, like resident clubhouses, activities and events, pools, tennis courts, spas, and recreation centers. These active living community amenities are often outfitted to be senior supportive. Pools may have lifts, zero-depth entry, or extra grab bars, while fitness center classes focus on low-impact exercises, like yoga and tai chi.
  • An adults-only environment. The Fair Housing Act requires at least one member of each household in an age-restricted community to be older than 55. Also, 80% of total residents must meet that age threshold. Most of these communities allow younger spouses, but they usually don’t allow children.
  • Accessibility. It can be difficult to age in place without significant home safety modifications. Units in senior living communities are often outfitted with supportive features like widened doorways for wheelchair accessibility, walk-in showers, single-floor living, and flat thresholds. Even if seniors are active and healthy, they may need these modifications later on.

Retirement communities vs. independent living communities

Retirement communities and independent living communities cater to similar demographics, and both are designed for active seniors who wish to age in private residences. They don’t typically provide medical care on-site, though they may offer options for third-party home health services. The key difference between retirement communities and independent living communities is lifestyle options.

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Retirement community housing is à la carte

Many 55 and older retirement communities function like age-restricted gated developments with seniors enjoying retirement in their individually owned and maintained homes.

  • Retirement communities generally require standard rent or mortgage payments, as well as monthly homeowner association (HOA) fees, to cover community upkeep like public landscaping and amenity use.
  • Services such as yard maintenance and home repair can be performed by the resident or by the retirement community for an extra charge.
  • Most retirement community homes offer full kitchens, though there may be on-site cafés or restaurants for à la carte dining.

Independent living communities are inclusive and hands-off

Independent living is less like an individually owned home and more like a luxury apartment community or all-inclusive resort.

  • Rent at independent living communities is generally higher than mortgage or rent payments at retirement communities. However, the HOA, housekeeping, and maintenance fees are included.
  • Since transportation to appointments and events is often provided by the community, independent living is a great option for active seniors who prefer not to drive.
  • Some independent living communities may have partnerships with — or are located on the same grounds as — assisted living and memory care communities, allowing residents to more easily transition if they require higher levels of care down the road.

Active senior living and home health

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Active adult senior living communities don’t typically provide health care. If you or your loved one is interested in either a retirement community or independent living, but you may need extra care either now or in the near future, consider the following questions to ask yourself.

  • Is in-home care an option? Seniors who already require assistance with ADLs (activitiesof daily living) but don’t yet want to move into assisted living may choose to combine retirement or independent living options with third-party home care or home health services.
  • Are there medical providers nearby, and do they provide house calls? As people age, easily accessible health care is key. Seniors with preexisting conditions should always check the proximity of their potential community to nearby hospitals and medical centers, especially when specialists or specific doctors are needed. And these days, communities often partner with medical providers so that residents can receive regular checkups and other home health services.
  • Should you look into a continuing care retirement community (CCRC)CCRCs provide a continuum of health care levels. Active seniors can first move into an independent living community then transfer to on-site assisted living or memory care as needed. This is an option for seniors who aren’t interested in in-home care and think they may require additional support down the road. CCRCs often require significant payment upfront, so it’s best to consult a senior financial planner before making a decision.

How to choose an active adult community

Both retirement communities and independent living communities, once mostly located in Southern states or the Sun Belt, are becoming increasingly popular across the country. Many seniors will live in active communities for decades, so it’s important to consider these questions and senior living facts when choosing an active adult community for you or a loved one.

  • Which amenities are most important? Find a place where you can thrive. If you’re an avid gardener, look for full-size yards that allow resident gardening. If you’re a golfer, search for a community with a course or transportation to local clubs. The options are many!
  • Are you happy with the on-site or nearby health care providers? Since medical care isn’t typically offered by active adult living communities, make sure to check out the specialists, doctors, or home care services in the area. That way, if you ever need additional health care services, you’ll know the options are there.
  • Where do you see yourself growing old? Retirement is a time for new adventures. Would you prefer to live in a beachfront community, in manicured suburbs, or in the heart of a bustling city? With the array of community options across the country, it’s easy to picture your ideal senior living.

If you’re interested in an active adult retirement community or independent living program but don’t know where to start, contact A Place for Mom’sSenior Living Advisors to help find the best fit for you or your loved one.


Meet the Author
Claire Samuels

Claire Samuels is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom, where she helps guide families through the dementia and memory care journey. Before transitioning to writing, she gained industry insight as an account executive for senior living communities across the Midwest. She holds a degree from Davidson College.

Reviewed by

Leslie Fuller, LMSW, CDP

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