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Outside-of-the-Box Assisted Living Communities

Sarah Stevenson
By Sarah StevensonJuly 5, 2013

What if your senior loved ones could spend their retirement in a luxury resort, a communal neighborhood, or a college campus? Unusual assisted living communities are becoming more and more usual here in the U.S.

Unusual Retirement CommunitiesForget spending your golden years in a sterile nursing home or a cookie-cutter apartment next to a golf course. Today’s retirement and assisted living communities cater to a broad range of tastes. Whether your passion is motor vehicles, intellectual enrichment, or luxury living, the options are nearly limitless. Even if your loved ones are a little quirky, with a little research, you can find a place for mom and dad in a unique community of like-minded seniors — a place they’ll be thrilled to call home.

Senior Housing Communities Focus on Shared Interests

A recent article on Marketwatch profiled several senior communities that cater to specific subsets of older adults: those that share a niche interest, or those that share ethnicity or other characteristics of identity. For instance, independent living for Chinese-Americans and Indian-Americans is increasingly popular—including, of course, culturally conscious food options — and the number of retirement communities for gays and lesbians is growing rapidly. Writers, actors, and artists can retire to the NoHo (North Hollywood) Senior Artists Community, where they can take advantage of arts classes and an adjacent performing arts theater. But shared-interest retirement communities go far beyond the prosaic — Lake Weir Living, mentioned in the article, proclaims itself as “toy-friendly” boomer living, for those who can’t bear to part with their RVs, motorcycles, boats, and other vehicles.

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Taking Lifelong Learning to the Max

More and more college campuses are offering retirement communities on-site, for those who enjoy having educational resources and college-town amenities right at their fingertips. The Village at Penn State offers free access to classes, volunteer opportunities, guest lectures on-site, priority access to sporting and arts events on campus, and much more. Lassell Village in Newton, MA goes a step further— it requires residents to take classes, either with peers or regular students at Lassell College, and each building has its own classroom.

Cohousing for the Community-Minded

Over the past ten years, the idea of senior cohousing has gathered steam. The Marketwatch article nicely summarizes the philosophy behind this new independent living trend: “Cohousing communities are made up of a cluster of individual homes with shared common space, in which all residents actively participate in the management of the community; like a commune, but with separate homes and amenities.” Glacier Village in Davis, CA, was the very first one to open, in 2005, and it caters to just 11 residents in 8 homes. Monthly dues pay for upkeep, housekeeping, and shared meals, and all residents attend weekly meetings and share amenities such as the bocce ball court. Oakcreek Cohousing in Stillwater, OK, has 24 homes clustered around a common house, all powered by geothermal energy and located amid plenty of green space—perfect for its community-minded, eco-conscious residents.

Retirement in Style: Luxury Assisted Living

Luxury assisted living, also called “resort-style living,” caters to those seniors with upscale tastes but who still may need access to assistance with daily activities. If you think you know luxury, think again — these assisted living communities don’t just offer spacious apartments and gourmet dining. Few people would complain about full kitchens, concierge service, personal fitness trainers, cutting-edge therapy, and pet-friendly living. Many of these communities are also environmentally sustainable, with energy-efficient buildings constructed in accordance with LEED guidelines. Of course, they usually come at a hefty price tag, so prepare for a bit of sticker shock.

Are your loved ones living in a nontraditional retirement community? Would you consider cohousing or one of these other options for your parents? Let us know in the comments.  

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Sarah Stevenson
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