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A Refreshed Life: Are you ready to move on and into a plus-55 community?

Jul 20, 2015 09:00AM ● By Cate Reynolds

Age 55-plus buyers want a home design that anticipates the benefits—and limitations—of aging.

Being age 55 and over doesn’t mean an isolated lifestyle in a nearly empty house. Nor does it necessarily mean relocating to Florida or Arizona. In fact, as many baby boomers face their late 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, they’ll be looking for more opportunities to enjoy themselves, learn new things, and socialize with peers, while remaining independent and close to their children, grandchildren, and friends.

“Location, location, location”…we’ve all heard this mantra for choosing real estate. It also applies to selling and buying a home to enjoy at age 55 and beyond. Instead of choosing a location for its school system or easy commute to work, older adults look for:

  • proximity to children and grandchildren
  • access to medical facilities
  • availability of cultural and sports activities
  • a welcoming community of residents with similar tastes and experiences
Finally, age 55-plus buyers want a home design that anticipates the benefits—and limitations—of aging. Not a playroom for the children, but space for an art studio; not safety latches on cupboards, but knobs and handles designed for aging hands; not a big backyard for touch football, but community walking trails, pools, and tennis courts maintained by someone else.

Baby Boomers Go House Hunting…Again!

“Active-adult” households are the lifestyle redefinition of baby boomers—the generation born between 1946 and 1964. These one- or two-person households are demanding comfortable and safe housing for the coming years when aging makes them more vulnerable. Maryland’s Anne Arundel County and Eastern Shore are responding to this demand with the development of communities that offer various living-style plans for adults age 55 and older:

  • Active-adult or leisure communities—smaller residences and a wide variety of accessible activities
  • Continuing-care retirement communities (CCRCs)—varied housing options with guaranteed lifelong healthcare and shelter
  • Independent-living communities—condos or apartments usually offering meal plans and housekeeping, designed to meet the requirements of active, aging residents
  • Assisted-living communities—apartment living with support services, such as meal plans and healthcare services, not including full-time medical care
  • Nursing-care residences—state-accredited, supervised, medical-care facilities

Let’s take a closer look at active-adult, CCRC, and independent-living developments, which meet the needs of a rapidly growing, independent, aging population.

Here’s a summary of what you might expect from the active-adult, continuing-care, and assisted-living communities:

  • Generally, active-adult communities offer townhouses, condominiums, and/or single-family and duplex residences. You buy into the community much the same as any other real estate transaction, usually with maintenance and other fees as additional monthly expenses. What makes this community different from other townhouse, condo, or other developments is the social life. You join a ready-made community of like-minded residents who want to spend their time and resources in ways similar to your own tastes. Instead of sharing your day at the pool with a gaggle of giggling seven year olds, you might meet your neighbors for poolside aerobics or a sunset dinner party. Most active-adult communities offer clubs and committees, and some even hire professional social planners, rather like the social life on a cruise ship or in a private club.
  • Continuing-care retirement communities customarily require a substantial initial investment. In some, part of that investment returns to you or your family when you leave; the money you invest is your equity. The combined equity of all residents provides the investment earnings to maintain the community. This is where a close look at the financial statements of CCRCs is critical. You must be satisfied that the money is being handled properly; your future depends upon it. In most CCRCs, a monthly fee is assessed for your residence, and perhaps for your meal plan as well. These fees add up, so consider carefully what your budget can handle. If these matters are addressed to your satisfaction, CCRCs may give you peace of mind in that, no matter what challenges or hurdles of aging you face, you’ll be properly looked after in your chosen community. You need never fear being moved elsewhere, away from familiar surroundings and friends. (The only exception might be hospitalization for short-term procedures and care.)
  • Assisted-living communities vary in their approach to funding. In some, you buy your apartment and then settle on a variety of services, such as meals, cleaning, medication delivery assistance, personal care assistance—up to but not including nursing and medical care (long term). In other settings, you buy into the community and own a share (but not property). The third, and most common, arrangement is rental, with additional features added. The operative word is “assistance,” and the costs associated with providing assistance to the resident.

We all know there is no perfect solution. And whatever your financial status, whether single or coupled, compromises may have to be made. But changes are going to come. “You can take that to the bank,” as they say. Having some control over what changes you’re willing to make, and when, can be both a great comfort and empowering.

So don’t avoid looking at your situation. Get out there and shop, just like you did when you were choosing your first apartment or first home. Make the experience fun…and it will be!