Choosing an active adult community

Choosing an active adult community

Q: What tips can you recommend for choosing a good active adult housing community? My husband and I, who recently retired, are planning to relocate to an area closer to our grandkids and are interested in learning more.

A: If you are contemplating moving into an age-restricted community, finding one that is right for you takes some legwork. While active adult communities generally offer the opportunity for a lower-maintenance lifestyle around similar-aged people, they vary enormously.

Today's active adult communities come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges, from small city-based apartment complexes, to single-family homes, to sprawling resort-style locations situated on a gated golf course. Most are owned by their occupants, but a growing number are rentals. Typically, at least one occupant of each property must meet a minimum age threshold.

It is also important to understand the distinction between active adult communities that are meant for ages 55 and older, and retirement or independent living communities, which are primarily designed for older seniors in their 70s and 80s. Active adult communities do not typically include meals or have a central dining area, but many of them do offer a range of recreational amenities and activities.

To help you locate and research active adult communities in the areas you are interested in, search for “active adult communities” using your favorite online search engine. It can be helpful to search for ratings, reviews and information on activities and amenities for active adult communities across the country.

Once you find a few you like, here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you choose:

What is our budget? To help you choose the right active adult community, you will first need to determine what you can afford. You should also consider the area's cost of living for other things like food, utilities, transportation, health care and taxes. Consider the home's purchase price, mortgage rates, property taxes, insurance and, if applicable, homeowners' association dues or community fees.

Typical fees run a few hundred dollars per month and help with maintenance such as lawn care, snow removal and community areas like a clubhouse or pool. However, some communities may require additional memberships or fees for golf, tennis, classes or other activities.

How active is the community? Some communities provide fitness facilities, swimming pools, tennis courts and more, along with dozens of organized activities, classes and social events. Other communities are simpler with very limited amenities and structured activities. You will want to choose a community that appeals to you.

Will we like the surrounding area? Will the area around your prospective community serve your needs now and in the future? Ideally, this means having easy access to good doctors and hospitals, and a local airport if you plan to travel. Additionally, look into how far you will be from essential services such as grocery stores, banks and pharmacies, as well as dining, shopping and recreational attractions.

Schedule a Visit

Once you have narrowed down your choices, make an appointment to visit the area. Be sure to allow plenty of time at each community and, if possible, go back to your favorites more than once. Also be sure to ask questions while you are visiting, particularly about the community rules. Some developments will let you stay overnight in a model home for a few nights to get a feel of what it would be like to live there. While you are there, try the amenities and activities, and speak with as many residents as you can.

“Savvy Living” is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to NBC’s “Today Show.” The column, and others like it, is available to read via The American Legion’s Planned Giving program, a way of establishing your legacy of support for the organization while providing for your current financial needs. Learn more about the process, and the variety of charitable programs you can benefit, at