Retirement communities, marketed to the 55-plus crowd, are often loaded with recreational amenities such as swimming pools, golf courses, clubhouses and gyms. Do these developments live up to their advertising brochures? Here’s a look at the pros and cons.
Pros. Most senior-living residents enjoy the freedom from having to mow their lawns and perform other outside maintenance. Another favorite is the wide range of activities, from games and parties to recreational sports. Some communities also offer on-campus restaurants, shops and even movie theaters. Finally, many seniors enjoy living in a quiet setting without children, teens and young adults.
Cons. While some residents appreciate the homeowners association’s role in the enforcement of community rules, others say these associations can come across as heavy handed. Potential rules include restrictions on parking, pets, visits by grandchildren and exterior home colors and decor.
The costs. Many retirement communities charge dues or fees on top of the purchase price of your home. The most expensive types are continuing-care communities, where round-the-clock medical care is available, followed by assisted-living communities. Both are for seniors unable to live on their own, but not yet needing nursing home care. An upfront fee in the tens of thousands of dollars will be needed in some cases. These are quite different from independent or active-living developments, which don’t have upfront costs for medical care. Fees are typically charged for activities and amenities. Monthly homeowners association dues pay for the maintenance of the landscape and other upkeep. A portion of the association fees may be paying for future repair of roads, streetlights and other infrastructure.
Ultimately the place you choose depends on your health and mobility. Independent or active communities are for the healthiest, followed by assisted living, continuing care and ultimately nursing homes. Retirees looking at these facilities should choose what fits their physical and social needs, realizing that as they age they may have to move to the next level of senior living.