What to Expect in an Active Adult Retirement Community

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Active adult retirement communities (AARCs) for seniors put the focus on the word "active." Visit an AARC, and you're more likely to see residents zooming by on motorized golf carts than being pushed in wheelchairs by a caretaker.

The minimum age for these communities is typically 55, with at least one member of the household qualifying. Some communities restrict ownership to those 62 and older, and all occupants must be at least that age.

Many AARCs are gated and private. Homes are spaced closer together, and lot sizes are often smaller. Almost all of the communities offer plentiful amenities and activities.

Amenities for Active Seniors

Homeowners in AARCs pay monthly fees to a homeowner association (HOA), which cares for the grounds and handles maintenance. Those fees often cover the cost of amenities such as:

  • 18-hole golf course and clubhouse
  • Library
  • Fitness center
  • Swimming pool and spa
  • Arts and crafts center
  • Billiards and card room
  • Tennis courts
  • Basketball courts
  • Continuing education classrooms
  • Hiking and biking trails
  • High-tech media center
  • Banquet hall and ballroom

Other Benefits to Senior Living

Besides the usually impressive facilities, there are other good reasons seniors choose to move from an existing home into a 55-plus community or subdivision. 

  • Age-appropriate home design: Homes are usually only one level, which means no stairs to climb. The homes are also often designed to be wheelchair accessible.
  • Nearby peers: Your neighbors are unlikely to be screaming teenagers on skateboards. They are people just like you.
  • No maintenance necessary: The HOA mows lawns, waters gardens, trims trees, sweeps walks, and, in areas of the country where it's needed, provides snow and ice removal. Some offer spots for the gardener in your family to tend their own patch of land.
  • Lots of things to do: Fun and stimulating activities are located within walking distance or an easy drive, and your HOA fees cover the cost. They might include movie nights, tai chi or yoga classes, bocce ball, cooking and baking lessons, and group outings to a local theater or restaurant.

Buying a Home in an AARC

Purchasing a home in a newly built senior living complex or subdivision is no different than buying from a builder. You might want to hire your own real estate agent to represent you.

You should also consider:

  • Arranging your own financing. You might get a better deal over using the builder's lender.
  • Getting a home inspection, even if the home is brand new.
  • Talking to the neighbors before you buy.
  • Coming back to visit on a weekend. Sometimes visiting guests such as grandchildren can be noisy.
  • Questioning the HOA documents and reading HOA meeting minutes.
  • Asking about utilities and other associated costs of ownership.
  • Hiring a lawyer if you have questions about seller disclosures.
  • Consulting with an accountant to determine whether the purchase fits your retirement plans.
  • Asking for a home warranty plan.