What's it like living in a 55+ community? Do all active adult community residents have the same problems?
Let's start with this --
...as a Northeastern migrant (Philly), that now lives in the Tampa Bay area, I found out two VERY interesting facts about these "deed restricted" or "55 and older" communities that they will NEVER advertise, and is the LAW in Florida.
Basically, you CAN live/rent/own there if you're under 55.
First is the 80/20 law...
Then, if you have a relative living there that owns, they can definitely have you and whomever move in with them, no issue at all.
Also, alot of these seniors want to come off as bigshots at the bingo parlor, so they will buy two (or more) units there, live in one of them, and rent the other(s) out. Also perfectly in their bylaws.
Lastly, you are 100% allowed to buy a unit (some will do a rent to own with a decent down payment), as long as you (or whoever you're living with) is at least 45. True facts. Hope this helps, and like I said, alot of them will lie to your face (they're not all sweet candy givers)." - quote pulled from Reddit.
For the past couple of years, I've had quite a few home buyers interested in getting more info on 55+ communities, here in the Tampa area.
That pushed me to learn more about active adult communities.
I learned a lot...even had a few thoughts of moving into such communities myself...when I become of age.
But...as I dug deeper, I realized that I had a lot more to research. It's not as rosy as I had seen.
Hence the quote above.
There are unseen potential problems with over 55 communities, as you'll see in this article.
The purpose is not to steer you away from considering buying a home in an active adult community.
On the contrary...
What I hope to achieve is to give you real life issues that current/former residents have faced when living in a 55+ community.
Note: the range of problems living in an active adult community I cover are opinions collected from residents who don't necessarily live in Tampa.
What Is A 55+ Community?
First, before getting into the problems with over 55 communities, I think it's important to first define what is a 55+ community.
A 55+ community, also known as an active adult community, is a retirement community specifically designed for individuals aged 55 and older.
These communities typically offer a range of amenities and services catered to the needs and preferences of retirees.
The purpose of a 55+ community is to provide a supportive and engaging environment for older adults looking to enjoy an active and fulfilling retirement lifestyle.
Many of these communities offer various recreational activities, such as golf courses, swimming pools, fitness centers, and social clubs, aimed at promoting an active and social lifestyle.
Living in a 55+ community can offer many advantages for retirees, including the opportunity to live in close proximity to peers who share similar interests and life experiences.
These communities also often provide maintenance-free living, with services such as lawn care and home repairs taken care of by the community staff.
In fact, active adult communities are growing in popularity.
The U.S. active adult (55+) community market size was valued at USD 587.7 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.02% from 2023 to 2030. - Grand View Research
However, it's important to address the challenges that potential buyers may face when considering a 55+ community.
While these communities provide a sense of belonging and various amenities, they often have age restrictions, pet policies, and homeowner association fees.
It is crucial for potential residents to thoroughly research and evaluate these factors before committing to a 55+ community to ensure it aligns with their lifestyle and preferences.
Key Challenges Facing Residents in Over 55 Communities
Active adult communities offer a unique living arrangement for older adults who desire an active and social lifestyle.
While they provide numerous amenities and benefits, residents in over 55 communities also face certain challenges that can impact their overall experience.
Below are a few key challenges that residents in 55+ communities may encounter, along with the reasons they are in place.
1. Strict Rules and Regulations
In a 55+ community, there are strict rules and regulations that residents must adhere to.
These rules are there to keep everything running smoothly, but sometimes they can feel a bit too strict.
Here are a few examples that active adult communities impose:
- Age requirements
Obviously, this is a given. But worthy of noting.
Generally, at least one member of the household must meet the age requirement to be eligible for residency.
This ensures that the community meets the needs and preferences of the intended demographic.
- Home customizations
One of the primary areas that these rules govern is home customization.
In order to maintain a uniform appearance throughout the community, residents often face restrictions when it comes to making significant changes to the exterior of their homes.
This helps to preserve the overall aesthetic appeal and prevents any potentially disruptive changes.
While residents are encouraged to maintain their yards and gardens, there are usually restrictions on the types of plants, shrubs, and trees that can be planted.
This helps to maintain a cohesive and well-maintained landscape throughout the community.
- Exterior decoration
How you decorate your home's exterior is typically regulated as well.
This includes limits on the use of seasonal decorations or excessive exterior lighting, for example.
By setting boundaries in this area, the community can ensure a tidy and visually pleasing ambiance year-round.
- Use of amenities
Lastly, there are often rules about the use of amenities, such as swimming pools, fitness centers, and community rooms.
These restrictions help to ensure that these shared spaces are utilized in a fair and respectful manner, providing equal access to all residents.
By adhering to these regulations, residents can enjoy a well-maintained and peaceful living environment.
To be fair, many of the restrictions I noted above can be found in many non-55+ communities, with the exception of the age restrictions, of course.
Similar restrictions can be found in communities with an HOA and/or CDD.
2. Remote Locations
Choosing an 55-plus community often means settling in a location that's removed from the hustle and bustle of city life.
While this can offer tranquility, it also brings several considerations regarding proximity to essential services, commute times, and transportation options.
Now, not all active adult communities are in remote areas of town.
Nevertheless, I wanted to make sure you take location as a factor when considering to live in an active adult community.
These challenges primarily revolve around the limited proximity to shops, entertainment, and other communities.
Being far from essential amenities can be a major hassle, especially for those who often visit family and friends, or need easy access to resources beyond the community's boundaries.
From my experience, many 55+ communities in the Tampa Bay area have plenty of healthcare facilities nearby.
I'll give you two examples:
Another example is Esplanade at Wiregrass Ranch in Wesley Chapel.
- Commute time
One of the main challenges of living in a remote 55+ community is the increased commute time to nearby towns or cities.
Residents may face longer travel distances, which could potentially add extra time and effort to their daily routines.
This increased commute time can be particularly difficult for individuals who require frequent medical appointments or rely on public services located outside of the community.
Additionally, the distance from amenities such as grocery stores, healthcare facilities, and entertainment venues can also be a significant inconvenience for residents in remote areas.
Accessing these resources may require more planning and effort, making routine tasks and activities more cumbersome.
The lack of nearby amenities can reduce the convenience and independence that many individuals seek when choosing to live in a 55+ community.
- Limited transportation options
Another factor to consider is the availability of transportation options in remote areas.
Public transportation may be limited or nonexistent, necessitating the ownership of personal vehicles for residents to travel to nearby towns or cities.
This can be challenging and restrictive for those who do not drive or prefer not to own a vehicle.
The lack of transportation alternatives can result in isolation and reduced mobility for residents in remote locations.
While remote 55+ communities may offer serene and peaceful living environments, the challenges of living in such locations cannot be ignored.
Careful consideration of these factors should be taken into account when evaluating ideal locations for 55+ communities.
3. High Homeowner's Association (HOA) Fees
Yes, this was a shocker for me when talking to the onsite sales people...and one of the major problems with over 55 communities.
High HOA fees can have a significant impact on residing in 55+ communities, as they help cover the upkeep costs for community programs and amenities.
These fees are essential to maintaining the overall quality and appearance of the community, as well as providing a range of services and facilities for the residents.
It's rare that you'll visit an active adult community in Tampa and not notice pristine landscaping. Many, if not all, are visually appealing.
The fees collected from homeowners contribute to various expenses, such as landscaping, maintenance of common areas, security services, and repairs.
Additionally, they help fund community programs and activities, such as fitness classes, social events, and recreational facilities.
Amenities provided by 55+ communities, such as swimming pools, golf courses, and clubhouses, are often maintained through the fees.
The actual amount of HOA fees can vary greatly from one 55+ community to another.
Some communities may have fees as low as less than $100 per month, while others can have fees exceeding $1,000 per month.
The variation in fees can depend on factors such as the size of the community, the number and scale of amenities, and the level of services provided.
It is important for potential residents to carefully consider the impact of these fees on their budget and lifestyle.
While higher fees may provide access to a wider range of amenities and services, they can also put a strain on monthly expenses.
Therefore, it is crucial to assess the value and benefits of the community's amenities against the cost of the fees before deciding to reside in a 55+ community with high HOA fees.
4. Lack of Diversity
Another challenge with living in a 55+ community is the lack of diversity because of strict age requirements.
These communities typically require residents to be at least 55 years old, leading to a homogenous population in terms of age.
While a quieter setting and less interaction with younger people might attract some seniors, this can greatly affect the social dynamics in these communities.
One of the most noticeable effects of the lack of diversity in 55+ communities is the quieter atmosphere.
With most residents being of a similar age, the energy and liveliness that comes with a diverse age range can be noticeably absent.
This appeals to those seeking tranquility, yet it might leave others feeling isolated or missing the energy that comes from mingling with people of diverse ages and backgrounds.
Another consequence of the lack of age diversity is the limited socializing opportunities with other age groups.
While 55+ communities often offer a range of amenities and activities to keep residents engaged, the absence of younger individuals can limit opportunities for intergenerational connections and experiences.
Ultimately, this can result in greater feelings of social isolation and a narrower worldview for some residents.
The lack of diversity in 55+ communities, therefore, comes with both pros and cons.
On one hand, it can create a quieter atmosphere and a sense of exclusivity for those who prefer a more homogeneous environment.
By contrast, it may lead to feelings of boredom or isolation for those who crave a more diverse and dynamic social setting.
In the end, individuals should consider their preferences and the impact of limited diversity before deciding to live in a 55+ community.
5. Artificial Environments
I've got to admit, I got this exact phrase from one of the forums.
To me, it held a very deep meaning to the problems of living in a 55+ community.
Living in a meticulously planned community can sometimes feel disconnected from the spontaneity and diversity of the outside world...or as Kiplinger calls it "a Shangri-La effect."
These artificial environments often emphasize uniformity and conformity, which can hinder the genuine experiences that arise from engaging with a diverse range of individuals and unpredictable situations.
In these community-planned neighborhoods, the surroundings are carefully curated to maintain a specific aesthetic appeal and level of orderliness.
While this may create a visually pleasing atmosphere, it can also lead to a lack of authenticity.
The absence of spontaneous elements, such as street art or impromptu gatherings, creates an environment that feels sanitized and sterile.
This can leave residents longing for the authentic and unexpected experiences that come with living in more organically developed areas.
Furthermore, community-planned social events and activities can sometimes lack authenticity.
These events are often highly orchestrated and controlled by the community's management, with little room for individuality or genuine connection.
The focus is often on conformity and meeting specific expectations rather than fostering true community bonds.
As a result, residents may feel a sense of detachment from these events, as they can feel staged and disingenuous.
6. The Social Climate
Going about our daily lives, it's common to find ourselves surrounded by a homogenous social environment.
By nature, we're social beings. We crave interaction.
Whether it's at work, school, or even in our neighborhoods, being constantly exposed to the same group of people can lead to a lack of stimulating conversations and activities.
Engaging in meaningful conversations and activities is crucial for personal growth and development.
It allows us to broaden our perspectives, learn from others, and challenge our own beliefs.
However, when our social climate becomes too homogenous, we risk becoming stuck in a bubble, interacting only with like-minded individuals who reinforce our existing thoughts and ideas.
To counteract this problem of living in an active adult community, it is important to maintain external hobbies and social connections.
By seeking out opportunities to engage with people from different backgrounds and interests, we expose ourselves to new ideas, experiences, and knowledge.
This could involve joining clubs or organizations, attending community events, or even participating in online forums focused on our hobbies or interests.
Maintaining a diverse range of social connections not only leads to more stimulating conversations and activities but also enhances our overall well-being.
It encourages personal growth, broadens our horizons, and fosters empathy and understanding.
By actively cultivating these external connections, you can ensure that your social climate remains dynamic and enriched with diverse perspectives.
7. Gossip and Politics
Was debating whether I should add this as one of the problems with over 55 communities.
I mean, you're bound to hear gossip in many neighborhoods. I certainly hear it in mine.
Nevertheless, it seems that gossip and politics are exacerbated and easily dominate social interactions here.
In close-knit settings, word tends to spread quickly, and rumors can easily be fueled by idle conversations.
This can create an atmosphere of distrust and tension among community members, leading to strained relationships and a negative social environment.
Therefore, it's crucial to find a community that aligns with your personal values and social preferences.
By seeking out like-minded individuals who share your ideals and beliefs, you can build stronger connections and avoid unnecessary drama.
Surrounding yourself with people who value open communication and honesty will help foster a positive and supportive environment.
When choosing a community to engage with, consider their approach to gossip and politics.
Remember, finding the right community where you feel comfortable and welcomed is key.
8. Resale Challenges
You never know when you'll need to sell your home. Reasons vary.
For example, in May 2023, I got a call from someone wanting to sell their home in the Esplanade at Wiregrass Ranch.
His reason - a job transfer.
Yes, a job transfer, even at his age.
Now, know that reselling a home in a community with age requirements, and limitations on children and pets can present several challenges.
These restrictions are put in place by the homeowner's association (HOA) to maintain the overall appearance and quality of the community, but they can hinder the resale process.
- Small buyer pool
One major challenge is finding potential buyers who meet the specific criteria outlined in the deed restrictions.
Communities with age requirements, as in our case for example, limits the pool of potential buyers to a specific demographic.
- Marketing restrictions
I've worked with homeowners where the HOA did not allow me to place a 'For Sale' sign in the yard.
That is another obstacle that can hinder the sale of your home.
9. Absence of Onsite Medical Care
The absence of onsite medical care in active adult communities poses several challenges and limitations.
Firstly, without healthcare facilities within the community, residents may need to travel long distances to access necessary medical services.
This can be particularly challenging for those with limited mobility or transportation options.
Additionally, the lack of onsite medical care means that residents may not have access to immediate and timely healthcare assistance in case of emergencies or urgent medical needs.
The absence of medical care services within the community also means that residents may need to rely on external healthcare providers, which can lead to increased costs and inconvenience.
This is especially problematic for residents who may require regular or specialized care, as they may need to seek out higher-level healthcare options located outside of the community.
The consequences and implications for residents are significant.
It can also result in increased stress and anxiety for residents and their families, who may constantly worry about the availability and accessibility of medical assistance.
Moreover, the absence of medical assistance within active adult communities can impede the overall quality of life for residents.
They may feel a lack of security and reassurance knowing that immediate medical help is not readily available.
This ultimately diminishes the appeal and desirability of active adult communities for individuals who prioritize access to healthcare services.
10. Smaller home sizes
Living in a smaller home can pose a potential problem when living in a 55-plus community.
It's true, many residents may prefer a smaller home.
However, there are those who want the flexibility to own a larger home, to have family and friends over, for example.
Nevertheless, smaller home sizes in 55-plus communities can be attributed to a range of factors.
Firstly, many residents in these communities are downsizing from larger homes.
As people age, they often find that maintaining a large house becomes more burdensome, leading them to seek out smaller, more manageable spaces.
This downsizing process allows them to reduce maintenance tasks, such as cleaning and yard work, and frees up more time for leisure activities.
- Limited storage space
Another factor contributing to smaller home sizes in 55-plus communities is limited storage space.
Residents in these communities reside in villas or townhomes, which typically offer less storage space compared to single family homes.
This limitation forces people to downsize their belongings, keeping only what is essential and often adopting a minimalist lifestyle.
- Small floor plans
Furthermore, smaller floor plans designed for two adults play a significant role in reducing home sizes in these communities.
As empty nesters, many older adults no longer require large living spaces and extra bedrooms.
Therefore, developers focus on constructing smaller, more efficient floor plans that cater to the needs of two adults.
These floor plans not only promote comfortable living but also encourage a sense of community and togetherness within the 55-plus community.
All these factors allow residents to enjoy a more manageable and streamlined living experience in their later years.
11. Distance from Loved Ones
This particular one strikes close to home.
I lived with my uncle during my high school years. Fast forward a few years, my uncle decided to move to AZ for retirement.
He chose to live alone and play golf with his buddies. I tried to convince him to move closer to us.
Nevertheless, I got a call one morning that he had passed away. No family member to be around him in his final days.
So, being away from family and friends is certainly a problem with over 55 communities and one that has to be taken into account.
Relocating to an over 55 community often involves more than just a change of address; it brings a shift in how you connect with family and access support.
Having said that, Senior Housing News said this:
Active adult communities are also typically found in suburban locations near residents’ adult children.
Moving to a senior-centric community usually means being farther away from family and long-standing social circles.
This separation can lead to feelings of loneliness and a sense of disconnection, as regular face-to-face interactions with loved ones become less frequent.
For families, this distance can create concern about the well-being of their senior relatives, especially in times of need.
- Limited care and support
While active adult communities offer certain amenities, they often lack comprehensive care and support services, especially for more advanced medical or personal needs.
This limitation can place residents in a position where they must rely on external healthcare providers or assistance from family members who might be miles away.
- Reliance on others
Another challenge with living in a 55+ community is the reliance on others to initiate visits.
As residents of 55+ communities age, their need for assistance in daily activities or medical care may increase.
The distance from family means that they may have to rely more on community resources or hire external help.
This reliance can be a significant shift for those used to a high degree of independence or for those who previously relied on nearby family for support.
Should You Move to a 55+ Community?
Moving into a 55-plus community can offer a sense of belonging, convenience, and a lifestyle suited to senior living.
However, as I've demonstrated above, these communities also come with their own set of challenges.
From strict rules and remote locations to high HOA fees, social dynamics, and the potential difficulties in selling your home -- there's a lot to consider.
It's not just about the amenities and the maintenance-free living; it's also about the impact on your daily life, your finances, your social interactions, and your sense of independence.
Each person's experience will vary, and what might be a deal-breaker for one might not be an issue for another.
Before making a decision, it's crucial to reflect on what you value most in your living environment.
Do the benefits of a structured, community-focused lifestyle outweigh the potential downsides for you?
How much do you value diversity, spontaneity, and independence in your daily life?
Are you comfortable with the idea of living in a more homogenous, regulated environment?
Ultimately, the decision to move into a 55+ community is a deeply personal one.
By understanding both the positives and the challenges, you can make a choice that aligns with your lifestyle, preferences, and long-term goals.
If you're considering a move to an over 55 community, or if you have any questions about what life is really like in these unique environments, feel free to reach out.
I'm here to provide you with the information and guidance you need to make the best decision for your future.
Contact me today to learn more and to explore the options available to you.