Sun City Arizona was not only the first 55+ active adult community in Arizona, but also the first in the country.
Sun City Arizona was not only the first 55+ active adult community in Arizona, but also the first in the country.

When active adult communities got their start in the 1960s, they were typically designed as sprawling developments with requisite golf courses and tennis courts. They were large developments in suburban or more rural settings. Today, developers are catering to different needs. They know that active adults have diverse interests and that smaller communities still have a lot to offer.

Del Webb's Sun City, in Arizona, is typically considered the first active adult community. The development opened in 1960 and today boasts over 27,000 homes, 11 golf courses, 19 shopping areas, multiple recreation centers and much more. From the beginning, Sun City was a resounding success with older homebuyers and its design was often imitated over the following decades.

These early active adult communities were designed for leisure, which typically meant golf courses, tennis courts and large recreation centers. Their sprawling grounds have plenty of space for thousands of homes and social areas provide ample opportunities for a wide range of activities and events. They were designed to be a great place to live out a vacation-style retirement.

Today, active adults are living longer and retiring later. Many residents of 55+ communities work full- or part-time jobs and may be mainly interested in a state-of-the-art fitness center and a convenient location. Smaller developments are often a good choice as they can fit into diverse areas, including more urban settings where residents can be close to work, shopping, entertainment and more.

Smaller active adult communities may include less homes and cover less ground, yet they are not light on amenities. Northeast Florida's Cascades at World Golf Village is a great example. This elegant community features just 450 homes, yet residents enjoy a 22,000 square-foot clubhouse that is packed with amenities, including a fully equipped fitness center with an indoor pool and steam room, hobby and game rooms, tennis courts and an outdoor saltwater pool and spa area.

Glenbrooke is an intimate 55 and over community in a popular area teeming with recreational activities and cultural opportunities.
Glenbrooke is an intimate 55 and over community in a popular area teeming with recreational activities and cultural opportunities.

Impressive small communities can be found in popular retirement areas throughout the country. In Northern California, Glenbrooke offers resort-style indoor and outdoor amenities, as well as a location that is just 15 miles from Sacramento. Just a few more small-but-fabulous communities include Alegria, in New Mexico, Tivoli Reserve, in Florida, and Solera at Kern Canyon, in California.

By developing smaller active adult communities, builders can also bring resort-style living to areas that are not traditionally considered retirement havens, such as Ohio, Minnesota, New York and Indiana. This gives active adults more opportunities for enjoying the benefits of an age-restricted or age-targeted community without moving away from family and familiar places.

While large golf communities continue to be popular with many homebuyers, newer communities are likely to be much smaller. And it's easy to see that these smaller communities certainly offer their own appeal.