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By 2020, U.S. households over 55 years old could reach as high as 46.6 percent of the population.

While some people associate 55+ communities with cafeteria-style cooking and dated décor, active adult communities today are more likely to resemble upscale resorts. Many feature amenity-rich clubhouses with state-of-the-art fitness centers, full-service spas and elegant restaurants. These convenient services may cost a little more, but create a luxurious lifestyle for those who can afford the added expense.

With a growing number of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, 55+ communities may become even more popular with older homebuyers. The National Association of Home Builders, expects home sales in 55+ communities to increase by nearly 25 percent this year. By 2020, they also estimate that households over 55 years old could be as high as 46.6 percent (up from 42 percent in 2012).

To meet the demand, many builders are focusing on developing active adult communities with spacious clubhouses and a wide line-up of desirable amenities and activities. Golf courses are still popular, but are no longer a necessity of a great community. Instead, sports courts cater to many interests, such as tennis, pickleball and bocce ball.

Indoor amenities also help residents stay active with impressive fitness centers, dance and aerobics studios, hobby and game rooms and much more. The amount of amenities offered can vary greatly from one community to the next, but buyers are sure to be impressed with sprawling developments like Trilogy at La Quinta, Solivita or Sun City Festival. On-site dining in active adult communities may also reflect resort-style offerings, with options designed for many needs. Elegant restaurants often highlight spectacular views and impressive menus, as well as featuring lounge areas which are perfect for pre-dinner cocktails.

More casual fare may be offered as well with on-site cafes, coffee bars or pool-side snack shops. In addition to luxurious community amenities, 55+ developments often focus on homes with upscale touches as well. Residences in active adult communities may include condos, attached villas or single-family homes. Whatever the design, most homes feature spacious master bedrooms suites with spa-like bathrooms and large, walk-in closets. Gourmet kitchens are often outfitted with high-end appliances and granite, quartz or Corian countertops. While active adult developments typically cater to those who want to downsize with small, thoughtfully designed homes, many new communities include homes in a wide range of sizes.

It is not unusual to find model homes ranging in size from barely 1,000 to over 3,000 square feet in the same community. Many homes continue to offer main-level living, with first-floor master bedroom suites, but second-story lofts are becoming a popular way to extend the living space.

Modern active adult communities have gone through many changes over the years, yet they continue to offer an environment which lets residents enjoy retirement in style.