There are many names for communities designed for adults over 55. Sometimes, they're called active adult communities, implying no age restriction on the residents. Retirement communities are for retirees who usually need a higher level of care, and age-restricted communities are often referred to as 55+ communities. Many people have a lot of ideas about what 55+ communities are and what they’re not.
Here’s what you need to know about 55+ communities.
Who can live in a 55+ community?
As the name suggests, 55+ communities are designed for people over the age of 55. This means the home styles, amenities, and general layout of the community have all been created specifically to meet the needs of this demographic.
However, there are some caveats to what might seem like a hard and fast rule. First, there are some communities that enforce different age restrictions. Sometimes, the age limit is over 45 or over 50. You’ll hear these generally referred to as “age-restricted” communities, rather than “55+ communities.” Some communities may also only require one person in a relationship or marriage to be over 55, while the other partner can be younger. Almost all age-restricted communities also set limits on how often visitors under 55 can spend the night in the community in order to maintain their age-restricted rules.
55+ communities are also not restricted to retirees. In fact, as more Americans turn 55 but work until past 65, more 55+ community residents continue to work. In a 55places.com survey, representatives from Shea Homes and Del Webb said that only between 10% and 50% of their residents are fully retired. 55+ communities allow residents to live in a neighborhood with people who want a similar lifestyle.
How are 55+ communities legal?
If 55+ communities are restricting home sales based on age, prospective homebuyers might wonder if they're actually legal. The Fair Housing Act protects consumers from housing discrimination based on several factors; however, age is not one of those factors.
How are 55+ communities different than retirement communities?
The terms "55+ community" and "retirement community" are sometimes thought to be synonymous. In fact, sometimes people may be using both terms to refer to a community designed with adults over 55 in mind. However, active adult and 55+ communities are different from retirement communities or retirement homes.
Active adult and 55+ communities offer independent living with amenities that older adults may want, including lawn service, gyms or workout facilities, and a relaxed lifestyle. For housing, this means that single-family or attached homes often have first-floor master suites and easy-to-navigate floor plans, while condo buildings will have elevators.
Retirement communities or retirement homes often offer accommodations for older adults who want extra assistance in caring for themselves. This may mean full in-home care, or it may simply mean that meals are provided for residents.
Where can I find 55+ communities?
In 1954, ‘Big Ben’ Schleifer, Elmer Johns, and Francis Greer developed the first age-restricted community in Arizona. They had an idea to develop a master-planned community exclusively for retirees, and shortly, the first 55+ community was born. Shortly thereafter, Del Webb developed Sun City Arizona, the longest-running 55+ community in the country. Del Webb saw the success with their Sun City development and began expanding into states across the country.
Today, people still think of Arizona and Florida as the top locations for 55+ communities. However, developers across the country also saw the benefit of offering age-restricted communities designed to fit the needs of active adults. 55places.com lists active adult communities in all fifty states.