Types of Retirement Communities
All senior retirement communities provide residents with a safe home environment, social community, and amenities; however, the specific housing, comforts, and services can look quite different depending on the kind of retirement community the older adult is seeking. For details on each type of group, see below.
Assisted Living Retirement Communities
Assisted living retirement communities offer seniors a unique combination of apartment or condo living accommodations, planned social activities, and moderate support with daily needs, such as bathing, dressing, medication management, or running errands. Additional services may include meal preparation, laundry, and transportation to medical appointments.
These communities are best suited for individuals who need more care than they can get at home or within an independent community. In contrast to a skilled nursing facility, professional healthcare personnel are not available on the facility’s grounds. Even though many assisted living residences have a nurse on staff, they’re usually not available 24/7 and cannot meet the needs of the entire community’s population.
They are also suitable for older adults who want to remain near a loved one who has dementia. This is because many assisted living communities also house memory units that are safe for older adults with early to mid-stage dementia. Still, it’s important to remember that assisted living facilities do not provide direct healthcare services for residents. They do, however, commonly coordinate with healthcare providers, such as dentists, hospice nurses, counselors, and physical therapists, to visit the facility to help with specialized care. This setup allows residents to benefit from specialized care without requiring an inpatient hospital or nursing home setting. Despite needing some assistance, seniors in assisted living facilities are encouraged to engage and interact with their community. With numerous options like fitness classes, off-campus outings, crafting classes, and other forms of recreation, residents have plenty of chances to meet new people.
To learn more about assisted living, read our guide: What Is Assisted Living?
Independent Living Retirement Communities
Independent living communities often look like everyday neighborhoods with seniors living in freestanding houses, townhomes, mobile homes, and occasionally, even tiny homes or RVs that share access to clubhouses. However, unlike a typical neighborhood, these communities consist of only individuals over the age of 55, who, in most cases, are healthy, active, and fully capable of living on their own without assistance with daily living activities.
These communities assist with certain home and neighborhood responsibilities that would otherwise fall on residents, so shared lawn care, laundry, security, and housekeeping services are included in the rent. Frequently, transportation, social programs, prepared meals, wellness coaches, and exercise programs are also part of the community services. While independent living communities are known for more affordable rent and fewer amenities, some also offer unique amenities like on-site bars, game rooms, and movie theaters.
To learn more about independent living, check out our guide to senior housing alternatives.
Age-Restricted Retirement Communities
Ideal for active seniors who want to live in a quiet place conducive to getting to know the people next door, age-restricted communities are neighborhoods that are intended for and legally limited to individuals over a designated age. Based on the Fair Housing Act and regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), age-restricted retirement communities must have at least one person who is age 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the occupied residences. Alternatively, an age-restricted community may be composed solely of individuals 62 years of age or older.
Depending on the community, residents may rent or own a single-family home, condo, townhouse or apartment. Seniors are still responsible for the interior upkeep of their homes and meal prep, but communities typically provide landscaping and neighborhood groundskeeping services. While amenities also vary by community, pools, fitness centers, golf courses, walking or bike paths, and social venues are common in these master-planned communities.
Lifestyle Retirement Communities
Certain communities cater to more than just a resident’s age; they also focus on shared characteristics, including interests, heritage, faith, and career background. Fittingly, these are called lifestyle, or niche, retirement communities, and they are best for active older adults who want to spend time on their passions and live around like-minded others.
Common lifestyle communities include those who share an affinity for hobbies like dance, health, golf or art. Some lesser-known lifestyle communities are purposefully centered in areas to help residents of the community focus on that particular group’s passions. For example, a community may be located on or around a college campus, allowing residents to enrich their minds and enjoy the intellectual environs.
Other examples include: an aviation group who may have an affiliation with a mini airport; a community of astronomy lovers who enjoy looking at dark sky spaces; and any number of unique circles of like-minded individuals, including aging hippie communities, former mail carriers, avid equestrians, and ecovillages. They’re even several 100-acre-plus properties situated across the country that are set aside for groups such as these to participate in shared experiences.