Once people reach the age of 55, the goal is to stay where they are for as long as possible. Individuals and couples want to find a place that is completely plausible for their current and future needs. When you feel comfortable with where you live, then you can host dinners, get involved in neighborhood activities, and volunteer in your community.
Staying at home can be a challenge if your finances are tight at retirement. It might be useful to look at the equity in your home to see if using it could help to fund your needs. Moving to a less expensive place in a 55+ community is a popular option.
When you review the pros and cons of 55+ communities, you’ll find several assisted living options available that can maintain your current quality of life. You can select a home that allows for independent living today and more care later in life when you might need it. That might mean moving away from the place where you raised a family, but it can also be an affordable method of maintaining your standard of living.
List of the Pros of 55+ Communities
1. You will have more peace of mind for your health in a 55+ community.
Medical help is never very far away when you choose to live in a 55+ community. Most retirement communities start out by giving you a self-sufficient living space to use, whether that is an apartment, condo, or house. When you become less able to care for yourself independently, then you get to transition toward a place that offers more care. That means the staff of the community can take care of your daily needs instead of forcing you to rely on your children or loved ones to do it.
2. There is more security in 55+ communities.
If you live in a typical neighborhood in a developed country, then you might have a home security system that will automatically alert authorities to potential incidents. Since you live on your own in these situations, someone might try to take advantage of your age to forcibly burglarize your home. Moving into a 55+ community gives you more peace of mind for your safety since you’re not living entirely by yourself.
You will be in a complex or neighborhood where security provisions are in place. Gated communities, guarded doors, and other provisions can help you to save money when compared to the insurance and monitoring costs of an independent system.
3. You can choose a home where the community cares for the property.
Life is often easier when you choose a 55+ community for your retirement. You’re no longer responsible for maintaining a large home or the landscaping outside. If you want your house painted, then the neighborhood will take care of that when it is needed. You might not even need to prepare meals unless that’s something you want to do. Many self-contained retirement villages offer fantastic dining facilities for you to enjoy.
Buses or cars with provided drivers could take you into town so that you can dine at your favorite restaurants. You can find scheduled activities coinciding with your meals so that there is always something fun to do while living at home.
4. A 55+ community provides you with a richer social life.
When adults reach the 55+ age, then social isolation can start happening if there aren’t others in their neighborhood at a similar age. Your mobility might not be as high as it used to be, which further limits the chances you have to get outside to start talking with people. Moving to a community that supports people at your age means you’re suddenly surrounded by a lot of people who have time on their hands and common interests.
You’ll find that 55+ communities offer plenty of group-based activities, from poker to knitting, that can help to keep you busy. Transportation to local stores and attractions are usually available, and many are near golf courses or other forms of recreation you might enjoy.
5. Some individuals and families can save money.
You might have the chance to save some money if you move to a 55+ community. Even if it does cost a little more, the benefits that you receive for the extra expense might seem like a worthwhile venture to pursue. This advantage primarily depends on the kind of retirement village or neighborhood you decide is right for you. The cost of supporting yourself in a small apartment is very different than what it takes to live in a modest house.
When you start comparing costs, make sure that you include all of your expenses into your decision. Utilities, repairs, insurance, and property taxes are all going to be different when you start living in a 55+ community.
6. Many retirement communities will welcome active people.
Some 55+ communities will accept someone younger than that age if they are part of your direct family. You might even have the option to move there with your children if they are still minors. When you move into these neighborhoods or complexes when you are still relatively active and young, then you can make friends of a similar age. It helps to make you feel like you’re at home long before there is a need for assisted living help or structured nursing care.
If you live an active lifestyle and want to consider a 55+ community, then look for age options that fit into your family’s needs. Some facilities will offer specific benefits for younger people, like an on-site fitness center, so you can stay as active as you want to be.
7. It can be an all-inclusive experience.
One of the best advantages of living in a 55+ community is that everything you need can be included in the cost of living there. The experience can be one that is similar to a resort that provides full amenities. That’s why it can be a fantastic way to age in place, especially if there isn’t a support system available for them. Everything is taken care of when you choose this option, including laundry, housekeeping, and even utilities in some situations.
People who move to a 55+ community often get to pick and choose what services they prefer to receive with their new home.
8. There could be options for organized travel.
It is not unusual to find widows and widowers living in a 55+ community because of their unique family or social needs. Living by oneself can be challenging, especially if you’re in the same home where you built a life. Moving to this option can help some people begin to move on to their next stage of life, which means meeting new people and traveling to new places. Most seniors and retirees enjoy the sense of community that comes by design with this living option, especially since there is still some respect for their living space.
9. This living arrangement can support a wide variety of health needs.
A 55+ community that is well-run will offer the flexibility to care for spouses or partners that might have different care needs than your own. If a couple moves into the neighborhood together with unique needs, then this option allows them to continue living together instead of forcing them apart. Even if someone needs to move into a higher-care facility in the community, there is still daily contact with each other and all of the social benefits of this structure to enjoy.
List of the Cons of 55+ Communities
1. It is usually more expensive to live in a 55+ community.
You can downsize when moving to a 55+ community from your current home, but that doesn’t mean your overall costs each month will go down. When you factor in every expense, it is not unusual for your expenses to rise when you choose this living option. If you need or want advanced care available, then it becomes even more costly. When you consume more services, then you’ll pay for the experience while maintaining the highest level of independence possible. You’ll want to receive a complete breakdown of all expenses if you suspect your budget is going to be tight.
2. If you don’t like social opportunities, then living in a 55+ community can be challenging.
When you live in a retirement community, then you have opportunities to make instant friends. You’re going to become part of a neighborhood where everyone, in theory, supports each other every day. This setup is not something that everyone likes, especially if your preferences are to interact with young people or have friends of all ages. Some people find that it can be depressing to watch people become frail as they get older, especially if their independence shrinks away while yours does not.
3. You might need to move away from your loved ones.
There are 55+ communities across the United States and around the world to enjoy, but that fact doesn’t guarantee that you have one close to home. You might need to move further away from your friends and loved ones, which means seeing them might not happen as often as you like. It is not unusual for distant family to stop visiting once the miles seem like they’re so far away. Talking with them on the phone or on a video call isn’t the same as having that person next to you.
4. Most communities ask you to give up at least some level of independence.
If you enjoy having complete independence, then you’ll want to look carefully at the terms and conditions of the 55+ community you’re considering. Most people find that they need to give some of their choices up because there are specific rules or regulations that they must follow. Some people equate the experience to staying in a hotel. You’re free to come and go as you please, but consequences can happen if you’re loud between the hours of 10 pm to 6 am.
Some people find that a 55+ community is too noisy or busy for their preferences. People who enjoy having quiet and solitude tend to experience this issue most often. Some personalities don’t fit well into these neighborhoods. That’s not a criticism of the individual – just a reflection that some personal needs are different than others.
5. Some 55+ communities might not offer the best care.
The staff at many retirement communities aren’t earning a generous salary, so there can be high turnover rates. That means you might not have access to the most skilled caregivers when you move into the neighborhood or complex. This disadvantage doesn’t mean you should avoid the concept entirely, but it does mean you should look at the reputation, reviews, and ratings that one receives before making any decisions.
Ask questions about how high the staffing turnover rate is for the facility. You’ll want to look into the training that employees receive. Are background checks performed before hiring someone?
6. It forces the caregiving role onto someone else.
Family members don’t mind the caregiving role in most circumstances because they are providing services for someone they love. When parents, siblings, or other family move into a 55+ community, then that role transitions to a paid service worker. Although these communities encourage an active, healthy life, it is still a challenge to see people begin to slowly lose their self-sufficiency and freedom.
Many family members might not be equipped to move some people into their homes or provide the level of care necessary for a successful experience. A 55+ community can make that happen while meeting each person’s medical, social, and emotional needs.
7. There are financial risks to consider with a 55+ community.
There can be substantial financial risks involved when deciding to work with a 55+ community. If the organization isn’t financially viable, then everyone runs the risk of losing their entire investment in a bankruptcy. You’ll want to see if your preferred provider is a non-profit or for-profit entity before making a final decision about moving.
Communities that operate on the basis of profit will always create the possibility of a sale that voids or changes your contract. When a non-profit operates the facility, then they rely on monthly fees and initiation charges to continue operations. That means a low occupancy rate would also threaten your investment. You might not own your home either, which leaves little protection if the organization shuts its doors.
8. You will have a substantial entrance fee to pay.
When you move to a 55+ community, there is almost always a significant entrance fee that is part of the arrangement. The total cost can be well above $1 million based on the home you want and the health and support services you need. The entrance fee is nonrefundable, and monthly maintenance fees all contribute to the financial obligations that occur with this option.
Because you’re taking a gamble financially later in life, it might be something that doesn’t pay off in the long run. That means your loved ones might not inherit as much as they expect when you eventually pass on to whatever the next level of existence happens to be.
9. There might be excessive rules to follow.
Most retirement communities have a set of rules you must follow that are similar to strict HOA requirements. You might be told where to park, what vehicles you can have in your driveway, or what color your house can be. Make sure that you receive a copy of the neighborhood’s rules so that you can be sure that you agree with them before moving. Pay close attention to whatever clauses there are about children since your grandchildren would most likely want to visit you if they are in the area.
When reviewing the pros and cons of 55+ communities, it is essential to remember that there are some hard truths to face as people get older. There are times when you must move into this kind of facility or neighborhood because a higher level of care becomes necessary. If your loved ones cannot or will not provide you with the assistance needed, then checking into this option may be a necessity.
Make sure to take the time to review as many of them as possible to see which ones will fit the best. You have financial and lifestyle considerations to review in these circumstances. Then visit each one in person, even if the facility is halfway across the country, before making a final decision. Just because it looks like you would fit in on paper doesn’t mean you can do so when you’re there in real life.
Transitions are always difficult to manage in life. Leaving your family home to live in a 55+ community isn’t always an easy choice to make. When you consider each point in this guide, at least the process can begin by putting your best foot forward.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.