The Best Retirement Communities
For an increasing number of people fifty-five and older, continuing care communities offer a level of care that allows those with limited capabilities to live relatively independent lives. These communities offer one or more of independent living, assisted living or skilled nursing. You can find out more about these options by visiting our Senior Living Communities blog posts. In the article below, we are referring to active adult communities, not the senior living communities that provide various levels of care.
The best retirement communities in the world are those that offer the best values in housing, as well as security, convenience, and all the other amenities. Active adult communities, whether in the USA or overseas, should be assessed in much the same fashion as we detailed for the best US cities to retire in.
In evaluating a particular place to retire, we pay special attention to these issues:
1. Location. Usually, your first step is choosing an active adult retirement community is deciding on a location, or better, a few locations. This decision may be influenced greatly by your desire to be near family and friends, or by the climate. Do you want to be near the water or mountains?
Whether the location(s) is in or near a city or small town, or even in a rural area, you will always need access to the services and amenities that the area provides. Visiting each location is absolutely essential. Check out the nearest grocery stores, banks, shopping centers, discount department stores, home improvement stores, and pharmacies. Find the closest medical facilities and hospital. Drive through the neighborhoods just outside the active adult community; these are your extended neighbors. If you have identified a few locations, then you can make your decision based on the best retirement community in any of the locations.
2. Security. Based on surveys, the number one reason why an adult prefers to move into an adult community is safety. The community will, to some degree, inherit the safety of the surrounding area. Be sure to check with the police department regarding calls in your area. Security within retirement communities can vary greatly, from open access to 24-hour manned gates and patrols. Deciding what is adequate depends on your comfort level and the local crime activity.
3. Types of Community. There are a number of types of communities based on ownership, housing types, age restrictions, amenity themes and membership communities.
- Age-restricted communities generally require at least one member of the household to be 55 or over in age (or sometimes 50+ or 60+). Age-targeted communities provide housing types and amenities favored by seniors, but have no age restrictions. The best active adult retirement communities have single family homes, villas, condos, (with elevators for multi-level buildings), and apartments that offer one-level, maintenance-free living. Don’t underestimate the maintenance-free requirement. Even though you may be quite capable of mowing your lawn, landscaping, and irrigation now, one serious illness or the progression of age-related conditions like arthritis may leave you unable to perform these tasks. Having to sell your high-maintenance home late in life could be quite a burden.
- Some retirement communities are amenity-themed and may have memberships to consider. The most popular theme is a golf community. You may find that membership is an extra expense, as are greens fees, cart rentals. In other cases, there may be country club membership dues or boat docking fees in waterfront communities, for example. HOA fees may be high to cover amenities you’ll never use, like RV storage, golf, or a marina.
- Different types of retirement communities have unique ownership arrangements. The land under your home may belong to you, to the community, or to a builder, developer or investor. In manufactured home communities, the home owner often pays rent for the land, sometimes called a land lease, or the community owns the land, or shareholders own a share in the community and non-shareholders pay land lease fees. Sometimes a community may eventually own the developer’s land, after a set number of years. Be sure to investigate the reputation of the builder, developer, and homes association.
- What are the age restrictions? How much are HOA fees? What services are covered? What other dues and fees do you have to pay? Are your guests welcome in the community and at the facilities?
4. Financial condition. Investigate the ability of the developer or association to maintain the buildings and facilities, deal with emergencies, survive economic downturns, handle external threats, as well as the funds and reserves to meet financial obligations. If possible, you (or better yet, your attorney) should review balance sheets, budgets, and minutes of board meetings to assess cash flow, delinquency issues, contingency liabilities or lawsuits, or other community issues. Linda has written a couple of great articles that provide more insight: Cautions for Buying a Retirement Home and Homes Association Perils for Buyers.
5. Rules, covenants, bylaws, deed restrictions. Part of keeping active adult retirement communities a great place to live is the enforcement of the rules prohibiting certain behaviors, activities, and situations that would negatively impact the community. One area that often causes strife is pet rules. Make sure you know and can live with all of the rules.
6. Board behavior and effectiveness. If possible, attend an association board meeting, or at least read the minutes. Does one member or clique try to run the show? Are the board members competent and congenial?
7. Amenities. We listed this last because amenities make favorable impressions that might tempt you to make a decision without considering the important factors above. Assuming your final choice(s) satisfy those first six conditions, you’ll want to find a community whose amenities enhance your particular lifestyle. You will want to know how many residents there are and what proportion is year-round. Swimming pools, tennis courts, lakes, hiking trails, fitness centers, cultural and other facility-organized social activities such as games, dances, day trips, and special interest clubs or groups may be very appealing to you. How many clubhouses are there, and are there dining facilities in the community? Make a list of what you’d want if you were putting your own community together and match it against the amenities offered by each retirement community.
Finding the best active adult retirement community is a lot easier when you conduct due diligence and address the issues above.
Our goal is to highlight some of the best active adult communities in the world. The geographic areas from which we’ll highlight communities are those that meet our warm climate criteria—palm trees and no snow, and our affordability criteria—median home prices of less than $250,000. In the USA, that includes small pockets of affordability in California; Arizona from Phoenix southward; Texas from San Antonio southeastward, Louisiana delta; and most of Florida [Over 55 Retirement Communities in Florida]. Elsewhere, we’ll highlight overseas retirement communities in Southeast Asia, northern Australia (where affordable), Oceania, central and northern South America, the Caribbean, and Mediterranean Europe. There are many cheap retirement communities in the USA, including manufactured home communities, in which housing costs are significantly below $100,000.