America’s Changing Vision of Retirement
A house once filled with the constant comings and goings of a growing family has become quiet. Family visits are now few and far between. The indoor and outdoor maintenance of a home is getting to be more of a hassle than you had anticipated. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to look at your living situation as you prepare for your “golden years.”
At different stages in life, your concerns about your house vary: at different times, you may think about its location and landscaping, whether it is close to community resources, and whether it allows social interaction and lifestyle consistency. If you have lived in the same home for many years, it may provide you a sense of continuity and of community, and it may also be paid for by the time you reach retirement. However, its size and upkeep—which may have been more appropriate at a time in your life when your children were still at home—may no longer suit you. You can begin to feel isolated in your family home if its location limits your access to social support systems (particularly if lifelong friends or family members have moved away).
Although housing needs change as we grow older, shelter, in any form, is always more than mere physical comfort. It is a financial, psychological, and social base that anchors our sense of stability. For this reason, some people who move to warmer climates early on in retirement later return to the familiarity of their original communities and the proximity of family and friends.
Retirement communities, also known as 55+ communities, have become a viable option to consider for people in similar situations who are thinking about downsizing. These neighborhoods or complexes, which vary from condominium-style settings to single-family homes, usually require that at least one member of the household be age 55 or older.
This type of community typically offers an independent lifestyle for healthy and active adults who do not require assistance with daily living, as provided at an assisted living facility (ALF). The Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 eliminated the requirement that these communities have “significant facilities and services designed to meet the physical and social needs of older persons.” This legislation has increased the popularity of such communities for people age 55 and over who do not require assistance with the routine activities of daily living.
Relocation of any kind requires a careful assessment of the possible pros and cons. Before selling your home to move to the newest 55+ community in your area, here are some important areas to explore and think about:
Security. Retirement communities may offer security that a typical neighborhood would not. Generally, they have security guards at the entrance of the neighborhood or building. With this added protection, you may feel more comfortable in your surroundings.
Recreation. With people living longer, retirement can be an active and fulfilling phase of life. Depending on the size, location, and affordability, some retirement communities offer world class amenities that can include a clubhouse for sports and billiards, a fitness center, an outdoor pool, and tennis and bocce courts. Many have a recreation center that organizes group activities for residents, such as movie nights, lectures, day trips, and dinner parties.
Maintenance. Although you may have once considered mowing the lawn and pulling weeds pleasurable pastimes, those same activities may not be as appealing now. Independent living communities typically take care of the landscaping and snow removal, helping residents to enjoy having a yard without maintaining it.
Costs. The services provided by retirement communities come at a cost that must be considered in addition to typical homeowners’ expenses. Usually, there are entrance fees and monthly maintenance costs (similar to condo fees), which increase your purchase price and/or monthly bills.
Limited socialization. While many people consider a 55+ active community’s lifestyle an advantage, residents without readily available transportation may view the prospect of being surrounded by the same group of people as socially confining.
Determining where you want to live in retirement is a decision that requires some serious thought. Whether you choose to stay in your home, look into various 55+ independent living communities, or choose to explore other living arrangements, it is important that you plan ahead and are comfortable with your choice.