A Place for Mom
Assisted Living
Veterans Resources
Independent Living
Memory Care
About Assisted Living

Assisted living facilities offer housing and care for active seniors who may need support with activities of daily living, like bathing, dressing, and medication management.

Complete guide to assisted living
About Care Homes

Residential care homes are shared neighborhood homes for seniors who need a live-in caregiver to assist with activities of daily living, like dressing and bathing.

More about care homes
Veterans Resources

VA benefits for long-term care, such as Aid and Attendance benefits, can help eligible veterans and their surviving spouses pay for senior care.

Guide to VA benefits for long-term care
About Home Care

Home care relies on trained aides to provide companionship and non-medical care for seniors living at home.

More about home care
About Independent Living

Independent living facilities offer convenient, hassle-free living in a social environment for seniors who are active, healthy, and able to live on their own.

Complete guide to independent living
About Memory Care

Memory care facilities provide housing, care, and therapies for seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia in an environment designed to reduce confusion and prevent wandering.

Complete guide to memory care
About Nursing Homes

Nursing homes provide short-and long-term care for seniors who have physical or mental health conditions that require 24-hour nursing and personal care.

Complete guide to nursing homes
About Senior Apartments

Senior apartments offer accessible, no-frills living for seniors who are generally active, healthy, and able to live on their own.

More about senior apartments

Senior Living Communities for Active Adults

Claire Samuels
By Claire SamuelsDecember 7, 2021
Share this article:

Many recent retirees aren’t ready to commit to long days in rocking chairs or slow games of chess. Instead, these baby boomers want to stay active and social. Retirement communities are adapting to meet their needs for a fun, stylish, and carefree lifestyle — with independent living options that seem more like resorts than retirement communities.

What are active senior living communities?

Active senior living communities come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes referred to as age-restricted retirement communities, independent living communities, or 55-plus housing, they offer seniors a variety of living and lifestyle options. From apartments, condos, single-family home subdivisions, or mobile home parks, active adult living communities are great for older adults looking to age in place in private housing.

Active senior living communities typically feature:

  • Senior-friendly amenities. Many communities offer extensive perks, like resident clubhouses, activities and events, pools, tennis courts, spas, and recreation centers. These active living community amenities are often outfitted to be senior supportive. Pools may have lifts, zero-depth entry, or extra grab bars, while fitness center classes focus on low-impact exercises, like yoga and tai chi.
  • An adults-only environment. The Fair Housing Act requires at least one member of each household in an age-restricted community to be older than 55. Also, 80% of total residents must meet that age threshold. Most of these communities allow younger spouses, but they usually don’t allow children.
  • Accessibility. It can be difficult to age in place without significant home safety modifications. Units in senior living communities are often outfitted with supportive features like widened doorways for wheelchair accessibility, walk-in showers, single-floor living, and flat thresholds. Even if seniors are active and healthy, they may need these modifications later on.

Retirement communities vs. independent living communities

Retirement communities and independent living communities cater to similar demographics, and both are designed for active seniors who wish to age in private residences. They don’t typically provide medical care on-site, though they may offer options for third-party home health services. The key difference between retirement communities and independent living communities is lifestyle options.

Retirement community housing is à la carte

Many 55 and older retirement communities function like age-restricted gated developments with seniors enjoying retirement in their individually owned and maintained homes.

  • Retirement communities generally require standard rent or mortgage payments, as well as monthly homeowner association (HOA) fees, to cover community upkeep like public landscaping and amenity use.
  • Services such as yard maintenance and home repair can be performed by the resident or by the retirement community for an extra charge.
  • Most retirement community homes offer full kitchens, though there may be on-site cafés or restaurants for à la carte dining.

Independent living communities are inclusive and hands-off

Independent living is less like an individually owned home and more like a luxury apartment community or all-inclusive resort.

  • Rent at independent living communities is generally higher than mortgage or rent payments at retirement communities. However, the HOA, housekeeping, and maintenance fees are included.
  • Since transportation to appointments and community events is often provided by the facility, independent living is a great option for active seniors who prefer not to drive.
  • Some independent living communities may have partnerships with — or are located on the same grounds as — assisted living and memory care communities, allowing residents to more easily transition when they require higher levels of care down the road.

Active senior living and home health

Active adult senior living communities don’t typically provide health care. If you or your loved one is interested in either a retirement community or independent living, but you may need extra care either now or in the near future, consider the following questions to ask yourself.

  • Is in-home care an option? Seniors who already require assistance with ADLs (activitiesof daily living) but don’t yet want to move into assisted living may choose to combine retirement or independent living options with third-party home care or home health services.
  • Are there medical providers nearby? As people age, easily accessible health care is key. Seniors with preexisting conditions should always check the proximity of their potential community to nearby hospitals and medical centers, especially when specialists or specific doctors are needed.
  • Should you look into a continuing care retirement community (CCRC)CCRCs provide a continuum of health care levels. Active seniors can first move into an independent living community then transfer to on-site assisted living or memory care as needed. This is an option for seniors who aren’t interested in in-home care and think they may require additional support down the road. CCRCs often require significant payment upfront, so it’s best to consult a senior financial planner before making a decision.

How to choose an active adult community

Both retirement communities and independent living communities, once mostly located in Southern states or the Sun Belt, are becoming increasingly popular across the country. Many seniors will live in active communities for decades, so it’s important to consider these questions when choosing an active adult community for you or a loved one.

  • Which amenities are most important? Find a place where you can thrive. If you’re an avid gardener, look for full-size yards that allow resident gardening. If you’re a golfer, search for a community with a course or transportation to local clubs. The options are many!
  • Are you happy with the on-site or nearby health care providers? Since medical care isn’t typically offered by active adult living communities, make sure to check out the specialists, doctors, or home care services in the area. That way, if you ever need additional health care services, you’ll know the options are there.
  • Where do you see yourself growing old? Retirement is a time for new adventures. Would you prefer to live in a beachfront community, in manicured suburbs, or in the heart of a bustling city? With the array of community options across the country, it’s easy to picture your ideal senior living.

If you’re interested in an active adult retirement community or independent living program but don’t know where to start, contact A Place for Mom’sSenior Living Advisors to help find the best fit for you or your loved one.

A Place for Mom Senior Living Advisor

Talk with a Senior Living Advisor

Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.

Claire Samuels
Claire Samuels

Related Articles