Active Adult Communities

7/5/2022 | By Megan Mullen

In planning for changes in living arrangements as they age, senior adults and their families should be aware of their many options, including current senior living trends: outdoor spaces, affinity communities, pets, activities, and so on.

So much has changed over the years since today’s seniors were riding bikes around their neighborhoods, playing marbles and hopscotch on the sidewalks, and watching shows on a rabbit-eared, black and white television set. In the past few decades, as middle-aged adults got closer to retirement options, these options continued to evolve: the nursing home boom in the 1940s, the federal Housing Act of 1959 to expand affordable housing for older adults, and the rise of assisted living facilities, resort-style senior communities, and continuing care retirement communities.

Many of these senior living trends accompany larger trends – like the evolution of the family with fewer multigenerational homes, the aging of the baby boomer population, and even the recent Covid pandemic.

By 2030, all baby boomers will have turned 65, bringing their generation’s expectations to bear even more on how senior living will be planned and structured. Here are some senior living trends that could influence where you or your loved ones call home.

1. Aging in Place

An estimated three-quarters of 50+ adults wish to remain in their homes and communities as they age. This means adjusting for added expenses, including adaptive home fixtures, communication technology, caregiver visits, etc., to help navigate the difficulties of aging safely at home.

This isn’t new among senior living trends, though. Services have been expanding to care for seniors aging at home, such as

  • Companion care
  • Home health care
  • Adult day services
  • Transportation and errand services
  • Businesses that adapt homes to seniors’ changing in-home-care needs, such as universal design services and medical equipment providers

Coincidentally, the pandemic served to increase the availability of services that support aging in place, such as grocery delivery and curbside pickup, telehealth, Zoom and Facetime calls with friends and families, etc.

Related: Looking for aging-in-place services?

2. Intergenerational Living Options

multigenerational family at home - photo by Kiattisak Lamchan, Dreamstime. Changing senior living trends affect options for older adults and their families: outdoor spaces, affinity communities, pets, activities, etc.

During industrialization, longstanding intergenerational living traditions began to give way to diverse urban settings. Today, the concept is making a comeback among senior living trends – only with mixed generations with different backgrounds.

For example, some universities now host intergenerational university-based retirement communities (URBCs). These communities on or near university and college campuses provide degrees of involvement with the partner schools and, more importantly, students and professors.

Of course, intergenerational living still can mean aging in place surrounded by loved ones and family members.

3. Solutions for Middle-Income Seniors

A 2019 study reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation projected that a portion of the senior population who will be 75 or older in 2029 and currently receive $25,001-74,298 annually would have $62,000 or less set aside by 2029.

Why? Beth Burnham Mace, chief economist of the nonprofit National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care, reminds us, “The low-income cohort has been taken care of by tax subsidies, while the high-income cohort is largely self-sufficient. But the middle-income seniors have been ignored.”

A few co-housing solutions have emerged, such as the Village to Village Network and similar arrangements. But they can’t do enough to address all middle-income seniors’ needs.

Opus is working to provide another example of options for middle-income adults over 62. This housing option will offer over eight apartment types, from 650 to 1,350 square feet. Rather than providing all amenities on its own, the organization partners with other area organizations. Residents will be expected to volunteer about 10 hours a month, providing connections, fulfillment, and purpose.

More creative solutions among senior living trends will be needed to serve this population, offering opportunities to innovators, entrepreneurs, and policymakers.

4. New Technologies

Senior technologies, from in-home monitoring to medication dispensers and reminders to shared ride apps like Uber and Lyft, help seniors perform daily tasks – especially those who don’t often leave home. What’s more, several tech start-ups are poised to provide devices that use robotics, virtual reality, and other innovative technologies that assist aging adults.

5. Reconfigured Living Spaces

Prompted in part by the Covid-19 pandemic, senior housing architects have begun to rethink how to allocate spaces in senior living communities, including communal gathering areas that can be arranged as needed for different functions and clustered “neighborhoods” of suites to provide more close connections.

6. More Indoor/Outdoor Spaces

people on outdoor patio at senior community photo by Goldenkb Dreamstime. Changing senior living trends affect options for older adults and their families: outdoor spaces, affinity communities, pets, activities, etc.

Yet another shift in senior living trends has integrated daily living with the natural environment. As a 2015 study indicated, “Natural environments enable older adults to uphold daily structure in retirement and provide opportunities for diverse activities outside the home.” The wonders of nature will captivate anyone, no matter how old, tired, or place-bound!

7. Inclusivity

Minority groups like the LGBTQ community, while proudly out and seeking a level playing field, nonetheless struggle to be welcomed and treated with dignity and respect in many senior living facilities. Likewise, people of color, non-Christian religious backgrounds, and other marginalized groups face similar challenges.

Why live with the torment of people who don’t share your values and background and have no intention of adjusting their attitude? Whether it’s race, creed, sexual orientation, or another cultural difference, it’s wise to observe the premises and lifestyle and ask the right questions before considering moving to any retirement community.

8. Affinity Communities

Affinity communities could provide part of the answer to prejudice-informed environments elsewhere. But these locations can also serve the interests of avid hobbyists, travelers, pet lovers, and other niches. Communities like these should only grow, as more Baby Boomers retire and seek new pursuits or ways to continue their coveted pastimes.

9. Active Adults

Many of the adults who are aging into senior living communities are both physically active and technologically savvy. Senior living trends will adapt to the needs and desires of these people by adopting relevant technology and offering energetic and trendy fitness options such as tai chi, yoga, tennis, running groups, hiking excursions, and so on.

10. Pet-Friendly Living

Having a pet and discovering you can’t take them with you to a retirement community can feel heart wrenching. Imagine being in a new place, perhaps on your own for the first time, and not being allowed to share the experience with a beloved pet.

Fortunately, more senior living facilities have begun accepting pets due to the comfort and companionship that animals provide, benefiting people’s health and well-being. Today, at least 75% of for-profit senior living communities accept pets. Finding one that fits your needs and theirs can take some persistence.

The world continues to change, and options for senior living continue to expand. Finding the senior living options that work for you may be easier than ever.

Megan Mullen

Megan Mullen is a freelance writer, librarian, and former college professor. Senior life is one of her niches (and a personal interest). Megan enjoys using her writing and research skills to create well-crafted web content and other publications.