Active Adult Communities

3/21/2022 | By Terri L. Jones

When a younger you went house hunting, you probably searched for plenty of space – both interior and exterior – top-notch school systems, and proximity to work. But now that you’re scouting out your perfect retirement home and ideal community, you have different priorities. You need a home that fulfills your wants and needs now as well as in the years to come.

Below are five important factors to consider as you seek what may be your last (and hopefully best!) home:

Tips for finding your perfect retirement home

Single family, semi-detached, multi-residential …

Do you want the privacy and yard of a stand-alone detached house or are you looking for a semi-detached home, like a condominium or townhouse, or even an apartment? Single-family detached houses typically provide more space, while the other options allow you to downsize square footage and maintenance.

To settle on which kind of home you prefer, consider what rooms you need. In addition to bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and a living area, do you want office, hobby, or garage space? Will you have frequent overnight guests? Will your house be the gathering place for family and friends? Also consider how much stuff you have to store. While a professional downsizing service can help you prune your possessions, you may still need space for items like suitcases, books, and bicycles and other sports gear.

If you’re considering a condo or apartment after decades in a single-family detached home, consider the challenges that such a change might bring. Marian Schaffer, founder of Southeast Discovery, helps retirees and pre-retirees find new homes in the southeastern United States. Shaffer cautions that in multifamily spaces, you have to be prepared for common walls and potential noise issues, and you’ll have to adhere to more rules. “Over time, [living in a shared building] becomes nails on a chalkboard for some,” Schaffer told U.S. News & World Report.

Easy street

How much time do you want to spend on upkeep? Responding to seniors’ desire to travel, volunteer, and simply do whatever they want, low- and no-maintenance communities take care of exterior maintenance, some or all yardwork, snow removal, etc. for the price of a homeowners’ association (HOA) fee. It’s all the benefits of homeownership without many of the hassles! These communities often offer a range of options for your perfect retirement home, from single-family detached to condos and apartments.

If you enjoy yardwork or just don’t want to spend your hard-earned money on an HOA fee, U.S. News & World Report suggests that you at least consider how long you’ll be able to do the work yourself, who can do it when you no longer can, and, most importantly, how much that option will cost.

Location. Location. Location.

What type of community will your perfect retirement home be in? Many retirees prefer an area that gives them a sense of camaraderie and promotes socialization – whether it’s in the neighborhood itself or around the block at restaurants, churches, or cultural events. Living within walking distance of stores and other conveniences makes life easier and safer and encourages you to get some exercise. A walkable community is a real bonus for those who can’t or prefer not to drive, too.

As you age, it’s also important to choose a home that is in close proximity to medical facilities, and if you’re a frequent traveler, an airport nearby is a huge bonus.

Aging in place

Maybe you don’t need special accommodations now, but certain universal design features like fewer or no steps and wider doorways and hallways will allow you to remain safely and independently in your home as you age. Houses with first-floor masters ensure easy access despite changes in mobility. Having all living spaces on one level is even more helpful.

Look for details in your perfect retirement home that support aging in place: such as kitchen countertops that give you the option to sit as well as stand; well-lit rooms; and outlets and storage areas that are easily accessible without bending or climbing on stepstools. Bonus points for doors with lever-style handles as well as grab bars in the bathroom. On the other hand, these adaptations can easily be made later with the help of a good handyman or contractor.

Related: Use the Seniors Guide Care Assessment to identify your best path forward

Fulfill your dreams

Maybe you’ve always wanted to live at the beach or in a high-rise in the city. Have you longed for a three-car garage or been green with envy over your friend’s gourmet kitchen? Now’s the time to check these things off your bucket list.

But before you make an offer on your “dream home,” be sure it will continue to be the home of your dreams for as long as you live there. Once you’ve unpacked, you probably won’t want to move again anytime soon!

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide. She also writes for many other local magazines and publications.

Terri Jones