Active Adult Communities

4/24/2023 | By Donna Brody

A new take on residential options for the over-50 crowd is on the rise. Urban senior living offers the conveniences of city life alongside the amenities of a senior-focused community.

I helped research skilled nursing facilities for my sister a few years ago, after her head injury, complicated by years of poor respiratory health, necessitated round-the-clock care. I noticed that many facilities emphasized their pastoral settings and in-house amenities and activities. Descriptions included phrases like “refreshing outdoor spaces,” “beautiful campuses,” “walking paths,” and “outdoor gardens.” Promotional materials touted amenities and activities such as on-site beauty salons and barbershops, regular movie nights, sing-a-longs and social programs, scheduled transportation, and more.

The common thread in these living options was that residents would have everything they needed on site without leaving the facility. While the convenience appeals to many, staying in one small community isn’t for everyone.

Now, a recent trend in senior living is focusing on developing housing options in urban settings.

“An urban design is a senior community in an urban area (as opposed to suburban or rural), where there is usually a bustling downtown and public transportation,” writes Ajla Basic at the Mather Institute, an organization assisting older adults with living options and aging services. “That type of design can offer opportunities to stay active, collaborate with others, and grow networking circles.”

One key factor in the popularity of senior living in an urban setting is the proximity to public transportation, which reduces the need for the residents to own or arrange for a car or wait for the community’s scheduled rides.

A couple laughing. Urban senior living offers the conveniences of city life alongside the amenities of a senior-focused community. Image by happy couple Alessandro Biascioli.

Another factor is the idea that mixed living – people of different age groups and economic backgrounds – allows the older adults to maintain a more active retirement, both socially and professionally, with friends and former colleagues. For those wanting to continue working part time or volunteering, more opportunities exist in urban areas.

One urban senior living community, Burcham Hills, is located near Michigan State University. The university and the surrounding area provide numerous cultural and educational opportunities that older residents can take part in.

Abiitan Mill City, in the Mill District of Minneapolis, touts itself as “a vital urban social club … surrounded with endless opportunities to engage with arts and culture, sports, music and concerts, shopping and countless social and cultural events.” Highlights include museum and gallery tours, concerts, and cultural programming partnerships with local organizations. Abiitan offers independent, assisted living, and memory care.

An urban senior living community in Chicago, Illinois, Sunrise Lincoln Park, boasts proximity to Chicago restaurants, shopping centers, and historical and cultural attractions as well as to the Chicago History Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Stage 773, and DePaul University, for cultural and intergenerational experiences. Sunrise also offers a range of senior living options.

Urban senior living facilities can be built taller in a city setting, allowing for more units. Currently, many of these urban communities offer primarily active adult communities, as opposed to assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, but more developments of varied levels of care and services are expected in the future.

Which senior living option is right for you or your loved one?

My sister lived in a large facility that offered skilled nursing in a suburban area 40 miles from Chicago. In the nine months she lived there before she passed away, she received excellent care from some of the most compassionate people I have ever met. For a while, she improved and was even able to leave the residence a few times. Had her health and circumstances been better, though, I know for certain she would have absolutely loved living her final years in a high rise apartment where she could hop on a bus or train and visit the zoo!

Donna Brody

Donna Brody is a former community college English instructor who retired to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She enjoys freelance writing and has self published three romance novels. Besides writing and traveling with her husband, she keeps busy visiting her seven grandchildren.

Donna Brody headshot