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Active Adult Communities & The New Consumer of Retirement Living

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 28 April 2011

A few Sundays ago, I spent the afternoon at an open house event in Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania, about a half hour from where I live. The event was to promote a new active adult/55+ community, built by a Pennsylvania-based developer, Traditions of America.

There were a number of activities offered that day: seminars on selling your home, prize giveaways/contests, chair massages, hard-hat tours, and more.

I hopped on the bus for the first hard-hat tour, eager to see the inside of the newly constructed homes-in-progress and get a glimpse into this emerging genre of senior living in which I, having served primarily at assisted/independent living communities in the past, have little to no experience.

First, I was intrigued by the people on the bus with me – and I’m sure they were equally intrigued by my presence, being that I was alone and clearly too young to be looking for a home in this community for myself. These prospective and current homeowners (many of the homes are already completed and occupied) ranged in age from 55 to 85. They were my parents’ ages and my grandmother’s age, a spectrum which I hadn’t expected to see. And yet, they bantered with one another like high school graduates visiting a college campus, all equally eager to begin this next phase of their life. I was fascinated by their interactions, and especially by their motivations for pursuing this type of setting for their retirement years.

Certainly, there is the draw of customizing your home to suit your needs and preferences, having neighbors of similar ages and interests, and the ability to watch from the window with hot cocoa in hand while the maintenance crew plows the streets and sidewalks in the winter. It makes sense.

But there were a number of other things I observed that day which further supported the logic behind choosing an active adult community…

First, I was surprised by how large the homes were, and wondered how many of these prospective homebuyers would be upgrading rather than downsizing if they chose to purchase one of three available construction styles. But, as pointed out by Nathan Jameson, Director of Operations for Traditions of America, our society’s increase in longevity and good health affords these seemingly late-blooming homebuyers “more time to build equity.”

Aesthetics are very important when considering a new home (remember my recent post on “Prepping Your Home for Sale”? The piece affirmed the importance of making your home presentable, attractive, and neutral enough for interested buyers to imagine themselves living there with their own belongings).  As one who enjoys interior decorating, I found the model homes were tastefully appointed and creatively styled, with bright colors, bold patterns, and modern furnishings that seemed to reflect the interests of a “younger” consumer – i.e. not the typical muted tones and soft florals as often seen in the model apartment for an independent living community. I’m sure many of the prospective residents were drawn in by these attractive model settings; I know I would be.

Throughout the afternoon, I discovered that many of these residents and residents-to-be had children, most of whom lived out-of-state, and many of whom had no children of their own. Without grandchildren nearby, they didn’t feel the need to stay in their former homes/communities, where, as Nathan Jameson indicated, many of these 55+ consumers feel isolated by their younger neighbors, who are in a completely different phase of their lives (i.e. raising children, pursuing their careers/advanced education, etc.).

The afternoon proved to be a fantastic learning experience for me, even though I wasn’t there to buy a home or even consider one for my parents (although I was definitely thinking of them throughout the day). The opportunity to better understand this new senior living option and the consumers who are considering it was one that I look forward to exploring further in future blog posts; to that end, I welcome your comments on the subject: Would you consider a 55+ community? Why/why not? If you are a current resident of an active adult community, what drew you in? Why do you enjoy living there? What are the drawbacks?

Look for another post on this soon…and, in the meantime, I look forward to hearing from you!

-Michelle Seitzer

There are 3 Comments about this post

  1. Angie says,

    The homes sound wonderful. I am curious if You have come across any trends in senior living that may suggest marketing to the gay consumer in a way that builds an open and affirmative living community. A great niche market for baby boomers who would likely feel a need to return to the closet in fear, or find a place that’s safe to be oneself. I just turned 40 and expect this will all be established when I go looking….in California, this may be a no brainier. In the Midwest not as much unless Its a big city like Minneapolis. Small scale however. Not the “place” I would envision…..Thoughts welcome.

     

    on 05 May 2011 / 6:06 PM

     
  2. Angie, thanks so much for commenting! I haven’t really come across the trends you mentioned, but I think it’s a very interesting point. I will do some research and perhaps do a blog post on it, because you raise a very good question as to whether these niche communities (and the subsequent marketing of them) are open, affirmative, and welcoming of people from all walks of life. I would love to hear what others think about this, about your expectation for this to be more established by the time you may begin looking for this type of community setting…very interesting. Thanks for sharing; I hope others will join this dialogue/discussion and share their thoughts too!

     

    on 06 May 2011 / 10:02 AM

     
  3. [...] week we would like to feature another great blog by Michelle Seitzer. Michelle write on many relevant topics, as seen on the “Seniors For [...]

     

    on 17 May 2011 / 9:46 AM

     
 

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