By Colin McCandless, Contributing Writer
REGION – Fifty-five-plus communities, also known as active adult communities, offer another potential housing option for older adults to consider as they age. Couples or individuals looking to maintain their independence who also seek a low-maintenance lifestyle and a vibrant social life might find them particularly appealing.
The Pulte Group provides both Pulte Active Adult and Del Webb 55-plus communities.
“These communities offer new construction with a mix of single-level plans in elevator-accessed buildings as well as one or two-story attached townhomes with first floor owner’s suites,” according to Ashton Khoury, Pulte Group vice president of sales in New England.
A variety of amenities
Many of these communities feature on-site amenities including clubhouses. Chauncy Lake, a Del Webb destination lifestyle 55-plus community in Westborough, features an onsite lifestyle director to plan clubs and activities.
“It has tennis and pickleball courts, an 11,500-square-foot community center/clubhouse complete with a resort-style heated swimming pool, fitness center, yoga studio, craft room, game room, outdoor grilling stations and more,” said Chauncy Lake community sales manager Jay Schildge.
Other 55-plus communities offer convenient access to the links, including Upton Ridge, a golf course community in Upton, and Emery at Cold Brook Crossing in Sudbury, which is within walking distance of Nashawtuc Country Club, said Khoury. A number of 55-plus communities are located in or near historic towns, such as Riverside Woods in Andover and Pennington Crossing in Walpole.
Select communities offer an affordable housing program for those who qualify. Riverside Woods and Upton Ridge have housing lotteries scheduled soon, the former in April, according to Schildge.
Pros and cons
Khoury outlined some of the benefits of living in a 55-plus community. “A low-maintenance lifestyle, communities with connection where it’s easy to meet people in planned activities,” he explained. “The opportunity to meet like-minded neighbors at a similar stage of life, on-site amenities, ‘right-sizing’ and personalization options with brand-new, high-quality designer finishes.” Security and peace of mind are other advantages.
“For communities offering our low-rise product, the ability to live in a secure building where buyers can lock and leave their homes with no concern,” commented Khoury. The environmentally conscious will appreciate that some community locations provide electric car charging stations.
Because you are moving into an age-specific community, one potential drawback if you have future intentions of selling your home is “as an investor, you’re limiting your pool of buyers,” Khoury explained. Additionally, if you’re accustomed to being the handy man or woman around the house, the transition to a low-maintenance lifestyle may require an adjustment for some people. Also, 55-plus communities are socially dynamic and not ideal for recluses.
Social aspect a strong attraction
Paul Busa and his wife Pam have been living in Chauncy Lake for 14 months and they relish the social aspect and camaraderie the most. “We’ve made more friends in 14 months than in our previous 30 years of marriage,” reflected Paul. “It’s not a nursing home. They have a clubhouse that’s full of activities.” Paul participates in line dancing classes and plays dominoes and Pam takes an art class and plays Mahjong regularly with a group of ladies. “There’s always something going on. It’s just been a blast.”
This particular community is pet-friendly so people would need to keep that in mind when they are researching a place. “Do your homework,” he suggested. “If you’re not a pet person, you wouldn’t want to come here.” And of course it’s designed specifically for older adults. “I love kids, but there’s no kids,” he added.
Cathy Harp was one of the first people to move into Chauncy Lake, “a pioneer,” as she puts it. St. Patrick’s Day marked two years of living there. She echoed the sentiment that socialization is a significant part of an active adult community’s appeal. “The residents here are extremely nice,” she proclaimed. “I really think overall it’s the social aspect for most of us.”
Harp previously lived in a townhouse with no pool or other amenities. Chauncy Lake’s array of activities from clubhouse offerings and socials to pickleball courts and walking trails formed a big part of the attraction for her. Chauncy Lake has even established a social committee that plans events. “There are a lot of things that people can get involved in,” Harp said. “You couldn’t ask for a better community.”
Tips for finding the right community
When people are considering a move to a 55-plus community, “typically buyers do their research first before coming in,” noted Khoury. Their team is trained to ask the right questions to help guide the discovery process. “We really try to get to the emotional reasons why buyers try to leave their house in the first place,” he asserted. He advised anyone considering the transition to a 55-plus community who is visiting communities to “look for a welcoming atmosphere, meet with current homeowners and ask questions.”
Schildge said that potential buyers who meet up to learn more about a particular 55-plus community are generally ready for a lifestyle change. “People come in because they are dissatisfied with their current living situation,” he remarked. Moving to a low-maintenance community allows for things such as “freeing up more leisure time with grandkids.”
Chauncy Lake offers a “Resident for a Day,” program which grants prospective homeowners a day pass to the Clubhouse, a chance to experience the amenities and activities, and the opportunity to meet people already living in the community to determine if it’s the right fit for them. “Lifestyle’s a big piece of the puzzle,” stated Schildge.
He said Del Webb communities use the term “right sizing,” (defined as reducing something to an optimum size—in this case a residence) rather than the phrase “downsizing” one’s home. “It’s not just about downsizing their home, it’s about downsizing their life,” he qualified. “It’s downsizing as well as adding to your life.”
Paul Busa recalled that for he and Pam, downsizing their home and jettisoning items took a little adjusting initially, but they have no regrets. “Now we realize we had so much stuff we didn’t even need. In the long run, that was a plus.”