4 Reasons Why I Won’t Be Moving to a 55+ Active Adult Community

When you think about what type of community you plan to live after you retire, what comes to mind?

Are you giving serious consideration to living in an age-restricted 55+ active adult community?

Chances are, the younger you are today, the less likely you are to choose such a community after you retire.

As I write this, I am 59 and my husband is 57. We have no desire to move to one of these communities.

Occasionally, I bring this question up in conversations with friends who are our age or perhaps slightly older. No one we know is planning to live in one, either.

Speaking for myself, here are four reasons why I am opting to live out my retirement years in the community-at-large, not an age-restricted enclave.

1.      They are too remote.

We live in Chandler, which is a suburb located about 20 miles southeast of Phoenix, Arizona. Overall, we like it a lot, but occasionally we talk of moving closer to town to be closer to most of our friends and activities. We drive into Phoenix or Scottsdale often for band rehearsals, theatre, restaurants, or visiting with friends, and living closer to downtown Phoenix would shorten our drive.

On the other hand, most 55+ active adult communities in the Phoenix area are located on the outskirts of town. Sun City, Sun City West, Sun City Grand, Sun Lakes, Pebble Creek, Leisure World, and dozens of smaller communities sit on the edge of outer suburbia. Most of them are built on land that was available in larger masses and at lower prices, due to their remote locations.

Most retirement communities in other states are either built in previously undeveloped areas (such as The Villages in Florida) or on the outskirts of towns. For these communities, self-containment is the objective.

2.      The Home Owner’s Association (HOA) fees are too high.

We don’t play golf, tennis, or pickleball, nor would we probably avail ourselves of many of the activities held at the recreation centers. We would be paying for amenities we wouldn’t use.

What’s worse, for land-lease communities (such as most manufactured home and mobile home communities), the monthly fees are higher because they include rental of the land your home sits on. You’ll be paying that for the duration of your residency, and you’ll be at their mercy for price increases.

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3.      We want to stay in the mainstream.

We enjoy the mix of people in all age ranges that we interact with in our bands. The younger folks in our bands are friendly towards us, and knowing them enables us to keep up with current culture and trends. Being around younger people keeps us youthful (relatively speaking).

We enjoy being part of a diverse population that we see when we are out in the community.

At the risk of sounding ageist, we don’t want to associate only with older people.

I have often read the claim that you are the average of the five people you hang around with the most, and I believe this to be true. I think that’s true in a wider context as well.

4.      We are concerned about not fitting in with the retirement community crowd.

Based on everything I’ve seen and read, 55+ active adult communities are overwhelmingly white, straight, Christian, and Republican. We are not part of three out of those four demographics. And while many white, straight, Christian Republicans might be welcoming of two married gay, non-Christian Democrats, many aren’t.

We don’t want to live the rest of our lives in a community in which we would feel marginalized or even ostracized. Of course, if most non-white/straight/Christian/Republican people eschew these communities, they won’t change.

I don’t think we would be any more attracted to a 55+ active adult community that was comprised almost entirely of LGBT, non-Christian Democrats either. We expect that we will be happiest in the community-at-large, where there is a wider range of ages, ethnicities, orientations, religions, and political viewpoints.

Truthfully, a Democratic majority does have its appeal, but that doesn’t stop us from living in a predominately Republican part of town now.

Golf carts are the primary mode of transportation in 55+ active adult communities such as The Villages, Florida.

Golf carts are the primary mode of transportation in many 55+ active adult communities such as The Villages, Florida.

Are 55+ active adult communities losing their appeal?


If you are considering moving to an active adult retirement community, I recommend reading Leisureville: Adventures in America’s Retirement Utopias, by Andrew D. Blechman. (This book was retitled Leisureville: Adventures in a World Without Children for the paperback and Kindle editions.)

The copyright date on this book is 2008, which means the data quoted in the book is over ten years old now. At that time, “active adult” housing was the fastest growing sector of the housing market.

However, back then there were already signs that the demand might be abating, even though an estimated 10,000 people turn 65 every day.

According to a generational marketing expert quoted in the book, people from pre-Baby Boomer generations (and perhaps the earlier Baby Boomers) valued conformity and community. They viewed retirement as a time to just kick back and relax after a long work career. Many of the people Blechman interviewed at The Villages in Florida expressed a keen desire to live with no children around. They flocked to communities such as The Villages and Sun City.

People approaching and entering retirement today and those who will follow want anything but a giant one-size-fits-all age-segregated, planned community. They want homes that meet their unique needs, a more “authentic” lifestyle experience, and to be closer to families and friends.

People entering retirement today want purpose and fulfillment. They are more active, adventurous and individualistic. Today’s retirees are more likely to be starting businesses, pursuing creative passions, and exploring the world.

And just as the people entering retirement today rebelled against the “establishment” in the late 60s and early 70s, they are now rebelling against the old notions of what retirement should look like – including moving to age-segregated communities.

Today’s retirees don’t even think of themselves as being “older.” I know I don’t.

Of course, this is how I feel at age 59. When I’m 75, I might feel very differently. And perhaps active adult communities will evolve significantly over the next 10-15 years to embrace the desires and the diverse demographics of today’s America.

So far, I don’t see signs that this is happening.

What are your perceptions of 55+ active adult communities?

Are you considering moving to one – or have you? Why or why not?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


© 2016 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

Photo credits:
Sun City: Jack Miller. Some rights reserved.
The Villages: Ted Eytan. Some rights reserved.

59 Responses

  1. Hanalei Ryan says:

    I appreciate this point of view and it solidifies my decision to not relocate to a 55plus community. Being an outside the box thinker and the CEO at a very high stress firm, the concept of choosing activities from a preplanned daily menu sounded appealing as I am predisposed to working and have never planned leisure activities. I felt like I would be more inclined to become socially active. What I noticed when researching the Villages in Florida was that there seemed to be a LOT of retired military and retired government, people that I would not normally choose as friends. They are accustomed to teamwork and having everything planned out and I can see how they would acclimate very well to a 55 community. Free thinkers not so much.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Hanalei,

      This is an astute observation. I agree with you that 55+ communities would be a better setting for people who like to have things organized and planned, and who value structure and conformity. They’re not so good for free-thinkers or those who don’t conform as much one way or another.

      Neither is bad, they’re just different. And it’s a continuum, not either/or.

      Thanks!
      Dave

  2. judith bean says:

    We sold our beautiful home in the Oakland Hills [a 1920 Tudor], and moved to a 55+ community [Jubilee], outside of Olympia, Washington. My husband was tired of working on the house [or worried about it in our future years- although the house is now worth 1million,,350 thousand !!..and we could have easily maintained it] . Also we thought living in a community with people our own age “would be fun and we’d be doing so many great things” !…Well…The first 2 years were OK- with people going out of their way to meet and talk to you..then that stopped….and the cliques and gossip started !!…, and living here wasn’t so fun anymore!
    We ‘toughed it out’,for 8 years [I wanted to move the 3rd year, but my husband was stubborn & said no, so I’ve just ‘endured’ living here, but it hasn’t been fun. Also, many, many people have moved off our block or, died, or come down with serious diseases-and that has been depressing and hard…We have finally had it- and my husband can’t take living here any longer either-[thank God we are now on the same page !] so we are going to sell our home and be moving outthis Spring 2024-.and back to the San Francisco Bay Area- where there is more diversity in age, cultural backgrounds and interest.

    Also, a very important factor: We both feel that we have aged greatly living in a 55+ community- we, feel depressed and ‘so old’ since moving from sunny California -[+ the overcast weather hereday after day here doesn’t help!]
    We need to get back to a ‘normal life’, around ‘normal people’ and not feel so isolated as we have these last 8 years…[I’m a Nurse, and after a while I felt I was in a convalescent hospital setting !!]..so it’s time for us to go back ‘home’, to California get another convertible as we did before, and back to the sun again and start living happily as we did before our move up here. I would advise anyone thinking about a 55+, to not sell their homes- to rent it out- [as we wished we had !], so they have a place to return to if it doesn’t work out…

  3. Missy says:

    Thank you for bringing this issue to light. I’ve been thinking of making a move to a 55+ community, but haven’t been able to take the plunge. I think it’s the artificial environment, where planners decide on the activities. I wouldn’t indulge because I have a very active life, which would set me apart or cause issues. I don’t judge others who find these communities enjoyable but I’m glad to see I am not alone in my doubts that it would be right for me. It’s not for everyone but then nothing is.
    Thanks again!
    M

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Missy,

      Thanks for your comment. I think you summed it up well with “It’s not for everyone but then nothing is.” It is a good fit for some people.

  4. Ginny Cleary says:

    Hello to everyone that posted their opinions or their experience of living at a 55 & up community. I am a person that has lived in various home dwellings, Condo, house with a yard/garden back porch. and apartments. But I moved for the first time into a Seniors 55 & up Apartment community three years ago, and this is definitely “not” for me. I love to mingle and be around the diverse of people of different ages, various ethnicities/culture/races, various religions, and folks with different education, talents and interests. I don’t want to come across as a “whiny old grandma”, but too many of my neighbors are sadly boring and depressed. They seem to not have any interests in life, and “complain constantly”.
    “Life is too short” therefore I want to be around more people that “appreciate every sunny day” or be able to laugh with the rain. Yes, at my age I too have Arthritis pain throughout my body, but I choose to not verbally complain and deal with it by singing with my music from the radio or C.D.’s. My other favorite hobby when I feel a little down is to put on some of my favorite COMEDIANS. “Laughter is wonderful for my mind and heart”. To all of you out there that are 55+, I wish you more days of “joy”.

    GinnyViv

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Ginny,

      I love your positive outlook! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

      Dave

    • judith bean says:

      Hi Ginny,
      We totally agree with what you said.. We’ve lived in this 55+ community now for 8 years, and have finally ‘had it’ !… We feel we have aged since being around such negative, uninteresting and ‘like my life is over’ kinds of people…Also, the cliques and gossip mill- has just been horrible…it really has taken a toll on my mental health, and so we are selling our home [at least it doubled in value !!], and moving back to San Francisco Bay area with it’s sun, fun and diversity of ages and cultures [how we have missed this sooo much !!]… You mentioned playing your music.. and I am a gardener…and always have my classical music going while I garden… The first week in my garden I had my music on and was happy…The next day the lady across the street said “hello were you outdoors yesterday?” I said “Yes, I was gardening”..and she said [in a snotty tone of voice]…”Yes, we know….we Heard You !” …OMG- I should have just left then, right ? As you said: “Life is too short” to put up with this kind of stuff…

  5. Julie says:

    Not everyone is blessed to have a still-living partner, family and friends. Reading about how you’re so lucky does little to help others except to allow those who have community to count their blessings.

  6. Kim Berg says:

    I love children. I’m a recently retired elementary school teacher with ten beloved grandchildren. Too many people are pushing the false notion that those who retire to age-segregated 55+ communities are doing so to avoid both children and diversity while embracing conformity and inauthentic experiences. This could not be further from my experience. We are individualistic, active, adventurous, newly-retired, early Gen Xers and LOVE living in the age-segregated community of Sun City West. We moved from a family neighborhood where we had little connection with the busy young families surrounding us to this lovely, lively 55+ community where we can be as connected as we chose to be and couldn’t be happier. We have purpose and fulfillment beyond anything we could have dreamed of in our younger days. It’s truly wonderful living in a place that offers the opportunities and amenities that were not available to us in our previous “mainstream” neighborhood and throughout our earlier working lives. We’re not stuck in a “bubble” from which we will become out of touch with the mainstream world and younger generations. That is a ridiculous assumption! Our community here bolsters our ability to pursue our passions with those who, at similar life stages, share our interests. We have a wonderful and ever-growing group of friends who range in age from 52 to 89. I don’t know what religious or political affiliations our friends hold because we’re connected by what truly matters – our shared passions and place in the world. Perhaps this active, independent lifestyle is not for everyone, but I believe there are enough Boomers and Gen Xers like me to keep the demand strong for these active adult communities.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you’re having such a good experience in Sun City West. I have a few friends who live in Sun City and Sun City West, and they like it. Clearly, these communities are great solutions for some.

      I’ve driven around SC and SCW many times. I actually considered moving there. (I live in Chandler, on the other side of the Phoenix metro area.) One thing that struck me is that these aren’t gated communities and the rest of suburbia has grown around them. Therefore, they’re more integrated into the larger community. Others, particularly in the southeast, are gated communities that are more remote and therefore more insular.

  7. Liz says:

    Hi Dave,
    I retired a year ago and am happy in my post-work life, but I am a people-lover with many friends and am far more extroverted than my husband, who has a tight but very small group of friends, has little interest in establishing any new friendships, and is happiest only venturing out around other people occasionally.

    Few of my friends live close by, we are childless, and I find myself longing for a tighter community to live within, preferably one containing some of my favorite friends. I don’t want to live in a typical 55+ community, but would love to know of other ways people establish their own communities within a larger community (buying up land and subdividing, for instance, or taking on an apartment building or complex). If you know of any viable plans like these that I could learn from, I would be most appreciative. Thanks much.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Liz,

      One concept that’s gaining a little bit of momentum is called “co-housing.” Basically, it’s a small community (maybe 10-30 units) where people have their own apartments, but there’s also a common area where people gather and have group meals, play games, watch movies, etc. People build connections and help each other out with things like chores, driving to appointments, checking in on each other, etc.

      I have friends on the verge of retirement who just bought and renovated a house together with another couple they’ve been friends with for years. The four of them are now living together – sort of like a “Golden Girls” scenario, but with two couples rather than four singles. This has it’s advantages, but I’d want to be really sure everyone knows each other well and there are written agreements in place.

  8. Adrian says:

    While I respect all the opinions of the people that wrote here and their grievances, and also your arguments about not wanting to retire in one of these communities, I frankly don’t understand some of the complaints and whining. I mean some of these people that wrote here, ARE EXACTLY PART OF THE PROBLEM, if all they notice is gossiping, mischievous atmosphere, politically loaded conversations, etc. No offense, but that means THEY WERE PART OF IT. I mean, what do you care? It’s A PLACE, A HOUSE, for God’s sake. You have your own backyard, kitchen, bedroom,separation. You ARE NOT confined to that community. There is no curfew. You can jump at anytime in your car and drive to any cool pkace in Phoenix or Scottsdale or Sedona or drive to Palm Springs, or whatever. Nobody stops you, novody forces you to be part of anything. People that complain about the bullying and gossiping might be just weak individuals, lacking self esteem,in look for self validation. The only difference in tbose communities is that you have access to amenities and places where you can actually SEE AND MEET someone from your proximity, someone relatively close in age and interests. They might be on your liking or not, if they are you click, if they are jot just move to a different pool chair or bar stool. I don’t think they gonna come and burn a cross on your lawn out of revenge. I mean, what exactly can you do from Chandler that I couldn’t do from Sun City? You can buy tickets at a Broadway show and I cannot? You can go at dinner at The Phoenician and I cannot? The only difference is that, in a ” normal”, neighborhood house, you are ALONE with your spouse in your backyard or living room, waiting for a friend’s visit maximum 3-4 times a year( let’s be honest, Americans don’t just visit each other like in other countries) and sometimes you go out OUT OF BOREDOM, to seek social presence in a restaurant, bat, theater. Where you see other people that are doing the same thing, whom you have a minimal interaction with, and you all go back to your isolated homes at the end of the day. While in a retirement community AT LEAST YOU HAVE A CHANCE, of hanging out with more people, making more connections, making more friends.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Adrian,

      You make a lot of good points here. You’re correct that each individual or couple has the opportunity and the responsibility for making their situation what they want it to be. Sometimes people are part of their own problems.

      That said, a characteristic of Sun City, Sun City West, Sun Lakes, and others is that they’re not gated and the rest of suburbia has filled in around them. They’re more physically integrated with the city at large and, as you stated, it’s not difficult to drive in to theaters, concerts, or whatever else you want to do. Many others, in other parts of the country, are gated communities and/or in more remote locations. They don’t have as much close by and tend to be more insular.

  9. Linda says:

    This article and the reviews are right on. Several years ago when I was 60, I moved to one of those senior apartment buildings. I live alone, my husband has to live in a facility because of a severe TBI. I thought I would try it. I loved my apartment and the view, but that’s where it ended. They had one or two nice staff, otherwise the staff and management were disrespectful, bullies and ageists. I had to avoid them as much as possible.

    The management and staff would just walk into a resident’s apartment without their consent. I had to use a lock on the inside of my door to protect my privacy. Complaining and threatening to call the police made little difference. It stopped for awhile, only to start again later.

    From the first few weeks I lived there I felt like I was back in junior high school, complete with the cliques, gossips who love spreading rumors and just rude, childish people who hung out in the halls and the lobby. The more mature, kinder people avoided the lobby. One resident told me how hard it was for her to walk past them. It was difficult to make friends. You lose the ability to trust people. I still worked and I’m very independent, I audit classes and attend lectures at a nearby college, I’m a musician, so I didn’t fit in. I actually had 2 women residents stalk and harass me. After a few years the owners refused to renew leases, forcing residents to sign a service agreement for assisted living, divulge their finances and accept a huge raise in their rent or move out. A lot of residents left, including me. Why would independent people want to live in assisted living?!

    Since then I’ve lived in a regular apartment complex with all ages and I love it. I will never go to one of those horrible places again. They claim these senior living places are good for mental health. I say that’s BS. I think a big downside to those places is the mentality could make your brain age even faster, especially if you’re someone who is prone to conformity, because that’s what it’s all about. I think the owners of some of these places want that to happen. It’s easier for them to take advantage. I think living with diversity is so much healthier mentally.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you had to endure such horrific treatment, but glad that you are in a better place now.

      Best regards,
      Dave

    • Jim Hayes says:

      I completely agree Linda. I live in a homeownership community near the Villages in Florida. I love my home and the grounds are nice but that’s where it ends. The area is lacking in amenities, health care, infrastructure and transportation. It is to far away from a city and that’s causing it to actually be more expensive to live. I have to drive and drive miles to everything here. The people in the communities which is very large are primarily what you expect. White conservative couples, widows and widowers. A rather churchy type population to an extent. It seems many of the singles seem to be overly interested in hooking up. It’s like a high school setting. It’s gossipy and overly political and its one sided politics as are all Florida Retirement communities. The ambulances are in and out all day long taking these retirees to the ER. I feel like a fish out of water here there is no diversity of people, mindsets and on and on. Like I said though my house definitely fits my needs and selling and renting elsewhere isn’t possible. The rents in the USA are outrageous and much more than my mortgage. So its like I hate to say it. Im rather Stuck in Florida. That is until the homeowners insurance problems here literally price me out of living here, which is probably going to happen soon.

    • judith bean says:

      Linda,
      My husband and I couldn’t agree with you more about 55+ communities. It’s like being back in Jr. High school again, with the cliques and gossip !! We live in Jubilee outside of Olympia, Wa. and it’s so boring !!…. and they promised so many things as far as mental stimulation, etc… We, like you, feel we have aged tremendously living here has been very hard on our mental health and our marriage.
      We will be selling our home this Spring ’24, and moving back to sunny California- San Francisco/East Bay area- where we moved from and loved..getting another convertible and taking beautiful drives down the Pacific coast for lunch, and more.. ..let the fun begin.!!.. I’m so glad you moved out of that horrible place and are happy where you are now living…!!

  10. Marilyn Westhoff says:

    These comments were very enlightening. I have thought about these communities as I am in my seventies and alone,no family for 1200 miles. I have had my suspicions about them and after reading these comments will not be moving into one. I too like my privacy,diversity and having younger people around. The other problem is it seems most of them are in the middle of nowhere,leaving a person with little choice but their activities. I like having a large variety of things nearby. Will just stay in my home until I run out of money to maintain it then probably move to an apt. in a city

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Marilyn,

      Thanks for your comment. These 55+ communities may be a good choice for some people, but based on the reasons you stated and what you want for your life, probably not. Good luck!

      Dave

      • Sandra Roseburg says:

        People are healthier and living longer. The fact remains that those retiring at 55 live for about 6 or 7 years more. They give up their jobs, homes, friends, and all that’s familiar. The 55+ community is a relic. I’m 76 and plan to retire this year from college teaching. I want diversity, independence, and individuality in my life. I am so glad I discovered your site. It’s good to know there are many others who don’t want to retire to 55+ pre-planned communities.

    • elizabeth a carson-bird says:

      I am 71 and recently talked to a friend of mine about moving to a retirement 55+ villa community. She and her husband love it, on the other hand, I live with my handicapped husband on a small farm. I raise my own chickens and vegies. I still teach at the local Jr. College. Her HOA fees are out of site and she spent over 100,000 dollars more for her villa than our farm is worth. It seems like not a very good trade for the so-called activities. But she loves her card games and donut Sundays. All I know is that I could not grow my gardens, or hear my rooster, Caesar, crow in the morning, or ride my horse. To each his own.

      • Dave Hughes says:

        Hi Elizabeth,

        You’re right – to each, his/her own. Many communities have strict rules about what you can and cannot do on your property. Some places may allow gardens, but I’ll bet most would forbid chickens.

        They’re a good choice for some people, but certainly not everyone.

        Thanks,
        Dave

  11. Donna Roy says:

    I’m 62 and am in my 3rd active retirement community. I keep thinking I will find the “right” one, but am on the verge of my next move: to a regular family apartment community. Problem with 55+ communities: racism, cliques, constant gossip, too much focus on physical limitations and illness, complaining becomes a way of life, and I feel I have lost contact with the real world. Too many 55+ adults are no longer interested in personal growth. They are entrenched in religious cult-like values and beliefs, they are dogmatic about politics, and if I don’t camouflage my true interests, they certainly let me know I don’t fit in. At regular family/working adult communities there is a better racial mix, interest in sports, cookouts, youthful ideas, and I feel much younger myself when living there. I like to look out my window and see people jogging, riding bikes, playing with their kids, actually using the swimming pool and sports equipment, and talking about LIVING, not DYING. Makes a big difference in my outlook and vitality.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Donna,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m sorry that your experience hasn’t been more satisfactory.

      Your comments are similar to several others I have received. I’m sure there are many people who like these communities and find them to be a good fit or else they wouldn’t be so popular. But they aren’t one-size-fits-all. My impression is that the people who do best in them are the ones who closely match the demographics of the people who already live there.

      I’m with you regarding the vitality the comes with living in a age-diverse environment. Growing old, maladies, and dying are part of life, but they don’t need to be the focus.

      Best wishes on your next move. I hope you find someplace you like for the long term.

    • VetMom says:

      My financial advisor warned me (I’m 56 now)I wouldn’t last and EVERYONE thinks racism is part of it since I’m the only AA!! I love my renovated condo and area but wasn’t prepared for the ignorant high school jealous behavior!! The click hijacked my disability assigned parking on Thanksgiving and acted as if they had every right to use it!! I called police! I’m still angry! Civil Rights investigator forced parking company to issue violation but the buddy click and HOA still act like I overreacted on a holiday for their buddy in my bldg?! No one thinks I should let these jealous idiots run me out as a 100% disabled vet but I hate looking at these people so down the road I see me moving!!! Tired of nosey women ambushing me at my car with nosey questions! Can’t decorate without someone wanting to copy or beat my design!! I told my financial advisor he won but he feels bad because my reno is so nice!! Nosey jealous gossiping male neighbor told me he heard allergies got my nice Penthouse floor approved so all of them can get Drs statements! HOW INSULTING HE WAS WRONG and I put him in his place!! My children want me to stay but I’m VERY angry and insulted I’m not allowed to be better….yes renos have started!!!

      • VetMom says:

        I also meant to add NO ANIMALS next move because I don’t want a dog on me after surgery!! These people assume I want dogs on me and it aggravating! Now I stand back until they get the dog away from me!! They use dog walking to be nosey as well

        • Dave Hughes says:

          Wow. I’m sorry to hear you have had such a rough time.

          From what I’ve heard from you and others, nosey neighbors are a common complaint.

          Thanks for sharing your experience.

      • Cj says:

        What’s a Reno

  12. Fionna says:

    I agree with everything Julia has said about her experience in a 55+ community. We moved into one 1-1/2 yrs. ago and regret it. There is no room for individuality here — as an example, if you don’t participate in the “wonderful” activities, I am told constantly “I haven’t seen you at many activities lately…” Please! Stop trying to manage my life!! Women seem to be of one mindset here — cooking for their husbands and going to activities to eat, drink and gain weight (ugh). Very gossipy with too much time of their hands. My husband and I are too independent for a place like this. We would also prefer to do our own yard work instead of the half-assed job we get from their landscaper. I am actively looking for a house as I type this, although we probably will not make the move until next year. It can’t be too soon, believe me!

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Fionna,

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’ve received several comments to this effect. Your statement that “There is no room for individuality here” really gets to the heart of the issue. I think you should be able to create the retirement YOU want, as opposed to the retirement that activity planners want you to have. That sort of thing is fine for some people, but certainly not everyone.

      I hope your next home works out much better for you!

      Dave

      • Barbara says:

        Thanks for your kind words, Dave and for creating this forum. I appreciate your giving me a chance to vent my thoughts and feelings!

    • judith bean says:

      Hi Fiona,
      Boy, is it good to read your words ! We have been living in a 55+ now for 8 years and I am going crazy ! I wanted to move after 2 years of being here, but my husband ‘wasn’t ready’- thought “things would improve” and so I’ve been pretty miserable these last years- with the cliques and the gossipy neighbors and rude comments that just seem to come from some of these women’s mouths like they’re saying something that’s OK… I am a Nurse, very independent, raised 2 kids while going to Nursing school, and love intelligent and happy people…none of which I found here ! I am a huge gardener, and get ‘looks’ from women passing as I’m in my garden ‘scrubbies’, and don’t care if dirt is on my nose or wherever ! My husband has finally ‘come around’ and can’t stand it here any longer [thank God !], and so we are selling our home this Spring ’24, and moving back to the San Francisco Bay Area-East Bay, where we had a home for 30 years in the Oakland Hills [how i now wish we hadn’t sold that precious house to come up to this 55+- !]
      I so agree with all of what you said- especially women butting into my life when I don’t join our blocks group called ‘Foxy Ladies’ or their ‘bookclub’ or my husband and I don’t show up for the monthly
      ‘Happy Hours’ at homes on our block..We have now gotten snubbed and treated like we are dirt..One bitchy women said to me : Well, why did you move here if you didn’t want to join and participate in things ?”
      It’s also hard to make sincere women friends here.. hard to trust they won’t go blab everything shared with whomever they can… We cannot Wait to move and returning ‘home’ and back into some normalcy and diversity of ages and cultural backgrounds !
      I just wish I had read these statements here re: 55+ communities before we had a house built and invested so much hope that this community would be the fun and exciting community we were looking for… in any case we tried it, it’s definitely Not for us, and the San Francisco Bay Area will seem even sweeter to us on our return..

  13. Julia says:

    We moved to a 55+ Robson community near-ish to Tucson, and after a year and a half, I’m miserable. My husband enjoys it more than I do, I think, but it’s different for men. Groups of women tend to be difficult to begin with, and add the isolation, the boredom, the overwhelmingly sedentary nature of these women, and there are too many idle hands and wicked tongues around here. The cliquishness and gossip are appalling.

    Two topics people don’t like to talk about are the alcoholism and the bullying — I think they go hand in hand — there are a lot of bored, sedentary people here with nothing else to do but drink and complain and bully anyone who doesn’t capitulate to their pathetic desire to control everyone else.

    I’m ready to move, with or without my husband. This place is literally sucking the will to live out of me.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Julia,

      I’m very sorry to hear that this has turned out to be such a disappointing experience for you.

      There is a problem with higher levels of alcoholism among retirees. I think you are correct that boredom contributes to the problem. People getting together for drinks may be their way to enable socialization, but it comes at the price of drinking too much.

      I’ve heard others express the concern that if you don’t participate in the clubs and activities that the community organizes, you may be viewed as unsocial and ostracized.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope you’re able to find a better place to live.

    • Anonymous says:

      I moved to a 55+ Community and am appalled at how wicked, manipulative and deceptive people can be. As I prepare to retire, I am very proactive in researching answers to depression, dementia and environmental illnesses: No one seems to care and are comfortable with their diagnosis. I am witnessing people becoming increasingly deoressed, and often hear them speak of feeling imprisoned. It is due to the operating system of the developer: We have no voice.

    • judith bean says:

      Hi Julia,
      I wish I had been able to talk with you before- as I too have been miserable living in this 55+ community outside of Olympia, Wa. I wanted to move after the ‘honeymoon’ 2 year period was over but My husband, like your’s, didn’t mind it and didn’t want to move, so I have literally been depressed, anxious and it has affected my personality greatly. I am a retired Nurse, very independent, outgoing and love people. I am spontaneous and urban…which didn’t ‘set well’ with the women up here… I now feel, because of the rumors, gossip, and hostility felt by people here, depressed and ‘what happened to my happy life ?’
      My husband, [after 8 years of living here], has finally ‘come around’ [thank God !], and hates this place and can’t wait to move- which we will be doing come Spring’24… We can’t wait to get back to San Francisco /East Bay area where we’re from and start living again – I’ve missed the S.F. Bay area all these years and so it will be like going ‘back home’…to a world of diverse ages, and cultures and interests…
      I felt like you, that I was ‘dying on the vine’, and this place had also sucked the life out of me… Thank you so much for sharing your feelings Julia, -they helped me, and I hope will help others who are thinking of moving to these unhealthy 55+ communities.

  14. Kim Klin says:

    We are getting ready to move – snowbird – from our home in Alaska to Sun City, AZ. We purchased our home and cannot wait to move in, get involved and be part of what we have found to be an awesome community. My husband and I are both on the younger end of elderly and enjoy tons of activities. From Harley’s to glass art, wood working, textiles and more. Sun City has it all right there. We met others while there on a visit. Super friendly and energetic. Lots of community activities and lots of excellent ways to take care of your health. Having been in private practice for years I am ready for uncomplicated fun. The HOA is the rec fee in Sun City at a 486.00 annual fee for a household of two. We can’t even join a gym in Alaska for that amount. That fee gives us access to everything. The folks there do so much volunteering and community service as well. In many ways it is almost a communal lifestyle. It is fairly close to Phoenix so I do not feel isolated. Growing up in S. florida I swore never to move to a “retirement” community. Sun City is not the retirement community of the goldfish bowl complaints of who is sick, who died and aches and pains. Sun City is the place for me and my husband to stay independent, enjoy a wonderful quality of life at a very affordable price and continue to do all the stuff we are passionate about including scuba diving, riding motorcycles, hiking, kayaking and jogging. I look at it like 24/7 x 365 summer camp. Bring it on!

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Kim,

      Good luck with your move to Sun City! I hope it meets your expectations and you are happy there. Many people who live there like it, but I caution you not to look at it too idealistically. It has its pluses and minuses. No place is perfect.

      I live in the opposite end of the Phoenix area (Chandler). Overall, the Phoenix metro area is a great place to live. Sun City isn’t quite our cup of tea, but obviously it is right for some people.

      Cheers,
      Dave

    • Marie Tilden says:

      Dear Kim, I think I agree with you yet I’m about 3 to 5 years away from retiring. I’m researching communities now and have long been interested in Sun City. Now that you’ve been there for awhile, I’d love to know what your experience has been. Do you still like it as much as you thought you would?

  15. Dan says:

    I have NO interest in a 55+ community. I am almost 63 and plan to retire in 1-2 years. We already bought our future retirement home near Orlando, using it now for vacations, weekend getaways, and friends/family. It is in a non-age restricted community that has nice amenities. I enjoy interacting with people of all ages, and only interacting with seniors is not attractive.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Dan,

      We have friends who moved to Orlando a couple years ago and really like it. I hope you enjoy your experience there too! There is a lot more to Orlando than Disney World and Universal.

      Cheers,
      Dave

  16. Lorraine says:

    One of my daughters and my son have decided I need to move to an apartment in a 55+ community as the house is too much for me—although they do not live nearby or offer me any assistance on any repairs. I cannot stand the thought of being surrounded by only old people. (I work in a hs). I will not be by any of my friends or even close to shopping like I am now. And have to get rid of my pets. (They want to pick the place.) They all live out of state and I honestly thought when I got older I would be moving near them. I am alone but moving to a 55+ is not going to give me friends–

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Lorraine,

      I am really sorry to hear about your situation. Perhaps showing them this article could help.

      Are there any nice apartments near you? That would allow you to retain your friends, your convenient shopping, and everything else that is familiar to you. Some apartments are pet-friendly.

      As I’m sure you know, another disadvantage of a 55+ community is that you’ll probably pay high HOA fees for amenities you probably won’t be using. Maybe pointing that out to them will help.

      I hope this works out for you.

      Dave

  17. Michele Sharp says:

    My mom and I are both seniors and we moved into a rental 55+ cottage community. Our experience has been mixed. On the plus side, the management and maintenance are wonderful. No yard work. The units are quiet and the community is very peaceful. On the minus side, for us anyway, we don’t like structured activities and resident dinners. We have always been very active volunteers in the cities we have lived in and we like to choose when and where we socialize. There seems to be an unwritten rule here that you need to participate in their structured activities or be considered unfriendly. Also, there is a marked lack of privacy around the outside living areas of the units. That seems to be true with a lot of these types of communities. Where someone got the idea that we stopped needing privacy when we turned 55, I’ll never know. What I do know is that it creates conflict between the residents. It is very awkward to be looking directly into your neighbor’s back yard or have them looking directly into your living room.

    We feel very fortunate that we were able to try this on for size as a rental, and we are planning to move as soon as our lease is up. I shudder to think how we would feel if we had moved to a buy-in community.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Michele,

      Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I hadn’t really considered lack of privacy until now, but when I think back on many communities I have seen, they are usually characterized by no fences and homes that are close together.

      For myself, I would probably not opt for most of the structured activities too. There’s nothing wrong with them, but many of them are just things I am not interested in doing. It is useful to know that you could be perceived as anti-social if you don’t participate in them.

      Thanks again for your very insightful feedback.
      Dave

  18. Simone says:

    I agree with reasons 4 and five the most. I love communities representing all ages, ethnicities and sexualities. Diversity of opinion and experience is healthy and we can learn from each other. As a high school teacher for 28 years I cannot imagine a life that does not include young people or children in it.
    The idea of Co housing has a great appeal for me. Multi-generational families/ couples live in community which emphasizes weekly shared meals. Practiced more in Europe than here in North America, this idea has resulted in building apartment complexes with community in mind.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Hi Simone,

      Co-housing is a very interesting idea. I didn’t know much about it, but learned more as I was researching an article I recently wrote, How to Survive and Thrive as a Single Person in Retirement.

      There are a few co-housing communities here in the U.S., but I hope the idea takes hold and grows.

      Thanks,
      Dave

  19. Stacey Walsh says:

    I feel the same way. Although I’m a native NYer and used to living on top of everybody, I long for a small home that is just mine with no one under, above or to the sides of me. I love being in a mixed community….how boring to only see yourself wherever you look. That’s why, when the time comes, I’m off to Athens, GA. Can’t beat a university town for diversity, culture, education etc etc

    • William DeyErmand says:

      Good financial choice. Also the hospitals are great there. It is fourth on our list of choices.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      Moving to a university town is truly an excellent choice! I play in a couple jazz ensembles at local community colleges, and I value that highly as part of my retirement experience. Most of the members are either college students or fellow retirees!

      We are planning to take Spanish lessons at a local college this fall, too, to better prepare for travels we are planning to take.

      You can’t beat local colleges and universities for free (or very cheap) concerts and theatre. They are grateful for the audience.

  20. William DeyErmand says:

    Hi Dave,
    I think the view points on this article is right on. My wife and I recently rented a temporary apartment on the outskirts of a town, to experience apartment living. We really hated it even with loving the town. I do not see either of us living in a 55+ community where we may not fit for numerous reasons. I felt isolation living in an apartment compound with many residents! No thanks, I will live in my own home, near community at large, inviting over who ever I want without opinion or offense of another resident. All and all it was a good experience on apartment living.. It was cottage style living with neighbors on both sides, with no stairs. I learned about sizing down to 720 sq ft, I learned to get creative with a smaller living area, and to enjoy what you have with the one(s) you love. I learned that waiting for maintenance men to fix things is an inconvenience. It keeps me healthy to maintain a home and yard. I found the utilities to be as high as my home. I will find a smaller home around a 1000 sq ft, with lot enough for a garden! Boy did I miss evenings on the porch.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      We know we will downsize at some point in the future, but it will be to a similar living arrangement to what we enjoy now – our own house in an un-age-restricted neighborhood. The rent-vs-buy discussion is a good idea for a future article.

      Thanks!

      • William DeyErmand says:

        Just wanted to comment that you can get assisted living or total assistance in your own home, with a Doctor’s prescription saying “Permanent”. You must be “homebound” other than doctor appointments.

  21. Kenny says:

    It is uncanny sometimes how you write about things that I think about. I live in east Mesa near several age-restricted communities which I walk through all the time for exercise. Heck, my mom lives in one. I can’t recall ever seeing any skin color but white in those neighborhoods. I would be really worried about a lack of diversity living there. No, I foresee living in my suburban home in a regular neighborhood until my wife & I can no longer physically maintain the garden & yard. Then I think, depending on my age at that time, it’s either a move into town in an apartment or condo, or perhaps into the assisted living facility that will be the lot in life for those who do not have a family option for support in our twilight years.

    • Dave Hughes says:

      That’s how we foresee our future, too. We truly enjoy our private back yard for gardening, swimming, and a place for the dogs to “go.” We can handle the yard maintenance for now, but at some point in the future, we may end up in a condo or a house on a very small lot. But it will be in the community-at-large, regardless.

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