You now have the time to do what you always wanted to do. What was that again? Hiking the Appalachian Trail? Volunteering at the Humane Society? Working part-time at a ski resort? Mentoring a child?
With more seniors living longer and more active lives than ever before, how you choose to spend your retirement really is up to you. There are limitless ways to fill your days. Do what you want to do. A more active life almost always means a better quality of life.
Active Living Options
First things first: if you’re healthy and active, you may just choose to live in the home you retired in—until it becomes more than you want or are able to handle. It’s a tough decision to leave the home you raised your family in, the neighborhood you’re used to and familiar with. But maybe your home is just too big and requires too much upkeep. Or maybe you’d rather live with other active seniors. Maybe you just want a change. If so, you have plenty of options.
Independent living communities are designed for the active and healthy senior who is able to live independently on their own. You can live in a home, condo, townhouse, apartment complex, motor home or mobile home. Senior active living communities are found all over the nation and come in wide variety of options.
They are the same as a traditional neighborhood but with age restrictions—usually 55 and older. And they provide amenities like clubhouses, gyms, yard maintenance, housekeeping and security. Most communities also typically offer transportation, laundry service, group meals, and social and cultural activities.
One of the options available to active seniors is to choose a senior apartment complex. Active senior apartments are generally traditional apartment communities where each resident has their own, private space. You are able to live with people your own age and you are able to engage in onsite activities designed for those who live there. Apartments are beneficial for many reasons. They tend to cost significantly less than other locations because they are smaller. Yet, they are ideal for anyone who may not want to have a large home to take care of.
Senior apartments are generally rented but can be purchased in some areas. Many are high-end locations with modern updates and amenities. Others are smaller or less feature-driven. Individuals can choose the type of space that is right for their individual needs and goals. The key here is to consider the layout of the location, the amount of space you need, and the online amenities available to you. If this fits your goals and your lifestyle, a senior apartment can be an excellent choice. It offers flexibility, privacy, and the independence you want without all of the hard work that typically goes with owning a home.
Active Retirement Communities
Active retirement communities are a bit larger. These communities are designed for those couples or individuals who want to be around other people their age who are also active and engaging. Most often, these locations will offer some key benefits. For example, you’ll live in a single family home, condo, townhome, or even an apartment. The key here is that everyone in that space with you is looking for things to do to remain active.
Active retirement communities are designed to give you plenty to do if you want to do so. You can join clubs ranging from intellectual to crafting. You can tour various cities on bus tours together. You can engage in a wide range of programs at the location as well. Because they are active communities, they offer a location for people to come together and to enjoy a higher quality of life. Many offer clubhouses or spaces for people to meet and talk to each other. This type of environment is ideal for anyone who may be retired but still wants to enjoy a high quality of life.
55+ Senior Communities
Within a 55+ community, the goal is to live around people who are over the age of 55. These communities restrict individuals from living in your home who are younger than this. The benefit is that there are likely to be like-minded people living around you. Many times, these communities are single-family homes where you will own the home outright. However, other options exist as well. You may choose to live in a community that is made up of condos or townhomes.
When it comes to choosing this type of environment, individuals should take into consideration what their goals are. Each community offers different features and activities for seniors. Most provide a wide range of ways for seniors to communicate, participate in programs, and to enjoy social activities.
Seniors by the Numbers
In a 2010 report by The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics called “Older Americans 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being,” we found the following statistics that may interest you:
- People who reach age 65 will live another 18.5 years verses just 4 years longer in 1960.
- From 2006 to 2008, 74.5% of those 65 and older reported being in good to excellent health.
- About 22% of seniors reported regular physical activity.
- Seniors 65 to 74 report doing 7 hours of daily leisure activities; watching TV account for 4 hours.
- The housing burden cost for seniors increased from 30% to 37% between 1985 and 2007.
- Forty percent of seniors in 2007 had one or more of the following housing issues: “housing cost burden, physically inadequate housing, and/or crowded housing.”
What’s Right for Me?
This is a big question for many seniors and worth careful consideration. The answer may take weeks, months and even years of thought. To start, take an inventory of your life now that you’re retired. Here are some basic questions to ask:
- Are you happy in your home and neighborhood?
- Do you dread doing yard work in the summer heat?
- Are the four bedrooms too much to clean?
- Do you live close enough to family?
- Do your friends still live near you?
- Would you rather live close to the water, mountains, in the country or in a city?
- Financially, are you secure in your present home?
- Do you need to downsize?
- Are property taxes too much?
- Would you rather live with other active seniors?
- Do you enjoy living in a mixed-age neighborhood?
You’re healthy and don’t want to sit around and watch TV. Now what? For starters, in order to stay healthy, you should make regular exercise part of your day. You’ll have more energy; your mood will improve; and daily activities will become easier. Plus, exercise benefits people with arthritis, heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. Consult a doctor before starting any new activity. Here are some options:
- Walking, jogging
- Swimming, aqua aerobics
- Yoga or Pilates
- Strength training
- Cross country skiing
- Tai Chi
- Line dancing, square dancing, ballroom dancing
To help balance your physical activities, here are some leisure activity suggestions:
- Become a volunteer. What are your interests? People? Animals? Art? History? The environment? For every interest there is an organization that needs your help.
- Join a book reader’s group. This is a great way to meet new people, socialize, and keep your mind engaged.
- Put that wisdom to good use: Mentor a child. These programs are often run through libraries, churches and organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
- Work in a community (co-op) garden. You’ll get your hands into the soil. Meet new people. And get to eat the fruits (and veggies) of your labor.
- Get involved in civic activities like voter registration, campaigning, etc.
- Take enrichment classes at your local college. Learn to paint, photograph, write, program computers—there are subjects for every interest.
How Much Does It Cost to Live in an Active Senior Community?
The cost of living in an active senior community is very specific to that location. It is also based on the type of home the individual will live in. For example, some active senior communities are neighborhoods or subdivisions with full-size single-family homes. In these cases, it is likely that you will pay for the home outright or with a mortgage. Most of these locations will also have an association fee that is paid monthly or annually. These can range from $50 up to hundreds of dollars based on what the location offers.
Other senior living communities like this are in condo or apartment locations. Some are in senior apartments. In these situations, there is likely to be a slightly higher cost associated with living in that location. These costs range widely from one location to the next. Individuals who are thinking about living in an active senior community should invest wisely in finding a location that offers the amenities he or she desires within their budget.
How Do I Pay for Active Senior Living?
Living in an active senior living community is a choice for many people. If you and your spouse, if you have one, decide to move into this type of community, you will need to determine the best route to paying for it. Most of the time, this will not be a type of community that provides any type of medical care or medical assisting. For this reason, Medicare and Medicaid are unlikely to cover the costs associated with living there.
Many seniors decide to tap into their current home’s equity or sell their existing home to purchase a new home within this area. For those who plan to downsize because their children have moved out, an active senior community is an attractive option. The homes tend to be a bit smaller and easier to maintain, giving you more time to engage in the wide range of activities taking place within and around that location.
It is often possible to purchase these homes using a traditional mortgage as well. There are other options available for funding this choice as well, including military loans, such as VA loans. You may find special financing options available locally as well.
Is There Active Senior Living Near Me?
Most communities today have more than one active senior living community. They can be smaller, single buildings with apartments or condos within them. Other times they are subdivisions or neighborhoods. The key to finding them is to take the time to look at all of your options for living in the area. If you have a local senior center nearby, ask about new locations that may be available to you. Keep in mind that most active senior communities will market their location both online and locally, which can give you more insight into all of the options available to you.
This list of ways for active seniors to spend their days is just the tip of the iceberg. Try an internet search for activities in your area and you’ll find hundreds more. The important thing is to make regular activities—both physical and leisure—a part of your day. You’ll age healthier in your limbs, heart and mind.
To read more on this topic see our Age Well; The Choice Is Ours page for more tips on healthy living.