As we age, our housing needs tend to shift. Many older adults eventually reach a point when the maintenance and upkeep of their current home exceeds their ability to handle it. Or the neighborhood that once provided the perfect environment for raising kids starts to feel too noisy and hectic.

However, moving prematurely into an assisted living community or nursing home might stifle highly independent and active individuals. As an alternative, seeking out 55+ active adult communities will likely better fulfill your needs at this new stage of life.

Key Takeaways

  • Types of 55+ Communities: The two main types of 55+ communities include senior apartments and larger senior lifestyle communities with a mix of housing styles.
  • Is a 55+ Community Right for Me? 55+ communities provide an age-restricted, low-maintenance environment for independent adults who don’t require medical care or personal assistance but want to socialize with others their age.
  • Standard Amenities in 55+ Communities: Amenities such as clubhouses, fitness centers, pools, golf courses and organized social activities create an engaging, resort-style experience.
  • What Do Active Adult Communities Cost? Costs resemble typical housing costs in the area, plus a 5-10% premium for amenities and exterior maintenance fees.
  • Tips for Finding the Right 55+ Community: Finding the right community takes careful planning and intentionality.

Overview of a 55+ Community

55+ communities, also referred to as senior apartments, retirement communities or active adult communities, cater specifically to independent adults over a certain age threshold. These age-restricted communities provide a low-maintenance environment where seniors can be surrounded by peers at a similar stage of life, while still allowing residents to maintain their independence.

Unlike other senior living options such as assisted living or skilled nursing facilities, 55+ communities don’t offer comprehensive medical care, personal assistance with daily tasks or access to dining halls included in the monthly costs. Instead, seniors live independently just as they would in a traditional home or apartment, taking care of their own housing, meals, transportation and so on.

However, some key differences set 55+ communities apart and make them particularly appealing for older adults:

  • All neighbors fall roughly within the same age and life stage.
  • The community takes care of exterior home maintenance such as lawn care, landscaping and repairs.
  • Design elements within the housing units and across the grounds offer senior-friendly features such as zero-step entries, grab bars, wide doorways and single-floor living to increase safety and accessibility.

The biggest draw of 55+ communities remains the built-in social aspect. Everyone shares the same phase of life, so it’s easy to find common interests and experiences. Forming meaningful connections and friendships with your neighbors often requires less effort than in a multi-generational community.

Types of 55+ Communities

You can find two main categories of housing within age-restricted communities: senior apartments and senior lifestyle communities.


Senior Apartments

Senior Lifestyle Communities

Housing Type

Rental units restricted to adults over the age of 55 or 62+.

A mix of housing styles including single-family homes, duplexes and condos, often spanning several acres.

Community Layout

Typically, one building with common areas for socializing and a fitness center.

Planned communities with recreational facilities such as pools, tennis courts and well-lit sidewalks, and possibly gated.

Social Opportunities

  • Social interest groups and on-site social events for residents.
  • May coordinate group outings.

Designed with communal living in mind, offering various recreational and social activities.

Cost of Living

Similar to standard apartment rental costs unless subsidies are available.

  • Typically higher than senior apartments due to larger units and increased amenities.
  • Homeownership options may include a buy-in fee and/or monthly HOA fee.

Design and Accessibility

Units designed with features such as wide doorways and no-slip flooring.

Homes and community grounds designed with older adults in mind, featuring secure gates, well-lit sidewalks, and wheelchair ramps where necessary.

Maintenance and Services

  • Limited, with housekeeping available for an extra fee. 
  • Most do not offer communal dining but may organize social events.
  • Low-maintenance lifestyle, with outdoor maintenance typically handled by the community.
  • Various amenities and recreational facilities available.

Ownership vs. Rental

Rental units with no option for ownership.

Mix of rental and ownership options, with some communities requiring a buy-in fee and/or monthly HOA fee.

Neighborhood and Lifestyle

Benefits from having neighbors around the same age in a community designed for accessibility and socialization.

  • Offers a broader range of housing options and amenities designed for older adults. 
  • Promotes an active and social lifestyle in a secure and low-maintenance environment.

The specific amenities, housing designs, social calendars and costs vary tremendously across different senior lifestyle communities based on the scale, housing types and overall luxury and lifestyle offered.

Is a 55+ Community Right for Me?

An age-restricted 55+ active adult community presents itself as an ideal next step if you meet the following criteria:

  • You remain fully independent and active. Residents should have no need for daily personal care assistance or skilled nursing. They must have the ability to live alone safely and manage all aspects of self care.
  • You want to live surrounded exclusively by peers your own age. This type of community has a strong appeal when you want all your neighbors to be roughly the same age and life stage as you.
  • You don’t want the hassle of exterior home maintenance. These communities handle all exterior maintenance such as lawn care, landscaping, repairs and security.
  • You have recently retired but not yet taken steps to slow down. The amenities and social activities in these communities make it easy to stay active, engage in hobbies and form new friendships after retiring.

On the other hand, a 55+ community may not be the best in the following situations:

  • You require regular medical care or personal assistance. No licensed medical staff works in these communities, so you need to be able to live 100% independently with no assistance required.
  • You want an all-inclusive lifestyle with amenities such as dining and transportation. Besides exterior maintenance and resort-like amenities, 55+ communities provide very few comprehensive services such as housekeeping or interior maintenance. You will need to pay someone to take care of that or handle it yourself.
  • You have adult children living with you. Unless your children also meet the age requirements, they wouldn’t qualify as permanent residents.
  • You anticipate increasing care needs soon and want to age in place long-term. Unless the community allows third-party care services to attend to your needs, you would likely need to move to a higher level of care eventually. A continuing care retirement community (CCRC) may suit your needs better if you aim to age in place.

While 55+ communities promote an active, engaged lifestyle among peers, they are not a good fit if you require any level of regular medical care, personal assistance or supervision. Consider other senior living options if you cannot live independently.

Standard Amenities in 55+ Communities

One of the major appeals of senior lifestyle communities is the wide array of high-end amenities and community features offered. While specific amenities vary across different communities, many strive to create a resort-like atmosphere. Here is a sampling of some of these amenities:

Recreational Facilities

Health & Wellness

Social & Leisure

Security & Services

Golf Courses

Fitness Center

Social Clubs

Security Gates

Sports Courts

Yoga/Aerobics Studio

Game Rooms

Security Guards

Putting Greens

Indoor Walking Tracks


Exterior maintenance services

Walking Trails



Room Rentals

Parks & Gardens


Craft Workshops

Covered or uncovered parking



Special Interest Groups


These all enable residents to easily build new friendships while staying active and engaged.

Of course, amenity offerings also impact overall monthly costs. More affordable communities may only have basic amenities like a clubhouse and walking trails, while luxury communities could have expansive facilities rivaling a resort hotel.

What Do Active Adult Communities Cost?

The costs of residing in a 55+ active adult community typically parallels housing costs for the surrounding area, plus any additional fees for amenities, property maintenance and community services. To estimate costs, you can start by:

  • Looking at average home prices in the area for the type of housing you want (apartment, condo, townhouse or single-family home)
  • Adding roughly 5-10% for amenities and exterior maintenance fees

However, pricing structures can vary tremendously based on several factors.

Community Feature

Impact on Pricing 

Rental vs. ownership 

Rental communities have monthly rental rates, while ownership communities involve a mortgage/purchase price plus potential buy-in/entrance fees and HOA dues.

Community amenities

More luxurious communities with golf courses and recreation centers will have higher costs.


As with anywhere, areas with higher overall costs of living and real estate values have higher housing costs.

Specific fee structures

Some communities have all amenities/services bundled into one monthly fee, while others have separate add-on fees.

Additionally, government financial assistance programs like Medicaid, Medicare or long-term care insurance won’t pay costs in active adult communities since direct medical services aren’t provided. Low-income individuals will need to seek other sources of government aid or rental subsidies if unable to afford the full costs.

Tips for Finding the Right 55+ Community

If an age-restricted active adult lifestyle sounds appealing to you, you’ll need to do significant research to find the right community fit. Here are five steps to help you along:

  1. Use online directories: Kick off your search using our online directory through the search bar at the top of this page. It will help you get an initial sense of communities in your area and narrow down your preferred amenities, location, home types and budget. Reading reviews is also helpful.
  2. Take tours: Once you’ve identified some top contenders, schedule tours to see the communities in person if possible. This allows you to get a much better sense of aspects like campus atmosphere, amenity quality and staff friendliness.
  3. Speak with residents: Speak directly with current residents in addition to staff during your tours. They will give you an unbiased perspective on the actual community experience and social life.
  4. Understand all costs: Be sure to have a very clear understanding of all potential costs and fees you’ll be required to pay, including any buy-in/entrance fees, HOA or amenity fees, move-in/move-out costs, pet fees, parking costs, etc. Make certain you know what services are included in the fees.
  5. Don’t rush: Moving to a 55+ community is a big lifestyle decision, so take your time to thoroughly explore different options. Unless your situation is urgent, you have the luxury to be patient and selective in choosing your ideal community fit. Tour as many as you need.

Questions to Ask about 55+ Communities

You might consider having a few pre-planned questions prior to visiting a potential community. Customize or add to the ones listed below to suit your individual preferences.

  • What’s the typical resident age range and overall community vibe?
  • Are there any regular or popular social events or interest groups?
  • What exterior maintenance services are included in costs?
  • Are there any extra fees residents pay beyond the baseline costs?
  • How is the security/safety? Has that been a concern at all?
  • Have you had any issues or complaints about the community?
  • What nearby attractions, stores or medical facilities are easily accessible?
  • How is parking arranged? Are there assigned spots, guest parking, etc.?
  • Does the community offer any transportation services, even just for groceries?
  • How well does the community accommodate differing mobility levels?
  • What’s the process for guests/visitors coming and going?
  • How responsive and communicative is the management to resident requests?

With some diligent research and an understanding of your personal priorities, you’re sure to find a 55+ active senior living community that suits your needs and budget.