55+ Communities in the U.S. Are Booming: Here’s What To Know Before Buying Into One

by  Susan B. Barnes | May 21, 2024

In the mid-1950s, three friends developed the first master-planned adult community in Youngtown, Arizona, about 20 miles northwest of Phoenix. There, more than 300 acres of farmland were split into lots on which 125 homes were built exclusively for retirees. When the age-restricted community caught media attention, the idea gained momentum, and its popularity soared among people in the age group. Not long after, Del Webb’s Sun City Arizona, adjacent to Youngtown, opened in 1960; it remains the longest-running 55+ age-restricted community in the U.S.

Homes in these communities are designed for low-maintenance aging in place. They promote active lifestyles with amenities like pools, fitness centers, and tennis courts and encourage socialization with common spaces and recreational activities. They also aim to simplify retirees' lives and reduce expenses.

A trends analysis report published by Research and Markets predicts the active 55+ adult community U.S. market is expected to reach $805 billion by 2030. A growing number of those buying into the communities are looking for amenities like sports, clubs, recreational activities, and more to enjoy with people of a similar age. 

“I purchased my condo in an over-55 community [in Delray Beach, Florida] on impulse,” says Robbie Evans, a retired nurse from St. Louis who splits her time between the two destinations. “I was recently widowed and went to Florida with friends to sort things out in my head. The bottom had fallen out of the real estate market, and I saw a deal and bought it.”

According to Senior Housing Business, there are more than 2,000 55+ communities across more than 40 states, with more in development. One such 55+ community is the Del Webb neighborhood in Nexton, a 5,000-acre master-planned community outside of Charleston, South Carolina.

A Built-In Social Life 

Alessandro Biascioli/iStock

“Communities like Nexton’s Del Webb offer amenities and activities tailored to retirees' interests, fostering an active and engaging lifestyle,” Cassie Cataline with Nexton tells ShermansTravel. “This encourages social interaction and promotes physical and mental well-being among residents in a similar stage of life.”

Tampa, Florida-based realtor and mortgage loan officer John Gilliam agrees.

“These communities offer a community of peers with similar life stages and interests that can facilitate social connections and activities, which is important to many who are looking to maintain an active social life,” he says.

Evans says that in her 55+ community, she found a sense of kinship among her peers.

“My [immediate] neighbors include two French Canadians, a lady from Greece, a couple from the Bronx and me, a Midwesterner,” explains Evans. “When we get together it sounds like the United Nations.”

Advanced Health and Wellness Services 

Fifty-five-plus communities are continuously evolving to meet the changing needs and wants of an aging population.

“Many are now incorporating more advanced health and wellness services, technology-friendly environments for the tech-savvy senior such as my father, and more environmentally sustainable living options,” says Gilliam. “There are some new models of senior living that incorporate intergenerational living and more urban settings, but traditional 55+ communities remain a strong preference for buyers seeking a community-oriented, active and low-maintenance lifestyle.”

Less Maintenance For Less Money 

In addition to socialization and recreational activities, Cataline says that 55+ communities also often offer universal design home features and floorplans that facilitate aging in place and provide maintenance-free living and peace of mind. That, and downsizing to smaller, more manageable homes within these active adult communities can simplify retirees' lives and reduce expenses.

“These communities are typically designed to be low maintenance and reduce the burden of home maintenance, often including services like lawn care and property upkeep,” says Gilliam. “I also believe that safety and accessibility are of great interest to those looking at 55+ communities. Many of these communities are designed with the safety and mobility needs of older adults in mind, such as single-story living and emergency contingencies in place.”

Specialized Amenities 


To that end, Cataline says that 55+ communities often provide specialized amenities and services tailored to the needs of aging adults.

“Planning for future needs by considering accessibility features and the availability of nearby healthcare and support services is important when contemplating buying into a 55+ community as well,” she says.

When his clients are looking at buying into 55+ communities, Gilliam advises that they consider the potential for resale, too. “Is the property in a well-maintained and well-located community that often holds or increases in value over time?,” is one question he has his clients keep in mind.

Lifestyle Alignment 


As people look at the 55+ communities that are best for them, Gilliam suggests making sure the communities’ lifestyle offerings align with the buyers’ interest, noting that some focus more on active lifestyles while others may emphasize social activities, arts, or other interests. He also suggests understanding the rules of regulations of the communities.

“Each community has its own set of rules, including age restrictions, policies on permanent and temporary residents, pet restrictions, and rules regarding the use of community amenities,” Gilliam advises.

Once a 55+ community has been decided upon and you’ve made the move, it’s time to make yourself at home.

“For those retiring to an entirely new area, find ways to quickly engage in the community,” suggests Cataline. “Most active adult communities have a plethora of clubs, activities, and outings that will provide the opportunity to meet neighbors and quickly assimilate to your new location.”

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