17 Problems with Over 55 Communities

As we grow older, many of us consider purchasing a new home to live in during our retirement. More and more people are choosing to live in over-55 communities, which are neighborhoods, apartment buildings, or other living facilities for adults over 55.

But they’re more than just a collection of homes. These communities foster activity and interaction, as well as offer a variety of fun amenities such as tennis courts, pools, neighborhood clubhouses, and more.

While these types of communities have many benefits, they’re not for everybody. If you or a loved one are considered moving into an age-restricted community, make sure you first understand the potential downsides. Here are the 17 biggest problems with over-55 communities.

An image of an older over 55 couple who are siling and looking towards the sky

1. They’re More Expensive

Age-restricted communities typically operate under a homeowner’s association or similar organization. By living in the community, you’re subject not only to the HOA’s rules but also its fees. The money collected is used to maintain the community, typically paying for landscaping services, trash removal, exterior home repairs, pool upkeep, and more.

HOA fees add an extra bill to your living expenses. The cost can range from hundreds to even thousands of dollars a month, depending on where you live and what amenities they offer. The problem is that you might not always get your money’s worth or agree with how it’s spent.

Another issue with any type of monthly fee is that you have no guarantee it won’t increase. What’s affordable today might wind up outrageous as you enter your 60s, 70s, and 80s. Plus, you might feel less likely to use many of the amenities as you age.  

2. You Might Have to Move Away from Loved Ones

While age-restricted communities are popular, the right one for you might not be next door. You could end up moving to a new city or even a new state. If you currently live near family or friends, there’s a real possibility you might not see them as much.

The distance likely won’t be a problem at first. After all, a 55-year-old likely has no problem driving an hour or two to visit family and friends. However, when you’re in your 70s, 80s, and beyond, your ability to drive diminishes, and you become more reliant on others taking the initiative to visit.  

As we age, spending time with our grown children and grandchildren becomes increasingly important. The desire to live in a specific city or neighborhood does significantly limit the number of age-related communities available to you.

3. Social Interactions Can Feel Overwhelming

The social aspect of living in over-55 neighborhoods is often a major selling point. Neighbors usually become friends. Plus, these communities often have a variety of fun group activities and other opportunities for everyone to interact.

Frequent social interaction isn’t for everyone. Before moving into the community, consider how much you (and your spouse) enjoy spending time with others. If you’re the type who prefers to spend most nights at home, the social obligations of living in an over-55 neighborhood might feel like a burden.

Of course, you’re under no obligation to accept social invitations – they won’t kick you out of the community! But frequently rejecting invitations from neighbors, many of whom likely live there because they want to make friends, can feel awkward.

4. They Might Have Excessive Rules

An image of a stack of papers with two rubber stamps that have the words rules and regulations on them

Part of the appeal of living in a community for older adults is that rules exist to help keep the area calm and quiet. Unfortunately, sometimes the rules can go too far and end up as an annoying inconvenience.

HOA rules cover a wide range of topics and can get quite extensive. You could potentially live under hundreds of rules covering everything from when you can make noise to what color you can paint your house.

If you don’t follow the rules, the HOA might impose a fine. While nobody wants to pay a fine, what’s often worse is having to follow a bunch of rules instead of just living in your house how you prefer. A difficult HOA is one of the most common problems with over-55 communities, so watch this one carefully.  

5. You Might Still Live Near Kids

Age-restricted communities exist under a special exception under the Fair Housing Amendments Act. As part of federal law, households with at least one person over the age of 55 are permitted in over-55 communities.

It’s possible you could move into an age-restricted community and still live next door to a lot of kids. If you’re looking to get away from neighborhoods with noisy kids, an age-restricted community might not be the solution.

6. Their Popularity Can Limit Your Buying Options   

Age-restricted communities house 10% of America’s seniors, and that percentage will likely grow as the country’s senior community increases. Unfortunately, that means competition for the best types of communities will increase, at least in the short term while new locations are built.

You might face a difficult decision: Do you want to live in a home that you’re not too thrilled about, just so you can reside in a specific retirement community? Or should you retire in your dream house, even if it’s in a neighborhood without restrictions on noises, resident ages, and other situations that might annoy you as you age?

7. You Might Have to Move into a Smaller Home

An image of a tiny home in an over 55s retirement village. The home is made from timber and painted orange

Most houses within an over-55 community are designed for two adults. As a result, they’re usually smaller than a typical family home. If you decide to trade in your current home for one in an age-restricted community, you might need to downsize.

Downsizing to a smaller home isn’t necessarily a negative. Roughly two-thirds of retirees consider moving into a smaller home when they finish working. Smaller homes require less maintenance, the utility bills are lower, and moving can free up cash.

Keep in mind that downsizing is a multi-step process. You’ll not only need to move, but you’ll likely need to sell or otherwise get rid of furniture, electronics, and other extras. If you decide to buy a smaller home in an over-55 community, make sure to give yourself more time to move.

8. You Could Potentially Live in a Bad Neighborhood

Even if the community you live in is awesome in every way, you won’t spend 100% of your time there. Before moving into any over-55 community, check out the larger area surrounding it.

You’ll need to leave your immediate neighborhood to go to the bank, grocery store, and other businesses. If the town is filled with crime or otherwise unsafe, your quality of life can suffer, especially because most of us start to feel more vulnerable as we age.

Consider the town in other ways, too. Do you feel comfortable navigating its roads? Does it have the types of stores, restaurants, and other businesses that appeal to you? Is it too crowded for your liking?  

9. You Might Prefer to Live Around Young People

Some people move into age-restricted communities because they want peace and quiet – only to find out they can’t stand it!

In age-restricted communities, you won’t find kids playing in the street or the yards. People typically aren’t throwing parties late into the night. While it’s all conducive to a good night’s rest, it’s also not how everybody likes to live.

Some people, even older seniors, enjoy hearing the hustle and bustle of a vibrant neighborhood. They also prefer to expand their social circle by including folks of all ages. Living in a senior-only neighborhood can feel dull because everyone you see is your age or older.

10. Lack of Care Services

Communities that consist of individual homes are designed to provide a safe, quiet environment where the residents have to perform minimal-to-no maintenance on their homes. But they’re not designed as a substitute for a care facility, and they provide no medical assistance.

If you need any type of regular medical care or monitoring, living in an age-restricted community probably isn’t the solution you’re seeking. Instead, you’ll want to move to a facility that offers those services or hire in-home health care.

11. Lack of Care Services (in a Facility)

An image of an elderly man at home walking with help of doctor using a walker

On the other hand, some types of senior communities do offer medical services. Typically, these are either age-restricted apartment buildings or care facilities with private rooms. Staff is available to provide meals, housekeeping, and medical services as needed.

The quality of the staff at these facilities plays a major role in the resident’s quality of life. Before moving in, investigate thoroughly by reading reviews, ratings, and all other information you can find.

Also, ask the facility about their turnover rate. If staff turnover is high, the company might not be great to work for, resulting in poor service for residents.

12. Homes Might be Difficult to Sell

If you buy a home in an over-55 community but later decide you don’t want to live there, you might face some problems.

First, you’ll have a more limited pool of buyers than if you were selling a traditional home. After all, your pool of potential buyers is restricted to those 55 and older.

Also, you might not find many buyers if better options are available in the neighborhood. For example, many people buy houses in developing communities. While you might get a better price by buying early, if you try to sell, you’ll find most people are more interested in a brand-new home instead of one with a previous owner.

Finally, the rules of your HOA might pose logistical problems related to selling your home. Some HOAs won’t even let you put a For Sale sign in your yard!

13. Younger Family Members Can’t Live on the Premises Alone

Many retirees buy a smaller home in an over-55 community to use as a second home. For example, they might own this second home in a different state, so they can spend part of the year skiing or at the beach. Essentially, the house in the senior community is a vacation home, which means it sits empty for at least part of the year.

The problem is that it often has to stay empty. Members of your family who could potentially use your vacation home, such as your adult children, typically aren’t allowed to stay there without you unless they’re over 55.

Not only does leaving a house empty for significant stretches of time feel wasteful, but unoccupied houses have a greater risk of break-ins, vandalism, and other property crimes.

14. The Organization Behind the Community Could Fail

Most over-55 communities are owned by a realty group, corporation, or other business entity. Unfortunately, if the organization behind the community runs into any type of problem, as a resident, you could end up directly affected.

People who buy into unfinished developments face the biggest risk. For example, suppose you’re one of the first people to buy a house in a new seniors-only neighborhood. Even though your house is finished, many in the neighborhood aren’t, and amenities such as the pool and tennis court aren’t complete either.

If the company building the community doesn’t have enough funds to finish or otherwise has to abandon the neighborhood, you could be in a tough position. If your house is one of the few finished, the property values could drop. Plus, the quality of services provided will likely be substandard because there are fewer HOA fees to collect.

15. Restrictions on Visitors

While some over-55 communities allow any combination of residents in a house as long as one of them is over 55, other communities are far more strict. Communities that only allow those over 55 typically also place restrictions on visitors.

Limits might exist on the number, ages, or duration of visitors. Additionally, your visitors might face restrictions on where they can go and when. For instance, younger children might not be allowed to run around in the front yard, where they could make noise.

If you’re someone who enjoys having family drop by whenever they want and stay for as long as they like, restrictions on visitors can end up creating frustrations. The rules of the community can make you feel like you have to choose between your home or spending time with your family.

16. Your Friends Might Pass Away

People move into age-restricted communities with the intention of spending the rest of their lives there. Unfortunately, that means these communities have a fairly high mortality rate, usually much higher than neighborhoods with residents of many different ages.

Watching friends and neighbors pass away is a tragic experience, and depending on the ages and size of your community, it could occur multiple times a year. However, living in a traditional neighborhood allows you to live around younger families, which can be a more pleasant experience.

Additionally, unless you’re buying a brand new home in the neighborhood, the chances are relatively high you’re moving into a house where someone has died. This prospect makes some people uncomfortable.

17. Cliques and Gossip

While we’d all like to believe everyone outgrows the mentality of high school, that’s not always the case. Sometimes cliques form in these over 55 communities. As the new person in the neighborhood, you might not find yourself welcomed as openly as you’d expect.

Additionally, sometimes the residents of these communities are prejudiced or otherwise unaccepting of people with different beliefs and opinions. For example, if you move into a community where practically everyone is a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, you might feel awkward if you’re a lifelong Democrat.

Conclusion

Communities with age restrictions can offer significant benefits for residents, such as increased quiet, reduced home maintenance, and more. However, always investigate the situation thoroughly before buying a home.

Fortunately, when you understand what potential problems with over-55 communities you should watch out for, you’ll have an easier time finding the perfect home to enjoy your retirement!

Related: Pros and Cons of Assisted Living Facilities