Active Adult Communities (AACs) are housing developments geared predominantly towards older adults who are still capable of leading active lifestyles, and who want to do so. Each AAC strongly promotes the type of lifestyle that its residents can enjoy, and the wide range of amenities the AAC has available to facilitate that lifestyle. Prospective residents should consider these primary factors when choosing one AAC over another.

General Categories of AACs

Two general categories of active adult communities exist: age-restricted and age-targeted. Age-restricted communities require that at least 80 percent of occupied units include at least one person who is aged 55 or over. No one under the age of 19 can be a permanent resident. Age-targeted communities are designed for empty nesters, but there are no age restrictions.

AAC housing may include single-family homes, duplexes, condominiums, townhomes, cluster homes, manufactured homes and multifamily homes. The homes typically include features designed to accommodate changing needs as you age.

Primary Attributes Varied Amount AACs

AACs vary greatly and are delineated across five major attributes:

  1. The size, scale, and location of the community.
  2. Lifestyle attributes available within the community.
  3. The type and number of services the community offers.
  4. The characteristics of the residents comprising the community.
  5. Under what auspices and sponsorship the community was built.

Early AAC Designs and Locations

The first active adult communities were designed as sprawling developments built around golf courses. Situated in suburban or rural settings where land was abundant, they included tennis courts and recreation centers. Del Webb’s Sun City, in Arizona, was the first active adult community. The development opened in 1960. Today the community has over 27,000 homes, 11 golf courses, 19 shopping areas, multiple recreation centers, and more. From its inception, Sun City has been extremely successful with older homebuyers, and its design has often been imitated.

These early active adult communities are designed for leisure. Their sprawling grounds provide plenty of space for thousands of homes. Their expansive social areas provide ample opportunities for extensive activities and events. They are a great place for residents to live a vacation-style retirement.

Newer AAC Design and Location Variations

While sprawling golf course communities continue to be popular with homebuyers, many of the newer communities being built are smaller. Developers are catering to the differing needs of a generation living longer, retiring later, and in many cases continuing to work full- or part-time after retirement. Having access to high-speed internet so work can be done at home, being close to a state-of-the-art workout facility, and being in a convenient location for shopping, restaurants and entertainment are becoming more important amenities. The result has been development of smaller AACs that can fit into more diverse areas, including urban settings where residents can be close to work, shopping, restaurants, entertainment and more.

Even though smaller, these newer communities are still packed with amenities to facilitate active adult lifestyles. Communities as small as 450 residences boast large and elaborate clubhouses containing fully equipped fitness centers, dance and aerobic studios, indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms, hobby and game rooms, tennis courts, spas, and more.

New AACs are also being built in areas that are not traditionally considered retirement havens, such as Ohio, Minnesota, New York and Indiana. This gives active adults in those areas more opportunities to enjoy the benefits of a resort-style, age-restricted or age-targeted community, without moving away from family and familiar places.