Birds of a Feather Flock Together

August 5, 2019

Not long ago, most planned retirement communities revolved around a golf course, a few tennis courts and an Olympic pool thrown in for good measure. But today, there are many choices available. That’s because baby boomers are choosing to enjoy their lifestyles and pursue their passions in retirement, rather than settle for “traditional” retirement living.

If you think about it, we gravitate toward those with similar interests, values and lifestyles. Simply put, it can be fun to be around like-minded people. It can also make it easier to form important relationships as we age.

First things first

Begin your search for the perfect niche retirement community with a frank discussion of what you desire in retirement. What medical support do you need? Do you enjoy physical activities or those that are more cerebral? What about RV storage if you enjoy travel? Once you and your spouse or partner identify your retirement desires, you can pinpoint a community that will fulfill them.

Also consider the fact that a niche retirement community may be limited in the diversity of activities offered. If you are the kind of person who thrives in a changing environment, you may consider another option or find a niche that caters to your need for variety. Otherwise, if you are invigorated at the thought of grabbing your paintbrush, palette and easel, an artists’ enclave may be just the thing for you.

Next, it’s time to think about a budget. Will you rent or buy? In some cases, there are entrance fees – such as those at university-based retirement communities (UBRC) – and subsequent monthly fees to cover medical care, meals and other amenities. To create your budget, set up time with your advisor. He or she will be happy to help guide you through this process.

Now the fun part

Choosing a niche retirement community should be as fun as it sounds. First and foremost, visit the community. Talk to people who live there and read reviews. Remember, information is your ally.

According to aplaceformom.com, residents of the most successful niche retirement communities engage over shared interests/traits, like astronomy, heritage, equestrian, fitness, golf, RVs, learning, or cultural experiences.

Or retirement from like professions, industries or services such as the post office, military, or the arts.

Notable examples

The Burbank Senior Artists Colony in Burbank, California, welcomes professional and aspiring actors, artists, musicians and other creative types, as well as retired professionals. There’s a 40-seat performance theater, artist studios and classrooms, a library, galleries as well as healthcare services.

Under the dark, rural Florida skies of Chiefland, Florida, you’ll find the Chiefland Astronomy Village. Because the village’s skies aren’t affected by light pollution, stargazers flock to the community.

At Fox Hill Club in Bethesda, Maryland, retirees enjoy wellness offerings for the mind, body and spirit. There’s a gym, a full-service spa, three health-conscious gourmet restaurants, an organic herb garden, indoor golf range, outdoor walking trails, swimming pool with electronic lifts, and physical therapy.

For letter carriers, there’s Nalcrest, a letter carriers’ retirement community, about 70 miles east of Tampa, Florida. It offers 500 garden-style apartments and all residents must be 55 and older.

Horse-minded retirees can find their niche at The Ridge at Chukker Creek, Aiken, South Carolina. This community offers sweeping views of horse pastures, a spring-fed pond, and a nature preserve with riding trails. Residents live in single-family homes; horses reside in the community’s shared barns.

A rising senior class

The fastest growing niche is the UBRC. Besides obvious learning and classroom benefits, UBRCs usually offer healthcare services as part of the housing component. Residents may also have access to campus fitness centers and athletic events.

Similar in name only, it would be difficult to find two UBRCs that are alike. But senior housing expert Andrew Carle gives five criteria that, from the perspective of residents, the university and the housing provider, contribute to a successful UBRC:

  • Proximity to the campus itself.
  • Formalized programming between the university and the community, encouraging intergenerational diversity and a range of activities.
  • Senior housing services offering a continuum of care, from independent to assisted living.
  • At least 10% of the community being alumni, former faculty or former employees of the university.
  • Sound financial planning, with a documented financial relationship between senior housing provider and university.

Give it some thought

For most, planning where to live in retirement can be overwhelming. The good news: there are resources to help. Seniorliving.org, for example, is a veritable goldmine of retirement information and provides tools to help you evaluate and understand the many types of senior living opportunities available.


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