A reader of Aging With Freedom recently asked:
“What is the average age in a 55 + active adult community? 70? 75? 80?…” – Mark McNully. And that’s where we answered Mark’s question, but rather than leaving it buried in the comments? We explored a similar topic for Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) or Lifeplan Communities inWhat Will Be The Baby Boomer Entry Age Into Senior Living?
But here, we’re focused on the Active Adult Community average age. Turns out, the answer to this seemingly simple question is not simple. So, we’re expanding our answer to help others who might ponder the same question.
Age Discrimination in Housing is Legal?
The Senior Living real estate market is subdivided into a bunch of smaller niche markets with different target audiences with different needs. But Senior Living generally is focused on those at least fifty-five years of age. Why?
Legally, they all rely upon the same law that allows age discrimination (via exclusion) of those younger than 55. The Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housing_for_Older_Persons_Act (1995). And the prior 1968 Fair Housing Act (also called Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968).
Federal fair housing law general ban on age discrimination carves out exceptions for senior housing.
Partly because retiree-focused communities, like Sun City Arizona, were already successfully serving an age-restricted market enforced via covenants.
But the federal law is more than a grandfather clause. Pun intended.
Federal law actively encourages senior housing development via this safe harbor rule.
The federal legal limit for housing discrimination by age is fifty-five and older. Hence 55+. Though some communities choose older age thresholds, like 62+.
Age-Targeted or Phase-of-Life Marketing
But not all age-restricted communities are the same. Within what’s legally allowed, communities also focus their marketing and services on different age ranges or phases of life beyond age-55. Not all retirees or seniors are the same. Shocking, right?
There’s a difference between what the law allows and the market focus of different communities operating within the age-restricted safe harbor. There are several incremental market niches.
55+ Active Adult is the Threshold Niche
55+ Active Adult is one of the market niches. An Active Adult community really targets the first blush of retirement. When retirees consider moves to warmer climates or downsizing in early retirement. This includes the snowbird or seasonal market. Many of these homes are seasonal, and not full-time. The marketing is geared to the social engagement of hobbies like golfing, swimming, and other forms of social exercise. Pickleball is especially and increasingly popular. Active Adult communities sell a retirement lifestyle spent moving and doing things, not just sitting in a rocking chair. The idealized vision of retirement. The point is to enjoy your current relationship, meet new friends, and enjoy a social life, together.
Not everyone who moves to an Active Adult community is downsizing. Sometimes it’s a second home. Or a newer one. Or sometimes, even a bigger home. But it’s a lifestyle home to provide the stage for acting out that ideal vision of active retirement.
Average Age of Retirement Starting Point
So the target market for entry in 55+ Active Aging closely parallels when people choose retirement from working for others and focus on family and social life. The average age of retirement is 62 (women) and 64 (men). Makes sense for couples as the average age difference between men and women in a couple is 2.3 years.
Changing the Scenery in Retirement
Give the newly retired a year or two for exploring and picking a 55+ Active Adult Community. And we’ll bet the bulk of the 55+ Active Adult entry market is around 65-67, planning for an active life in their late-60s and early 70s.
A large share of the Active Adult segment is married couples. Though not exclusively given the prevalence of Boomer singles and grey divorce. The newer the community the younger the average of current residents will likely skew. Why? Residents haven’t been there long enough to age in place. Wealth will also influence an individual community’s demographic profile.
The Largest 55+ Active Adult Community Average Age
A good estimate for the median age of 55+ Active Adult Communities is the average age of residents in The Villages of Florida. That’s 71.3 years. The Villages are the largest 55+ Active Adult Community so regression to the mean rule applies. The larger the sample? The closer to the true mean you are likely to be. Median and mean aren’t exactly the same. The median means half the residents are younger than 71.3 and half of the residents are older. But the mean and median won’t be far apart in this age distribution. Given The Village’s rapid growth, it will still skew a little younger than established and fully built-out Active Adult communities.
Active Adult Median Age is about 72
So, the short answer to the question? The Active Adult Community Average Age? Nowhere near 55. More like 71-72. With the caveat that the answer for any single community may deviate substantially. As usual, it depends. It depends upon individual circumstances. But with a typical entry-age for 55+ Active Adult around 65-67, it’s still not close to 55. Or 85. Though individuals at those age extremes on the tails of the distribution curve will be found. When considering an individual community. Use your MkI eyeball. Believe what you see. You’ll be able to judge pretty accurately the average or median of your prospective neighbors.
Moving on Up
People tend to exit the 55+ Active Adult Market for Independent Living apartments or Assisted Living as they hit their early 80s and what less home maintenance or experience increasing health needs. The average age of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) entrants is about 84. CCRCs or Lifeplan Communities are a later stage Senior Living target market. Some of the Active Adult communities include age-up options inside the community to sustain social relationships through life. For instance, The Villages and Sun City Arizona both have assisted living facilities in the community. This will, over time, increase the active adult community average age in such communities. Why? Residents can stay longer.
What are you looking for?
For all the popularity of 55+ Active Adult communities? Popular examples include The Villages, Sun City Center Florida, Lattitude Margaritaville Watersound Florida, and On Top of the World Ocala Florida. And some of these organizations feature locations in multiple states. We’ve listed the Florida examples as we’re planning a comparative review trip there soon. We’re nearly completed with our vaccinations and domestic travel is opening back up soon.
A popular directory of 55+ Communities is 55CommunityGuide.com. It allows searches by state, community, and market niche.
We’d be remiss to not mention the emerging demand by many seniors for age-integrated communities. There’s a part of the retirement market that doesn’t want to be segregated off into age-exclusive enclaves. Many urban markets feature multi-age developments. These mix seniors with younger residents. Sometimes, still, age segregated by building. And frequently these multi-age residential neighborhoods are part of multi-use developments that mix residential and commercial into more walkable neighborhoods in the New Urbanism tradition.
Which would you want? Neighbors approximately your own age and stage of life? Or a more integrated approach? Did the year of COVID change your preferences at all? Are you looking at moving into a 55+ Active Adult Community? If so please share your thoughts and questions.