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Over 55 Active Adult Retirement communities - right for you?
My wife and I moved to an over 55 retirement community in December of 2005. We had actually started looking for places like this two years earlier but hadn't found what we wanted. I thought I might share with you some if the things we learned both while searching and after living here a while.
I am not retired
First, I'm not retired. I am self employed and work out of our home. I will say that the recent recession has made me less busy than I'd like, but I am still actively working every day. We didn't move here to retire.
My wife has physical problems. Scoliosis, several ruptured discs in her back and very painful joint disease throughout her body. She also has one leg a little shorter than the other and trouble with her hips due to both inflammation and that the bone that goes into the socket is shorter than it should be. She's in constant pain and often has difficulty both walking and concentrating - mostly due to lack of sleep from the pain. She is retired and on Social Security. She is the primary reason we began looking at retirement communities; we knew that sooner or later she would need single floor living and we didn't want to wait until we were forced into it and would have to make a hasty decision. We wanted to find the right place to live and as we were approaching our 60's, a retirement community made sense - why move twice?
We also felt that real estate was near its top and we wanted to take our profits when we could. As it turned out, we missed that by just few months, and sold just as the real estate market started to tumble.
Don't feel too sad for us: we had bought our house in 1973, so we made plenty of money. Just not as much as we would have liked and not enough to avoid having a small mortgage here.
I really regret that, because early on someone actually had suggested the very place we ended up back when we first started looking. We paid no attention because he described it as "very expensive". It isn't, but it must have seemed so to him. If we had looked into it and had sold our home earlier, we might have easily made another $50,000 or more - quite possibly enough that we would have no mortgage here. But we did not, so that's over and done, right?
This was 2003. We knew we didn't want to live in a condominium or an apartment. We didn't want yard work or snow shovelling, but we wanted to stay in MA and not in a city. We searched on the Internet, in newspapers and asked everyone we knew for recommendations.
Finding the reitrement community
Let me mention a few things about searching for retirement living on the Internet. You might think you could just type "retirement community" or "over 55 community" but in my experience not everything will be found that way. If you want to find retirement choices in MA, you need to search for "MA retirement communities" and "Massachusetts retirement communities". You also need "55+", "Senior", "55 plus", "Active adult", "age restricted", "senior independent retirement", "senior-friendly", "independent living" and "master planned community" variations and combinations. There are probably other key words I haven't thought of. It can really take a lot of effort to find everything.
Of course you also need to buy multiple newspapers and the ads you want may not be where you expect to find them. This is why it took us two years to even know about the place we ended up at. I finally stumbled upon it in an Internet search, and we knew it was what we wanted just from the web page. We visited that same week and bought shortly thereafter.
What we bought is a 1600 square foot manufactured home. We rent the land it sits on and the site owners take care of plowing, shoveling our walk, mowing the grass, even trimming our shrubs. We do some of our own yard work and landscaping because we enjoy it, but we don't have to.
Some communities have restrictions on extra landscaping and so on. This community does require submitting your intentions for approval, but they haven't refused permission on anything we have wanted to do as of yet.
Mistakes we made
Some mistakes we made: we didn't take into account the storage space we had in our cellar or the fact that we had more rooms in our house and therefore more wall space. We thought we could fit all of our furniture comfortably because the square footage wasn't a lot less and we were planning on giving away or selling enough to make up the difference. We thought a one car garage would be fine as we planned on selling our other car after moving, but we really could have used the extra storage space that the two car garage would have given us.
The picture on thispage is our garage shortly after moving in. It was a few months before we could make room for our car.
We still have no room for our golf cart. That has to sit in the driveway all winter and gets moved behind the house in winter so the plows don't have to avoid it. We wish we had a two car garage - that would have helped.