Retirement developers cater to active baby boomers

By: samjack

They embark on kayaking trips or go hang gliding with their friends, learn conversational Spanish in a state-of-the-art facility or boogie the evening away to disco-era hits.

If you think this is summer camp for teenagers, or events at a local college, think again.

These options and countless others are emerging in active adult living communities across the U.S., which are filled with residents 55 and older who want to stay active and healthy.

As 78 million baby boomers approach retirement, developers of active adult living communities are trying to keep up with trends among activity-seeking residents. More seniors are choosing to retire in places outside Florida, Arizona and the rest of the Sun Belt, and adult living communities have incorporated new features such as home offices to satisfy those who are still working or have become technologically savvy.

The lifestyle changes hinge on the demographics.

According to an AARP study from October, the “common myth” that a majority of the 60-and-over population in the U.S. wants to move to warmer climates no longer applies.

The study, a combination of an analysis of U.S. Census data and more than 1,200 telephone interviews, showed that nine of 10 Americans 60 and older prefer to stay in the same home or county as they age, remaining near family and friends.

These results challenge the perception that people nearing retirement hope to move to sunnier climates when they’re done working. They also illustrate why developers of adult living communities are building in “four-season” markets such as Ohio, New Jersey, Michigan and even Canada.

Stephan LaCount and his wife, Lisa, operate a Web site that lists about 3,000 active adult living communities — up from about 200 listings when they started 10 years ago. LaCount says the site is growing daily, with about 2,000 first-time visitors each day who are researching everything from manufactured homes to resort developments and luxury homes.

“Just because there’s a community that’s developed in Podunk, Ind., it does not mean it’s not going to be loaded with amenities and offer a super lifestyle,” LaCount said.

When choosing an adult living community, people should make sure its location does not make driving to the doctor or accessing other services unmanageable if driving becomes more of a challenge, said Elinor Ginzler, senior vice president of livable communities for AARP.

Retirement or age-restricted developments (for those 55 and older) have long offered basic amenities for residents who want to stay healthy and active — golf courses, community and fitness centers, swimming pools and walking trails.

Walking still remains tops among activities in retirement communities, experts say, but fitness centers are increasing in popularity compared to years past.

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