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As wonderful as they might appear, there are distinct negatives/cons of retirement communities. We’re talking about those over 55 active senior places catering to us baby boomers. 

The disadvantages of retirement communities include they aren’t cheap, could be in a less than an optimal location, smaller living area, lack of diversity, cliques/gossip and restrictive/excessive rules. 

They range from condo/apartment style facilities to gated communities with individual houses. Some are far better than others, yet all have some drawbacks that need to be considered.

It’s vital you do your research, checking into ratings and reviews of the places. Also, try and set up a meeting with one of the people on the executive committee to ask some questions. If a short meeting is refused, consider this a warning sign.

You’re pulling up stakes to move so you want to make sure it’s going to be somewhere you’ll be happy.

1. Retirement Communities Aren't Cheap

Most retirees are looking to reduce their cost of living. One of the negatives of active adult communities is they’re generally no less expensive than traditional home ownership.

And, that may not include additional costs these 55+ villages are notorious for.

Now, one might argue the benefits outweigh the costs. Such as activities, amenities and a maintenance free lifestyle. Yet, any way you slice or dice it, you’re not likely to reduce your costs.

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Buy or Mortgage?

Instead of freeing up the equity in your home, in most situations, you’ll be transferring it into your new property. As a general rule, mortgages will be underwritten for only a portion of the value.

Home Owners Association (HOA) Fees

The home owner’s association (HOA) fee is a monthly charge for all the things included. As a general rule, this fee will likely be, at least, a couple of hundred dollars a month.

Depending upon the management, they might include:

  • Recreational activities such as workout facilities, pool, nearby golf course, etc.
  • A social center with scheduled events.
  • Entertainment which could include movies or live performances.
  • Gourmet chef prepared meals or crappy cafeteria style food.
  • Spas and other specialty services.
  • Green areas and gardens.
  • Activities and events such as cooking classes, crafts, cultural trips, movie nights, etc.
  • Exterior maintenance for buildings, lawns, pools, and much more.

Whether you use these services or not, you’ll still pay the monthly fee. In addition, they commonly increase each year due to inflation and rising costs.

2. Less Than Optimal Location

Everyone has different needs and desires. When it comes to a retirement community, unless you really understand what you want, you might be in for a not so pleasant surprise. Figuring out what you want is critical for your long-term happiness.

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We’ve all heard how important location is. And, it’s not just about resale value. Imagine if your dream retirement home was in or close by a not-so-great neighborhood. One you didn’t feel safe to even walk in!

Some are centrally located in downtown areas. These might be convenient with easy access to lots of services such as medical care, banking, grocery stores, etc. They’re likely to be noisier with lots of hubbub all around you.

More commonly, they’re located on the outskirts of a town or city. While these tend to be quieter, this raises the question of accessing the services you desire. This might require maintaining a vehicle or becoming dependent on ride services.

Relocating To a Warmer Climate

You might be looking to move somewhere warmer to say good-bye to frigid winters. Again, there’s lots of options available. Some of the most popular states to retire to include Florida, Arizona and California.

As appealing as this might sound, this is a major decision not easily undone. Numerous retirees regret not fully checking things out before moving. They might find the summers unbearable or miss their friends and loved ones.

3. Limited Living Space

Typically, the living quarters are smaller than the typical home with many floor plans less than 1,000 square feet. While these may be well laid out and cozy, it can be confining when you’re downsizing from a house.

Some common gripes include:

  • No spare bedroom for family or friends to visit for a few days.
  • Insufficient space for prized furniture and other belongings.
  • Need to get rid of treasured family heirlooms, pictures, memorabilia, books and so on unless you’re willing to pay for storage.
  • Limited vehicle parking. An RV would need to be stored off-site.

4. Lack of Diversity

Another one of the disadvantages of retirement communities is the lack of diversity. Everyone is 55 or older and pretty much alike. You might crave a little more diversity.

In our post, the benefits of living in a retirement community, we used the example of The Villages in Florida. Generally considered one of the best, yet an overwhelming majority of retirees fall into the same demographic group.

Our friend Kathy from SmartLiving 365 commented on this lack of diversity when she checked into the viability of this lifestyle. She found the majority of residents were upper middle-class whites who were considerably older than her and her husband.

In addition, the rules and policies seemed over-the-top. For instance, getting fined if your garbage can wasn’t immediately retrieved. Her overall feeling was this was not the place for them!

Age Diversity

You’d think with everyone at least 55 years or older, you’d have more in common with others.

Some retirement villages have aged, with a higher percentage of elderly residents. This can be especially true when assisted living is provided within the same complex. This in turn skews the activities and opportunities to interact with others.

Older adults tend to slow down and any social events may be targeted for them. Even worse, many have become opinionated and fixed in their ways. Conversations and a sense of energy might be lacking.

In some respects, the fastest way to grow old is surrounding yourself with declining seniors. From another perspective, you might enjoy having young people around.

One of the reasons older people take community college courses is the opportunity to interact with younger generations. Besides learning new things, you’re exposed to fresh viewpoints.

Witnessing Decline of Others

We all know living in an area with everyone over the age of 55 has a lot of pluses. However, everyone’s’ health will diminish as we age.

This can be difficult to witness when your friends and neighbors experience decline. This, in turn, can affect your outlook and overall happiness. Potentially, this could speed up your aging process by not having more youthful energy around you.

And then there’s the issue of when they pass away. If you’re someone that has a hard time with death, this might not be the best location for you as it’s bound to happen a few times a year.

If you’d stayed in your home, you’d probably be in a neighborhood with younger families. 

Then there’s the prospect of when you initially move in. You could, potentially, be purchasing someone’s house that has passed. Some find that concept disturbing.

5. Restrictive/Excessive Rules

Another one of the disadvantages of retirement communities are all the rules. We all understand the need for some restrictions for the benefit of all. Yet, some have extensive policies and regulations.

Curfews, what decorations you’re allowed in your yard or you might not be allowed pets. These will, probably, all be in place well before you move in.

They’re very strict about enforcing that age limit of 55+. This could stop your younger relatives such as grandchildren from being able to stay with you. Or, offering a place for them to stay if needed.

Some do have exceptions, as long as the resident who lives there is present. There could, also, be a restriction as to how long they can stay. Checking into their visitor policies is strongly recommended.

Others are even more restrictive by telling you how many visitors you can have or they have to be of a certain age. And, no children will be running in the house or yard making noise and disturbing the other residents.

All these confines could make you feel very upset and frustrated. You’re being dictated to like a child and that’s definitely what you didn’t expect especially at your age. In essence, they’re making you pick your home or your family.

6. Cliques and Gossip

When you reach the age of 55 and over, you’d think that everyone would’ve grown up. Not true.

Retirement communities tend to become like small towns – very cliquey and gossip flows. It’s like you’ve reverted back to high school.

Once you’ve arrived, you might not find yourself making friends so easily. Not being openly accepted, like you expected. Also, a lot of them have very strong views, beliefs and opinions.

What was it we were always told? If you don’t want to cause waves, never talk about politics or religion. Just like high school, if you differ from the majority, you set yourself apart. 

For the most part, these villages attract people with conservative mindsets. 

Some believe it’s because they’re concerned about security and safety, which retirement communities offer. They tend to be more worried about these aspects of retired life.

7. Upheaval and Getting Out of One

If you find all the disadvantages listed so far are too much for you, a retirement community might not be the right fit for you.

Once you’re committed and bought your property, it becomes a little more problematic. You signed a mortgage / contract and it could be very difficult to get out of. Not only will it cause a lot of stress, it could become a financial burden as well.

If your home was in a regular neighborhood, selling it wouldn’t be as much of an issue. However, with the HOA and all the rules including age limitations, this decreases your list of potential buyers.

Also, a lot of people would prefer to buy in a community where they could influence how the property will be built rather than buying a pre-owned unit.

And, you have to think of the fact while baby boomers are aging like crazy and in a purchasing frenzy, that trend is likely to slow. In twenty years, the demand may become so low it becomes difficult to sell your property.

Researching these types of communities is highly encouraged and recommended. In your golden years, you don’t need the stress of trying to reverse a wrong decision.

Closing Thoughts on Disadvantages of Retirement Communities

While there are many good things about retirement villages, there are definite and distinct disadvantages. 

Research, reviews and interviewing people at the community you’re considering is the best way to make sure it’s a good fit for you and your lifestyle.

Now you know the benefits and the disadvantages. It’s up to you to make a well-informed decision to find your forever home to enjoy your golden years.

  • Great piece! We are in the process of extricating ourselves from a 55+ community we regret moving into, and it’s quite stressful to go through another move at this stage of our lives. If possible, I’d recommend renting for an extended stay (at least a month) before you commit financially, and talking to as many residents as possible, especially if you can speak with them privately, even off-site, in order to get honest opinions.

  • Pretty through article I must say. I have research and written on one the same subject myelf, even though I love living in my Del Webb 55+ community. ” For the most part, these villages attract people with conservative mindsets. Some believe it’s because they’re concerned about security and safety, which retirement communities offer.” I think it’s just because old people are more conservative.

    • Thank you, Robert, for your comment. The Village at Deaton Creek looks like a great community! It’s an interesting point about whether the conservative mindset is prevalent because of age or desire for security. In either case, it’s important to be on the same page as your fellow residents.

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