4 minute read

Retirement Communities

The Pros And Cons Of Retirement Communities

Although millions of older persons live in retirement communities of the various kinds described here, some people regard the lifestyle negatively. The development of the retirement community industry is controversial. Proponents and opponents of retirement communities point up the positive strengths and weaknesses of retirement communities. One of the most cogent analyses of both sides of the argument is found in Golant. Some of the positive aspects are that age-dense communities provide older residents with opportunities for friendship with persons of similar interests and backgrounds. Residents can create their own social worlds, and can offer help and companionship to each other. The residents approve overwhelmingly of the ordered and predictable setting and lifestyle, and the ‘‘village atmosphere.’’ The many clubs and recreational facilities are the deciding factor for some. Other persons value the security of living in a ‘‘protected’’ environment. Older people who can no longer drive find the transportation facilities a crucial consideration.

Other seniors move to a location near their children but do not want to be a burden to their families. They value the services available in many retirement communities. Their families, in turn, have the assurance that there is immediate help for the older person in case of an emergency. Pressure from children is often the deciding factor in the decision to move to a retirement community.

Most persons, however, do not want to move to a retirement community. Some cannot bear the thought of moving away from their friends and familiar pattern of life. Others cannot face the disruption of moving from their home and downsizing. They cannot adapt to new circumstances but wait until the death of a spouse or a medical condition forces them to consider alternatives to their housing situation. Some older persons feel there is a stigma in living with other people of their age group. They consider it to be ‘‘healthier’’ to live in an age-heterogeneous community. Perhaps one explanation might be that they seek to deny their own aging.

On the negative side the critics argue that some persons object to the planned nature of the structure and the activities of the communities. Others view the communities as ‘‘geriatric ghettos,’’ and think it is undesirable to live in a community without a mixture of ages. Persons who dislike retirement communities are suspicious of management and the idea that cliques or factions develop among the residents and influence the programs. Members of some ethnic and racial minorities may find living in a retirement community unacceptable because of the small representation of their population in these communities.

Streib has stated that the various forms of retirement communities are an expression of the pluralism in American society. Although many persons—both old and young—would not choose to live in age-homogeneous communities, other persons currently prefer them. And for the foreseeable future, many thousands will choose the kind of lifestyle and housing arrangements that the variety of retirement communities provides their residents.



The Directory of Retirement Facilities, 1993. Baltimore: HIA, Inc., 1992.

FOLTS, W. E., and STEIB, G. F. ‘‘Leisure-oriented Retirement Communities.’’ In Housing and the Aging Population: Options for the New Century. Edited by W. E. Folts and D. E. Yeatts. New York: Garland, 1994. Pages 121–144.

HUNT, M. E.; FELDT, A. G.; MARANS, R. W.; PASTALAN, L. A.; and VAKALO, K. L. Retirement Communities: An American Original. New York: Hawthorne Press, 1984.

HUNT, M. E.; MERRILL, J. L.; and GILKER, C. M. ‘‘Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities in Urban and Rural Settings.’’ In Housing and the Aging Population: Options for the New Century. Edited by W. E. Folts and D. E. Yeatts. New York: Garland, 1994. Pages 107–120.

GOLANT, S. M. Housing America’s Elderly: Many Possibilities/Few Choices. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1992. See chaps. 3, 4, and 11.

MANGUM, W. P. ‘‘Planned Housing for the Elderly Since 1950: History, Policies, and Practices.’’ In Housing and the Aging Population: Options for the New Century. Edited by W. E. Folts and D. E. Yeatts. New York: Garland 1994. Pages 25–58.

NENNO, M. K. ‘‘Public Housing: A Pioneer in Housing Low Income Older Adults.’’ In Housing and the Aging Population: Options for the New Century. Edited by W. E. Folts and D. E. Yeatts. New York: Garland, 1994. Pages 61–81.

OSGOOD, N. J. Senior Settlers: Social Integration in Retirement Communities. New York: Praeger, 1982.

PEARCE, B. W. Senior Living Communities. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

SHERWOOD, S.; RUCHLIN, H. S.; SHERWOOD, C. C.; and MORRIS, S. A. Continuing Care Retirement Communities. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

STREIB, G. F. ‘‘Retirement Communities: Linkages to the Locality, State, and Nation.’’ Journal of Applied Gerontology 9 (1990): 405–419.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Housing Our Elders: A Report Card in the Housing Conditions and Needs of Elder Americans. Washington, D.C.: Office of Policy and Development, 1999.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 4Retirement Communities - Planned Retirement Communities, ‘‘unplanned’’ Communities, Migration Patterns, Statistics On Retirement Communities, Retirement Communities In Other Countries