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Retirement Communities

Planned Retirement Communities, ‘‘unplanned’’ Communities, Migration Patterns, Statistics On Retirement Communities, Retirement Communities In Other Countries

Retirement communities are age-homogeneous living environments for older persons, almost all of whom are retired. The communities usually have defined boundaries, and often have age restrictions. Retirement communities come in many varieties and sizes, and no one type fits all older adults. The variety occurs because older Americans are a heterogeneous population, and those who choose living in retirement communities represent a broad spectrum of older Americans. How can one classify the variety of communities? One major axis is a planning criterion: Was the community planned or unplanned?

Planned retirement communities include: Leisure Oriented Retirement Communities (LORCs); Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) and various kinds of Public Housing (PH). Unplanned retirement communities are Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs).

Within these types of retirement communities there are other major defining characteristics. A prime characteristic is the cost of buying or renting a dwelling unit. Some retirement communities such as public housing have residents of low or moderate income, while at the other end of the income and asset scale are half-million-dollar homes for affluent elderly persons. The economic level of a retirement community will determine the kind of housing, the quality of the building and facilities, and the services and amenities that may be available to the residents. Thus retirement communities vary from a modest mobile home to a luxurious five-bedroom house with a three-car garage and a view of a golf course. Obviously one must be specific when one generalizes about retirement communities in contemporary America.

There are some extremely large retirement communities in the Sun Belt that have upwards of forty thousand residents. These large communities are broken down into neighborhoods to give more of a small-town experience. The large communities contain almost all the facilities needed by most residents—shopping, banking, medical facilities, recreational areas, and more so that one’s needs can be met in the immediate community. It is a safe and protected lifestyle. Other retirement communities are smaller in size and are adjacent to towns or cities, or are in rural areas where residents must leave their campuses for many of their needs. However, retirees in such settings may have the advantage of a feeling of ‘‘closeness’’ to their fellow residents.

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