What is 55+ living?
Active adult or 55+ communities are those where at least one member of a household is required to be at least 55 years old. These developments frequently feature enriched living environments and expansive resort-style amenities such as spacious social facilities, clubs, arts instruction, fitness centers with yoga rooms and all manner of scheduled classes, swimming pools, bocce courts and pickleball. Exceptional developments may encompass walking and biking trails and conserved natural spaces. Frequently there are social directors who organize, plan and schedule social activities for community members. Far from retirement homes, these are neighborhoods of lively, active people, many of whom continue to work. Some 55+ communities are gated while some are integrated within larger developments with the active adult community being a component of the neighborhood.
Read our article on 55+ retirement planning
Learn more about the active adult market in Charleston
Does 55+ living does mean “retirement community”?
Quite the contrary, the active lifestyle of these communities allows homeowners to enjoy more
of what they love and have not had time to pursue in their career-building middle age. In fact, most people who move to active adult communities say they have never been so fulfilled and engaged.
Randall and Susie Simmons, residents of Del Webb Charleston at Nexton
told us they did not expect that they would be so active. Susie said, “I don't think we fully understood what an active adult community really meant. We literally maintain a shared calendar, so we can keep up with all the activities we are involved in.”
Why is the community lifestyle in an active adult community important?
Adults over 55 view their life changes — like becoming empty nesters, or attaining mid-life — as positives. They choose to live physically active and enriched lives.
We interviewed a group of people who selected homes in Charleston area 55+ neighborhoods, and they all said that lifestyle was one of the top deciding factors in choosing their new home and community.
Mark and Marilyn Atanasoff who reside at Del Webb Charleston at Nexton
in Summerville were asked about their primary motivations for choosing to move to a 55+ community, and they answered that the way of life and social activities were critical for them. They said it was important to them to be “around people close to you in age and in the same stage of life that you are in.” The Atanasoffs observed that since moving to Nexton
, “We have made many new friends. Some of our new friends came from the local area and some are from different parts of the country.”
Benefits of living in Del Webb Charleston at Nexton
As Charleston area residents prior to their relocation to Del Webb Charleston at Nexton, the Atanasoffs knew the benefits of living in the Lowcountry. Yet, their lives have been delightfully enhanced by their new social life. “Since moving to Del Webb we get together with our new friends at our homes, or we go out together. When our amenity center opens, we will be able to partake in even more social activities. We wanted a community that offered a lot of social activities. This community has done that.”
Randall and Susie Simmons, residents of Del Webb Charleston at Nexton said, “Our primary motivation was having someone else do our yard work! We moved from a home with a large yard and swimming pool that took many hours per week to maintain. We wanted to eliminate those maintenance hours and spend time on fun activities.” For the Simmonses, they also wanted to be in a locale with “walkability to restaurants and shopping as well as access to walking and bike paths.”
Cresswind superior exercise facilities a deciding factor
Dr. Roger Beardmore said he and his wife chose Cresswind Charleston, which was recently named one of the Top 50 Master-Planned Communities in the United States, because they wanted to downsize their living space, live in a warmer climate and enjoy life in a maintenance free home. When it came to hand picking their new home, their selection criteria included proximity to a beach, located in a community near a mid-sized city with cultural and historic attractions as well as good healthcare. They preferred to find a home in a location with an affordable cost of living as well as outstanding amenities, particularly exercise facilities.
Four Seasons Lakes smiling faces meant welcome to a new way of living
“We wanted a casual life with opportunities to explore new locations and most of all, a friendly environment,” said Jay and Janet Gammill who reside in Four Seasons Lakes at Cane Bay
, which was also recognized as one of the Top 50 master-Planned Communities. Jay observed, “In Four Seasons you wave at almost every car that passes. You stop, say hello to those walking or sitting on their front porches to see how things are going. When it comes to a friendly environment, we hit the jackpot. Our neighbors are the best we have ever had during our 43 years of marriage.”
Access to nature and lower taxes important
For the Gammills, their primary factors in choosing the Charleston area for their new home included lower taxes as compared to their home state of New York and, not surprisingly, no snow. Jay joked when he got his first tax bill, “After receiving our bill, I asked my wife if we should have it framed.”
Additionally, for the Gammills, being close to a body of water was critical to them. At Lakes at Cane Bay, a 300-acre lake system is the center of the community. The water and the natural surroundings please these nature buffs. As birdwatchers, they are delighted with all the sanctuaries and wildlife preserves close by. Jay has been very active photographing birds in and around the community.
What options are available for new homes in 55+ developments?
Older adults want more amenities in their home, not fewer. Because of this, builders often include more features in the homes’ designs. While offering more upgraded standard features, they provide options such as screen porches, butler’s pantries and over-garage storage.
Dr. Beardmore enumerated their home’s favorite features as being the high ceilings and open area between the kitchen and living room, the kitchen’s large counter and cupboard space, option for a double oven, and butler’s pantry.
Large kitchen islands are a plus with this demographic. Islands are frequently the center of entertaining for these party-throwing homeowners. The Atanasoffs remarked on their “huge kitchen island” and the ease of entertaining in their home as life changing options. In their case, their home’s design has led to more event hosting. Since moving to Del Webb, “we get together with our new friends at our homes,” they said.
The residents we interviewed all lauded their open concept homes. The Gammills told us, “We love our home for its open-concept, large office and the guest bedroom which has a private bath.” Likewise, the Simmons chose the Tangerly Oak floor plan at Del Webb Charleston at Nexton because of the open concept and large kitchen and living area. The Atanasoffs remarked upon their home’s open floor plan as well.
Another option the Gammils choose was a three-car garage which “was a must.” “We have enlarged our patio space and love sitting outside.”
When it comes to inside-outside living, the Simmons elected for a three-panel sliding glass door which leads to the screened porch. They enjoy entertaining and this option “creates a seamless flow between our outdoor and indoor living spaces.”
Cited by several owners, Hardy Plank cementitious siding is a bonus in their homes. This low-maintenance exterior planking gives a very up-scale appearance.
What are the benefits & drawbacks of 55+ living?
When it comes to the benefits of living in an active adult community, it’s clear from our interviewees’ comments that an improved social life is top of the list of benefits.
Other benefits noted include a more active, physically fit life. According to Kelsi Gannon, Lifestyle Director at Del Webb Charleston at Nexton, “In January 2019, we hosted an educational seminar on arthritis with optional participation in research on new relaxation techniques.” Participants completed a survey and a rheumatologist tabulated the results which gave evidence of “people having a healthy lifestyle in a 55+ population.” Resident Patricia Frisch wrote an article summarizing the survey results and concluded, “Social activities alone may assist people in coping with their problems.”
As for the downside of living in an active adult community, some might say the lack of children and younger people in the community might be a detriment. However, others frequently cite the absence of children, especially at swimming pools, as a positive. For those who wish to live in a more diverse community, many of Charleston’s active adult developments are situated within all-ages communities, as Cresswind is within The Ponds. Dr. Beardmore told us, “It was an important benefit that The Ponds community is available to Cresswind residents, essentially giving us two-for-one access to a wide variety of amenities.” Nexton
and Cane Bay are also expansive master-planned communities with all-ages housing too.
Others might cite more downsides, but our local residents conclude that life is better all-around in their homes in active adult neighborhoods. As Dr. Beardmore so aptly put it, “Through service opportunities, recreational activities, and proximity to neighbors in the same stage of life as us, we have been able to develop a close-knit social group while using the ongoing build-out to broaden our base of active social living.”
Cresswind Charleston by Kolter Homes
Del Webb Charleston at Nexton by Del Webb
Four Seasons at Lakes of Cane Bay by K Hovnanian Homes
Liberty Cottages at Park West by Lennar
Sun City Hilton Head by Del Webb
To choose your new home in an active adult community, visit New Homes Guide Charleston and learn more about these active adult communities.
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