As more and more baby boomers enter the “next chapter” of their lives, the desire to find that perfect home in a perfect location becomes increasingly important and the number of communities trying to attract 50+ buyers can be daunting. An “active adult community,” presumably for those age 55 or older, can be misleading because in some cases these communities offer little or no amenities aside from a walking path and perhaps a small clubhouse for resident meetings. While this option might suit some 55 and over adults, the desire for more amenities and social opportunities is clearly preferred by many boomers.
In a 2014 nationwide study conducted by ProMatura Group, a leading market research firm specializing in consumers over 55, more than 3,100 respondents from New England ranked a desire for fitness centers, outdoor sports, walking trails and socializing with friends consistently among the highest amenities and activities they desired.
At Southport in Mashpee on Cape Cod, a national award-winning community for adults 55 and over, we surveyed over 500 existing Southport homeowners before we began the third and final phase of the community. We wanted to determine:
- What attracted them most in their decision to move to Southport?
- After they moved in, what did they like most about living at Southport?
Seventy-five percent of the respondents to the mail survey said the extensive on-site recreational amenities originally attracted them to the community, but once they moved to Southport, the new friendships and socialization ranked equally high on what they liked most about living there.
In a 2013 nationwide study, the Pro Matura Group asked 51 – to 70 year olds what the top 10 fitness activities would be in which they would participate in their next community. Cycling, personal training, water aerobics, tennis and yoga were the top five replies for those who said they would “definitely or likely participate.”
The top three amenity spaces rated “Essential” by 51-70 year old respondents from New England in the 2014 study were: 1. Walking trails 2. Preserved open space and 3. A fitness center. Thus, when considering where you want to live, look not just at the floor plans of the homes, but the overall land plan of the neighborhood. In many lifestyle communities, the layout of a community with attached homes should have a dedicated part of the community as “open space.” At Southport, there are 95 acres of open space of which 30 are dedicated to our nine-hole golf course.
The Pro Matura Group study respondents felt that while it is not critical to have all of these amenities available on site, there is a strong desire to have them within a 10-minute walk or less than a 10-minute drive. The fact that a community like Southport offers all of these amenities on site and has a very active fitness and aerobics program where most instruction is included in the monthly association fee, has certainly contributed to the community’s success.
“Meeting new friends” and “socializing” also ranked high with respondents in the 2014 and 2013 surveys when asked what was important to them in their next community. One of the main attractions to moving to a 55 and over community is the desire for adults to be with neighbors and friends who share similar backgrounds, interests and activities. Moving to a new community, especially if it offers opportunities for socialization, can be especially rewarding. Quite often I hear new Southport homeowners remark how quickly they made new friends compared to the town where they moved from where, in recent years, long-time friends might have moved away.
There’s little question that today’s and tomorrow’s boomers will lead very active lifestyles with a major emphasis on staying fit and enjoying life. Thus, consider these “lifestyle” factors when deciding where you will live in your retirement years. The combination of on-site amenities and a community that offers multiple year-round activities for socialization can make all the difference for those who wish to remain “forever young.”