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Your Next Move: Are You Ready for a Retirement Community?

By Aldene Fredenburg

The kids are gone, your career is winding down, and you can think of better things to do with your time than maintaining a house that's too big for you. Maybe it's time to think about a retirement community.

Adult planned communities, aimed at people 55 and older, are taking the needs of today's baby boomer generation into account. This group of future retirees is largely healthy, active, and involved in the world. While they're interested in maintenance-free living and the security and safety of a planned community, they're also attracted by amenities such as on-premises fitness centers, tennis courts, theaters, and walking trails. Many are located in peaceful country settings, yet with easy access to shopping and restaurants.

Some planned communities offer detached single-occupancy homes, while others focus on condos and others offer a mix of housing arrangements. All offer a range of services, from maintenance assistance for your home to the opportunity to sign up for a meal plan. One retirement community in New Hampshire, for instance, offers a hot meal every afternoon for dinner, either to be picked up by the resident or delivered to the home.

Of course a major advantage of living in a planned community is the opportunity for social interaction. People who've spent the last two decades caught up in child rearing and career objectives are finding time to reconnect with interests and ideas of their youth, making friends with the same social history as themselves. The activism of the sixties often resurfaces, and retirees find themselves getting re-involved with old causes or seeking out new ones. Having a collection of individuals with the time for friendship and an interest in exploring new pastimes can present opportunities for a vital new phase of your life.

So how do you choose a retirement community? First, do you want to live in your own private home or in a condo with easy access to neighbors? What type of maintenance contract does each community offer? Do the amenities - gym, pool, exercise classes - match your interests? Is the retirement community located for easy access to neighboring towns and major highways? If you're at a point where you don't want to drive anymore, will you have access to public transportation?

As important as the home and amenities is the atmosphere. Each community tends to develop its own character, which seems to endure even as residents come and go. Some communities can be very dynamic, full of active adults who interact on a daily basis and maintain a lively social life. Others are very quiet, with residents who mainly keep to themselves and are looking for a peaceful environment.

Before you choose a retirement community, make sure you visit a number of times, and connect with some residents. Ask questions about the community, the social interaction, any special events offered, and try to gauge just what kind of milieu it offers. Also be sure to ask how satisfied residents are with the administration, how willing the owners are to do repairs and meet other needs of residents - an unwillingness on the part of administrators to perform quick repairs and to answer questions from residents can result in a kind of grumbling, unpleasant environment.

It's important to take an honest assessment of the future life you see for yourself, and then look for a retirement community which meets your expectations. With your own personal goals clearly in mind, you'll likely find the community which matches your goals.

About The Author

Aldene Fredenburg is a freelance writer living in southwestern New Hampshire and frequently contributes to Tips and Topics. She has published numerous articles in local and regional publications on a wide range of topics, including business, education, the arts, and local events. Her feature articles include an interview with independent documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and a feature on prisoners at the New Hampshire State Prison in Concord. She may be reached at amfredenburg@yahoo.com.

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