Why Age-Restricted Communities are Anything but Restrictive

  • Categories:

    Marketing Insights

  • Date:

    March 07, 2019

Why Age-Restricted Communities are Anything but Restrictive

Marketing Insights

Retired living.

Final phase.

While phrases like these may seem distant and even abstract to millennials, baby boomers are asking an important question: Where will my “next phase” home be located?

When faced with the decision to choose an age-restricted community versus another option, 55-plus adults are asking for a variety of perks. And according to Builders Design Regional Vice President Lesley McCarthy, these perks aren’t considered luxuries any longer — they’re the new norm.

Today, baby boomers aren’t looking for a place to live but rather a place for living. They want exceptional services that don’t just allow them to age in place but give them the technology that allows them to age in place. Their trendy homes, located in eclectic and mixed communities, are no longer basic spaces but rather reflections of their interests and lifestyles.

There are a variety of reasons the housing market is seeing these trends. People are living longer, and baby boomers are more likely now to live alone than their parents were. Therefore, many are forced to learn how to live as single people as opposed to living as half of a couple.

“I think that the idea of living has a completely different definition than it did 20 years ago,” McCarthy said. “Visibility of television shows, HGTV, beachfront living and all of those programs that show how people never want to stop the growth process have opened their eyes to a lifestyle they didn’t know existed. People get in a routine and don’t realize there is life after routine. They’re focusing on their own true definition of living and happiness and seeking that out. The physical house becomes a secondary decision.”

As the definition of final phase living continues to evolve, 55-plus communities should consider offering the following:

Indoor-Outdoor Living

Baby boomers aren’t holing up inside watching TV all day. They want access to fresh air. They want their homes to provide seamless indoor-outdoor living. They’re active and want access to nature and the outdoors.

Multigenerational Living

Many 55-plus adults still want a guest room in their new home, but they’re also looking for guest spaces large enough to accommodate full-time living for family members.

Singles Sharing Housing

The affordability of next phase homes can be a major concern for adults looking for the perks of these communities without having to drain savings. This concern has created a desire for co-shared living space. It allows single people to live together as platonic roommates, making their housing more affordable.

Co-Housing Communities

Along similar lines, some adults sharing singles housing are now opting for co-housing communities where every resident has their own individual home, maybe even a tiny home, but the community building is shared. This keeps residents engaged with each other.

Atrium Living

Atrium living, similar to a hotel space, is also an affordable option allowing for personal apartments around a center-enclosed environment.

City Living

Cities have become more desirable for active adults, as walking has become a perk. These city settlers dwell among millennials in city centers. McCarthy says that not every active adult wants to live in the suburbs.

“We are definitely finding that urban environments aren’t just for millennials anymore. We have a lot of active adults who want to be in the center of the action. That’s their definition of living. They want to take their dog for a walk to the coffee bar. In the evening, they want to take their dog to the local brewery. We are very much finding that our millennials and active adults want the same when it comes to active living.”

In addition, many communities are installing elevators, so it’s easier for older Americans to live downtown and be comfortable in their final home.

Multifamily Man Caves

These man caves aren’t just for watching the game. These spaces are places for a multitude of activities, but yes, they still serve as spaces for guys to invite their friends over for the big game.

Luxe Fitness

Adults don’t just want a fitness room. They want options when it comes to maintaining healthy lifestyles. Yoga? Check. Meditation room? Check. CrossFit? Check. This is an extremely active sector of adults engaging in physical activity every day, so they want a luxury fitness experience attainable in their daily lives.


Don’t assume older folks are afraid of technology!

Video games aren’t just for the grandkids. Adults in the 55-plus sector enjoy video games as a way to keep their minds sharp and young. They are conditioning their bodies to stay healthy and want to make sure their minds keep up as well.

In addition, these adults want an array of technology options that include safety features, especially now that there are more single adults, and adaptable lighting. They want lighting that adjusts for easy and comfortable living. Demand for integrated thermostats that can be controlled by an app has increased as has technology that allows for easy and reliable contact with loved ones.


Lighting is a major concern for seniors. They want and need adequate windows and natural light in every single room. If your normal installation includes four cans, install six. You’ll be happy you did.

Beyond the overall community offerings, seniors are also asking for a number of interior design trends in their new rooms.


Kitchens aren’t just rooms for cooking. They are central spaces that have transformed into social gathering places. They should include charging stations, walk-in pantries and family dining tables in addition to design elements such as undermount sinks, black faucets, colorful marble and matte finish countertops.

“My favorite trend is probably the bold use of color,” McCarthy said. “We went from a world where everything was white, white, white for so long, I’m excited we’re infusing rich and bold colors in spaces now. It’s a really great way to show your personality.”

Statement lighting is also increasingly popular as are eye-catching pendants. Goodbye sconces!


White still ranks as the most popular cabinet color, with gray rounding out the top two spots. Shaker cabinet doors are still in demand as are wood cabinets. Worth noting­: honey maple is becoming less desired unless it is incorporated into a very modern design.


The senior community is asking for a variety of features that cater to safety, technology and design needs. Adults are asking for self-cleaning toilets — TOTO makes a great one. They want large walk-in showers and comfort-height toilets. Like the kitchen, bathrooms have seen an increase in demand for colored marble and concrete or matte finishes.


Baby boomers are asking for not only matte-finished tile flooring, but also art deco-inspired designs. Again, homes are reflections of individual personalities. Why not play with tile art?

“I am a sucker for great tile patterns, designs and colors, and I was quite impressed with the new tile introductions I saw at IBS (International Builders’ Show) from the most popular tile companies that service our building industry,” McCarthy said. “It’s exciting what we’re going to be able to do from a fit and finish standpoint to make homes pop moving forward! Potential buyers should be getting very excited when they see what’s out there in their future homes.”

In addition, gray wood tones are getting warmer, and maple is making a comeback.


HGTV has certainly given shiplap a platform, and the material isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Nickel gap expanded boards provide warmth and character to spaces that are reflections of their homeowners. In addition, trim is getting the high-gloss treatment, and monochromatic paint designs are seeing an increase in demand.

As these trends and design elements are transforming 55-plus housing, it’s important to remember the bottom line. At the end of the day, these adults really want one thing for their new phase of life.

“I think some active adult developers are underestimating the higher desire for fun. Just giving them a typical pool or typical small, non-active clubhouse might be OK now, but as we evolve and continue to evolve, that’s not going to be enough anymore,” McCarthy said. “Really focus on how many fun activities you can incorporate into your space, whether it be a bar environment or man cave area or a lifelong learning center or maker space. Give them multiple places they can get together and have fun! They have a higher desire for and crave fun.”

A final phase home should be an accumulation of life’s events, personalities, interests and stories. Make it eye-catching, make it current and, most of all, make it fun.

Explore more articles from Wray Ward.