The Case for Active Adult Living A look at the reasons for considering Atlanta’s 55+ communities
Stephanie Wolf, 60, is still a working professional, but a few years ago she decided it was time to take a look at 55+ active adult communities for a home she could remain in well into her golden years. She moved from a townhome in Alpharetta to a single-family home in Nestledown Farm, a pastoral community with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Cumming developed by Jim Chapman Communities.
Wolf took many factors into consideration in making her decision to move to an active adult community, such as walkability, proximity to amenities, single-story living and comfortable outdoor spaces. And she wanted to make the move while she was still young and active. “When I started looking, I was a little bit over 55,” she says. “I saw this property when there wasn’t even a sales trailer here. I signed a contract just from seeing the floor plans.”
This experience is being repeated all the time here in metro Atlanta. Baby boomers are a pretty savvy lot, and they are approaching their senior years quite differently than previous generations. Born between 1946 and 1964, more than 10,000 boomers are reaching retirement age each and every day, and they are doing so with a specific plan for where they want to live, how they want to live and who they want for neighbors. Today, scores of 55+ boomer buyers are choosing the metro Atlanta area for the retirement lifestyle they worked so hard to achieve.
Betsy Sheppard, CEO and president of Gilbert & Sheppard Group, a nationally recognized Georgia-based marketing firm specializing in the active adult housing market, says Wolf is the embodiment of the 55+ housing buyer.
“One of the things that’s really important to this age group is a community’s walkability,” she says, adding that the 55+ client is driven by convenience to shopping, dining and good medical options, as well as lifestyle choices like exercise, walking, biking, pickleball and social gatherings. And the list continues. “A 60-year-old today is healthier than 60 year olds were 20 years ago,” she continues. “And the 55+ buyer takes a long time to make a decision because they have a lot of choices.”
Metro Atlanta has many 55+ housing options, including rental opportunities, and the lure to the metro area is obvious. Atlanta offers beautiful weather and Southern hospitality and is a vibrant cultural mecca. But Sheppard says the single largest factor for older adults in deciding where to live out their senior years is the desire to be near adult children and grandchildren, without having to live in the same house.
Fortunately, whether it’s an urban apartment community, a single-family home in the country or on a golf course or a small community on the edge of downtown Atlanta, there is an age-restricted community for everyone all across the metro area. And the amenities are as varied as the properties themselves, with communities featuring unique offerings like regular cooking classes, wine tastings, woodworking, coffee shops and much more. Of course, more standard amenities like stunning clubhouses, pools and tennis (or pickleball) courts, among others, also are usually a part of the community package. And a great place to start your hunt for the right neighborhood is with the website 55places.com, which is a helpful resource for individuals just beginning the search for an active adult community to call home. It features a comprehensive list of 55+ communities throughout the country, and listings are broken down by region, state and city. Amenities, floor plans and photos are on the website, as well as contact information.
According to Jim Chapman, president of Jim Chapman Communities of Atlanta, “Two of the most important amenities to our buyers are walking trails and community gardens.”
And he should know. He was named the 2018 Builder of the Year by the 55+ Housing Industry Council of the National Association of Home Builders. He is also a founding member and president of ALL, A Livable Lifestyle, which is a statewide voluntary certification program for home builders in which accessible lifestyle design features are built into new or remodeled homes; the Home Builders Association of Georgia launched the program in 2013 to meet a growing demand for age-restricted communities and homes built to accommodate an aging population.
“You need to build homes today where your 90-year-old mother can come visit you,” says Sheppard.
Likewise, the home that meets your livable lifestyle standards can conceivably be the last home you will ever need. These days, builder requirements include stepless entries, main floor living with a bathroom featuring low or no curbing in the showers and doorways of at least 32 inches in width. Each requirement was designed to be mindful of mobility issues and the desires of the buyer to maintain an independent lifestyle for as long as possible.
That was Wolf’s objective when she started shopping, and she has no doubt that she made the right choice. “I am at a point in my life that I just want to enjoy. This is my home, and I made the right decision. I want this to be my last house. I call it my toe-tag house,” she laughs. “God willing, you can spend the rest of your life in one of these homes.”