A retirement community is a self-contained complex for people over a certain age. However, this description says nothing about the variety that exists among the estimated 2,300 that have sprung up in every corner of America since the end of World War II. They are popular. About a million people are currently choosing the retirement community life.
A retirement community may be an entirely new town or subdivision. Or it can be a high-rise building. It may be in the middle of a forest or be a converted landmark in the center of town. It may range in size from a small mobile-home park to Sun City, Arizona, with its 45,000 residents.
A variety of housing designs and arrangements are available as well as a variety of agreements regarding financial and living commitments. Some communities offer a full range of recreational and educational activities – golf, tennis, indoor and outdoor pools, classes, a clubhouse.
Others provide varying levels of personal and medical care. Or a retirement community may be nothing more than a housing development restricted to people past a certain age. There are even retirement communities with no age restrictions at all.
For instance, the Greens at Leisure World, in Silver Spring, Maryland, is typical of a large recreation-oriented retirement complex. A variety of activities is available – a pool, tennis courts, golfing, exercise and card rooms, lectures, and classes and groups of different types. While the additional cost is very small, most of these amenities are not included in the monthly maintenance residents pay.
Homes here are relatively expensive, making the Greens primarily for upper-middle-class people (one spouse must be over fifty). Unlike its more isolated counterparts in Florida or Arizona, this retirement community is close to Washington, D.C. It has single-family homes, apartments, and semidetached units.
The Greens provides no paid-for medical care or meals (though there is a medical building near the grounds). Goodwin House, in Alexandria, Virginia, and Otterbein Home, in Lebanon, Ohio, typify housing for people who want to live in a place that includes more personal services and health care.
At Goodwin House (a single building) residents buy their apartments and then pay a substantial monthly fee. Their payment includes meals, personal and nursing care, and maid service, plus educational and recreational activities.
At Otterbein Home, the facilities are spread out more and differentiated by what are called levels of care. There are three types of independent housing – duplex apartments, cottages, and low-rise apartment buildings. In addition, there are three levels of health care – personal, intermediate, and skilled (the last two are classifications of nursing-home care).
Contracts involve an entrance fee and monthly payments, with a resident either paying for everything in a lump sum at the entrance and each month or paying extra when more medical or nursing care is needed. Goodwin House and Otterbein Home exemplify the most innovative type of retirement community – the continuing-care or life-care community.