A Year of Living Older

When we sold our home for the past twenty years in July of 2021, we planned to float for one or two years. We believed that by that time, the market would correct to some extent and that we would build or purchase a smaller, more suitable, low-maintenance home that supports our lifestyle going forward. We didn’t know what that might look like in terms of community, so we set out to ‘try on’ different lifestyles that might bring us closer to figuring out what we need/want for our remaining years.

We purged a lot of stuff and moved the remainder of our things to a storage facility. With just a few clothes and some personal items, we moved into a furnished rental on the beach for a couple of months. Next, we moved in with my MIL for a few months, and for the past eleven months, we have been living in an age-restricted (55 and over) rental apartment community. We quickly ruled out the beach (island living) and a cohabitating arrangement with my MIL for basic, but opposite reasons – we felt isolated at the beach (seasonal) and crowded at my MILs.

With this latest living arrangement, we have now ruled out apartment buildings and highrise condo living. We don’t like the aesthetic of a hallway leading to our apartment door, (institutional) having to use an elevator several times a day, or feeling exposed to unwanted conversations while doing simple things, like cooking at the community grill. These are minor grievances, but at least now we know. We also learned from this recent adventure, that although this particular community is not right for us, we are not ready to rule out living in an age-restricted community.

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.” Paulo Coelho

Our Experience in an Age-Restricted Rental Community

After a year of home-free living, we were ready to reclaim our furnishings and personal belongings from storage. When we looked around, an apartment was the best option available that would accommodate our needs. The move also provided yet another opportunity to purge deeper, which we took full advantage of.

The apartment community we selected was newly constructed, in a reasonably good location, (not far from my MIL), and offered a few nice amenities – gym, pool, clubhouse. We knew the community was restricted to 55 and over and we had some reservations about the ‘true age’ of the other residents, but on the surface, it looked like a very good option.

Overall, our time here has been good and we have made connections with a few people that we will make an effort to maintain. This choice provided us with a comfortable place to live a resort-like, maintenance-free lifestyle, while we continued to travel and explore the next step in our process.

‘It’s not how old you are, it’s how you are old.’ Jules Renaro

Actual age has very little to do with how some folks live and relate to others. Our friends (prior to moving here) range in age from the ’50s to the late ’70s, and all of them share our zest for life, they are engaged through hobbies and passions and project a positive attitude. We did find some folks like that here, but for the most part, it wasn’t what we expected. So, on to the pros and cons of our experience of living in an age-restricted community.


  • Effortless environment – onsite maintenance
  • Quiet (all adults)
  • A welcoming environment (instant friends)
  • Great amenities
  • Built-in schedule of events (easy to stay busy)
  • Convenient
  • Comfortable space


  • The true age of residents is well over 55 (the average age here is more likely late seventies/mid-eighties)
  • High concentration of singles, mostly women in the 80+ age group
  • Very few married couples (we have met only one other married couple who are our age)
  • Social Events are catered to an 80+ demographic (themed parties, sing-a-longs)
  • The daily activities calendar is reminiscent of what you might see in an old-age home (chair yoga, tai chi, bingo)
  • The environment promotes an older lifestyle (it is easy to neglect outside interests and replace them with activities of convenience)
  • The communal aspect feels intrusive at times (lack of privacy in open spaces)

Being the more social (and tribal) of the two of us, I can see myself embracing this concept at an appropriate time – say, fifteen years from now, or, even sooner if I find myself in the role of caregiver, or heaven forbid, alone. Malcolm isn’t sold on this particular model of the age-restricted community for himself at any age.

We both compassionately understand individuals who need and want the connectivity and support provided here. I admire the group of ladies who sit together in the evening, sharing stories by the fire pit, and the ones who have connected over a game of Canasta or Bridge. Neighbors are responsive to neighbors and bonds become reliable friendships overnight. We have even witnessed a budding romance unfold. For older folks who choose to remain independent for as long as possible, this environment makes sense. Truthfully, I wish my MIL (93) would consider moving here.

There is a degree of security here that feels right for someone living alone. But, for us, it feels like one step removed from an ‘assisted living facility.’ In fact, the only thing that keeps it from being a ‘full care facility’ is the absence of a cafeteria and on-site medical assistance. However, the constant flow of physical therapists and home health aides into the building signals that reality is not so far removed.

With that said, we don’t believe that this particular environment is representative of all fifty-five and over communities. This is a unique concept that attracts an ‘in-between’ group of elderly folks who simply don’t feel ready to submit themselves to an ‘old age home.’

Some folks are here simply because they were tired of owning and caring for a home and wanted a nice place to live that would provide some of the amenities and conveniences of their former community. They met their goals of purging and downsizing and have effectively tailored this situation to fit their needs.

In reality, this is a very small rental community, which is not a part of an age-restricted multi-dwelling community where properties are owned and the community is vast. Many such communities exist in Florida, and we won’t rule them out based on this experience.

What’s Next

With our apartment lease expiring at the end of the month, and still no clear path to home ownership in the near future, we signed a one-year lease on a townhouse. The new space gives us an additional 600 sf, a small backyard, and a two-car garage. The community is new and appears to be ‘mixed’ in terms of residents, with middle-aged working folks with children, some retirees, and some snowbirds. The obvious downside is that there are no amenities, with the exception of a small pool.

In the meanwhile, we are watching progress on a new community that is being developed in our area. If it delivers on its marketing promises, there will be a variety of home styles and neighborhoods to choose from, (townhomes to estate homes) a walkable village with markets and shops, lots of green spaces, parks, recreation centers, a community garden/farm, and miles of bike paths and equestrian trails. The town has a twenty-five-year build-out plan, which means we’d be living among construction for a very long time, but, we like the concept and think it might be worth the investment. More to come on that as it unfolds.

“The choices we make today create the future that we are dreaming of” ~ Kapil Tetarwal

My Takeaway From This Past Year

Yes, we could have avoided moving costs and the hassle of packing up and moving again, by staying in the apartment another year. It is a lovely, comfortable place. But, our concept of community extends beyond the gate and the fit just isn’t right. We feel as though we are still up for challenges and are not ready to surrender to a lifestyle that has been scripted for us. While there is no such thing as ‘perfect’, we do believe that we are getting closer to understanding what makes sense for us. Our ‘homeless’ time has now been extended to a third year, and we still feel encouraged. Onward to the next chapter…

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41 thoughts on “A Year of Living Older

  1. I enjoyed reading about your choices as you search for your retirement living space. After our retirement, we didn’t like the notion of a 55+ community for many of the reasons you mentioned. We opted for a condo building that has a restriction of 18+. As it turned out, most residents are over 50, many well over 50.
    While our building does have that “institutional feel” you mention in the hallway and entrances, we are on the ground floor and have easy access to our unit through our patio when it’s not covered with snow. Our building has only two floors, 19 units, and large interior spaces.
    What we like most is that we can be traveling for long periods of time and not have to worry about snow removal, lawn care, or other issues that come with single home ownership. Of course, what’s right for us isn’t right for everyone. I applaud you on your search to find a place that fits your needs and your dreams.


    1. John, your situation sounds ideal – ground floor, adults only, maintenance free. We are especially looking forward to having ground-floor access again, (who knew that would make such a difference). Hopefully, we will sort it out this next year and get ourselves settled again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Suzanne – I’ve been waiting for this post to see if you came up with similar thoughts to mine about retirement living. And I must say that a lot of your pros and cons tie in with what my husband and I have thought about it all. We have a couple of really nice 55+ villages near us, but the average age of the residents is definitely 75+. I’m not ready to be that vintage just yet – and my husband thinks he never will be. So, we’re staying put until downsizing becomes a necessity – probably another 15 years – and by then we’ll be the right demographic. I do like the sound of the new construction ‘village’ with the mixed demographics and house types – that will be an interesting area to keep an eye on. Good luck with the townhouse for now. 🙂


  3. Hi Leanne, I am sure you expected more. It was a difficult post to write because I wanted to be honest, but not offensive. There were aspects of the community we loved, but mostly we felt that we arrived about fifteen years too soon and that we were confined to a ‘script’ that we didn’t help write. I have discovered that ‘edler speak’ is a real thing, and it feels terrible when it happens. Society has a long way to go when it comes to designing living spaces for its aging population that actually promote autonomy and independent living.

    Malcolm is excited about the new village, but it is off to a very slow start, so who knows? I do believe I will get tired of renting and I know I will get tired of moving.


    1. Hi Suzanne – I’d love to find somewhere that was quiet and serene – but not full of just elderly people – we need a 50 – 70 village where you can participate in lots of stuff or choose not too, but with no loud music, no yapping dogs, just lovely surrounds and pleasant people……. that’s my dream.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I read this with great interest, Suzanne. As you know, we’ve made several big changes in the past three years. Unlike your carefully thought-out plan, most of our decisions have been in reaction to external events, mostly climate or climate-change related (wildfires in southern Oregon/hurricanes in Florida). But in trying on different living styles, we realized in North Florida that we don’t like being in such an isolated area, no matter how beautiful the surroundings.

    So far, we’re loving North Carolina and the community here…the age range is 40s to 80s, and probably half or more are couples. Lots of amenities and activities, from bocci ball to wine tastings and yoga. We love the idea of having our own home…we just need to see how we’re going to feel about living in 500 square feet, haha. Time will tell. (We’re hoping our many years of full-time RV travel have prepared us for this adventure.)

    By the way, we just visited friends in Bluffton for a week. They live in a community (Sun City Hilton Head) much like the one you describe being built near you. It’s lovely. Thanks for the very interesting read!


    1. Hi Laurel, isolation was a big factor for us when we lived on the beach too. No matter how beautiful the surroundings, we still need people we can connect with and feel comfortable.

      The age range in your new community sounds like ‘real life’ and no doubt you will find like-minded connections among the residents.

      Your previous RV experience will serve you well, as you already know what to expect from a small space. Wine tastings and yoga sound about right! I’m excited for you guys to move in and begin your new chapter.


  5. I found this both interesting and informative, thank you Suzanne. Here in the UK we have some communities similar to the one you’ve been trying out, relatively small and restricted to over 55s. Some are little more than an apartment block with a communal space on the ground floor (my husband’s aunt lives happily on one such block) while others are more like small villages with a pool and lots of activities. The cons you list tally very much with my observations and expectations, especially the average age. We’re currently in our mid/late sixties and still happily living in our suburban London Victorian terrace, but we know it won’t work for us in the future if one or both of us becomes less mobile. At that point I think we would opt for an apartment, despite the drawbacks you mention. I don’t think my husband would ever relish the idea of a specialised age-restricted community but being (like you) the more sociable and outgoing of us I could see it working for me if (heaven forbid) I should find myself alone. So never say never!

    Meanwhile I hope your next move offers you loads of benefits. The new development sounds great, but I’m sure while you wait for it you will be happy in the town house. I look forward to hearing all about it 🙂


    1. Hi Sarah, we are finding that just like regular communities, age-restricted communities have distinct identities. We realize now that signing a lease when the property was only 20% occupied put us at a disadvantage. Had we waited, we would have better understood the culture. That is not to say that we wouldn’t have done it anyway, but we would have come in with eyes wide open. Our attitude is that every experience is an opportunity to learn, so all is well. I am glad your current situation works for you and hope it will for many years to come. Had the home we sold been half the size and all on one floor, we would likely still be there.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was very interesting. When I was young, prior to marriage I moved just about every year, looking for the best place for me. I finally bought a house. Then I got married and it was too small for both of us and our assorted pets, so we both sold our houses and bought the one we’ve lived in ever since. 30 years here, and now it’s getting to be too much work. We’ve hired yard help and this year we will have someone else plow the driveway in the winter.
    My husband and I visited several 55+ communities in AZ many years ago. We weren’t 55 yet but we were curious about the lifestyle of no outside maintenance, community to belong to, activities. The activities there were bike riding clubs, theater groups, cards (of course), music groups, art classes, aerobics (water and not), walking clubs…I can’t remember more, but they were much more active than what you described. You’d be in your own single family home, but there were also apartments available, and then a nursing home and hospital too. I was all in, but we weren’t old enough, plus we didn’t live in AZ and both had jobs in Michigan. Now that we ARE more than old enough we’re still in Michigan and attached to doctors here. No family left here, so we could move, but we’re not sure AZ is the right choice. Plus husband has a serious illness and maybe we’ll be here for the rest of his days. I think he’d like that, and as long as I can keep affording help we’ll be OK. But OHHHH, I want to explore options!


  7. Dawn, the concept of 55+ communities sounds and looks appealing from the outside. I think our experience would have been different if this were not a ‘rental’ community, run by a management company, vs an ‘owner’ situation where residents get to dictate the culture.

    Staying in place isn’t a bad thing, especially if you can afford it, and it sounds like that would be your husband’s preference. One thing is for certain – a change of any kind needs to be agreed upon as best for both. Malcolm is a whole lot pickier than me, so patience is the word.


  8. We often speculate about what we’ll need to do when our home doesn’t work for us anymore. It’s technically a ranch but we use our finished basement a lot. Our home is considered a townhome because we have a management company that handles snow removal and lawn mowing. Our association also maintains the streets, driveways and sidewalks. It’s not considered 55+ but most of us fall into that category. No community pool or planned activities. Just a nice quiet, friendly neighborhood. I have friends who own homes in The Villages, one of which is there full time. They love the environment and take full advantage of the activities available. Downsizing will be tough for us because of our hobbies which makes finding something suitable a real challenge. Enjoy your townhouse and I look forward to hearing more.


    1. Hi Linda, The Villages is a very different animal compared to our little rental apartment complex. We were there not long ago and couldn’t believe the urban sprawl that continues to extend the boundaries of that town. I get it, but I wouldn’t want it for us. Your situation – nice, quiet, friendly neighborhood, single-level home, and room for your toys sounds appealing. I am a firm believer in ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken.’

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Well Suzanne, I have to say I can’t even conceive of this kind of thinking yet. Maybe we’re being a bit shortsighted but it’s not even on our radar. We’re going to keep on travelling the world until something tells us we can’t.


    1. And why should you if you are comfortably enjoying your current lifestyle? Malcolm and I are both planners, so thinking ahead, and trying to minimize the downside of a situation is sort of what we do. Living in a 50+ community has definitely helped us to see some of the pitfalls that lie ahead. We still have a lot of travel in our future, and part of the plan is to have a maintenance-free home base that we don’t have to worry about. When we had the big house, we always came home to maintenance problems. That, I do not miss.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting synopsis of your year in the age-restricted apartment community. Your conclusions mirror what my mother discovered years ago when she did the same thing as you did. She went from her house, to a planned rental apartment community of people much too old for her vibe, then to a lovely apartment complex that had a more dynamic feel to it. Thanks for explaining all this, btw. We’re still thinking we’ll retire and age in place in our house. BUT if things change, I’m going to keep your experiences in mind.


    1. Ally, it has been an interesting year and we have learned a lot about ourselves. Hopefully, you are exactly where you should be, but if not, there are options. Thanks for sharing your mother’s experience. That is exactly what we encountered. Even though it was only intended as temporary, the ‘vibe’ wasn’t right for us.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. So many great responses here that echo what I’m feeling and I too read this post with great interest as we continue to try and figure out what to do, where to go. I can’t take these Minnesota winters any more and I’m already depressed thinking about the next one because I am “stuck” here for now mostly due to the market downtown last year. My hubby sounds like yours in that he has zero interest in any 55+ communities. I guess I’m not quite ready for that now but it does appeal to me, say in maybe 12-15 years. What would be ideal for us would be to keep our house and escape the winters. Because we love our house and neighborhood(that quite thing you mention). Alas…..not sure we can afford that. Maybe once I qualify for Medicare and can dump my expensive insurance but that is still 729 days away. That’s another reason I am stuck here. Oh anyway, thank you for this very informative and interesting post! And I hope you enjoy the townhouse.


  12. Suzanne, I don’t envy you having to find a new home and then move. Good luck with your house hunting! I’m glad you have a place to call home for the next year.

    We are very fortunate that we have lived in our dream home in a great neighborhood with wonderful neighbors for forty years and we have no plans to go anywhere anytime soon. I like to say they will have to carry me out in a box!


  13. Hi Toby, I have always lived in Florida, but I understand your need to escape the cold. We have a lot of winter visitors here. Some of our friends started with short-term rentals before making a commitment to a new environment. Maybe that could be something you could try?? You are still ‘young’ if you are not yet Medicare eligible. Getting rid of the costly health insurance plan does make a big difference. Thank you for reading and responding.


  14. Well, at least you’re figuring out what you don’t like! 🙂

    In your situation, I would move again as well, because I think you were not happy enough in that 55+ place. The biggest negative, obviously, seemed to be the high age of other residents.

    I’m curious to learn about the development that you’ll be watching, which is being built. On the other hand, I’m surprised that so many more housing developments are popping up in Florida. You’d think there are enough to choose from for everyone by now…


  15. Liesbet, you nailed it. The age of the other residents and the management company dictate a culture that is much older than we are ready to participate in. It would seem that Florida would not have an inch of ground left to develop, but, when you take a good look, most of our developments are coastal and we still have a lot of ‘interior land.’ I would prefer to leave it in its natural state, but you know how that goes. There are some interesting communities on the West Coast of Florida, but with our commitment to Malcolm’s mom, we cannot consider those at this time. She is not willing to leave her home and three hours away would be too far for us to be from her. I think the next move will accommodate more of what we are looking for, but it will not be permanent. Patience, patience, patience…we will get there. In the meanwhile, life is pretty great!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. You have certainly had a journey, and I’m sure you have provided information here that is helpful to many people looking at new housing options. I know several single ladies who love the environment you just left. I think we all have our own comfort zones, and I hope your new home will provide you with a satisfactory setting while you watch local building. During our adult married life, we’ve lived in several different housing environments. I’m hoping to be in my everlasting home right now.


    1. Judy, the 75+ group of single ladies here seems to thrive in this environment, which is why I could picture both my MIL and my mom being very happy here. Most of the everyday activities are catered to their interests and they have created a beautiful support network among themselves. I do think that it takes a certain personality to adapt to a communal environment and most men (husbands) struggle with the loss of control.

      As long as your current home provides the comfort and security you will need going forward, what more could you ask for? Count yourself lucky!


  17. Suzanne, Thanks for capturing a true picture of things in that type of community. I recall, many years ago, visiting 55+ communities with my mom and her saying, “I’m not that old yet” of the 70+ aged population. At 89, she was a good fit although it didn’t last very long. (It would have been better if she had gone in around 80, but it was cost prohibitive for her at that age.) I do think a community like that might be in my future…but right now I like our stand-alone property and the garden to play in.
    I do love how you’re trying on various things and firming up your “design criteria”! I know another couple who did that and decided on a house because he hated sharing the BBQ grill with anyone (in most condos you cannot have own grill on balcony). And still another couple who didn’t think things through and now constantly complain about the “issues” with their gated high-rise condo community. I hope this next year allows you to further define what’s right for you both.


  18. Pat, I am glad we had the experience but, it is a highly restrictive lifestyle and one definitely has to be of the mindset to ‘give up’ a lot of personal freedom – including sharing the BBQ grill 🙂 I think it could be for me some years down the road, but I doubt Malcolm will ever embrace the concept. At least this was just a rental situation, and we didn’t have a financial investment. Yikes!

    P.S. I’m looking forward to having a little patio where I can putter with a few potted plants.


  19. My mother’s retirement complex had a full bar which opened at 3 pm and there were always folks waiting for the barkeep. Really went downhill during the pandemic though! Thx for the honesty and good luck with the search!


  20. Suzanne,
    Sending vigorous applause for the effort you and Malcolm put into what works best for you at this stage in life. With one more year of research and discovery in front of you, you should find the perfect place to land. Helen and I left a labor-intensive large home with more land than we needed and bought a detached home in a community of homes and attached condos with no age restriction. After moving in, we noted we had a number of older single ladies living here. Within two years, the ladies began moving into assisted living centers or passed away. At about that time, our neighborhood became “hot.” Several couples near our age moved in. We love the experience; when we go RVing, we turn off the water and leave it without worry. Keep us posted on your progress. Joe


    1. Joe, we value a lock-and-leave situation. Having neighbors that we can relate to and have something in common with is a high second, but mostly we want a home that is easy to ‘return to’ and not a high-maintenance nightmare. I think we will get there.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Hi Suzanne, A well written (as always) engaging post. I am learning a great deal from you and I have shared your recent posts with my husband. We are in our own home which always requires a great deal of upkeep. A larger house, which means we always have room for our grandchildren, noise, toys, and the sought after sleepovers.

    All choices are personal, with our unique situations in mind. As you describe well, we evolve and situations can change. In our home we often talk about an A, a B, and a C list – under the umbrella of flexibility. Thank you for sharing your candid, diplomatic, and personal journey.💕 Erica


    1. Hi Erica, I am sitting in the new place waiting for Malcolm and the movers to arrive. I have to admit, it is getting harder to do as we are not as strong or as patient as we used to be. Hopefully, we will figure it all out this year and the next time will be permanent.

      Having a place where the grands can visit certainly influences choice. Wishing you the best.

      Liked by 1 person

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