In an Active Adult or Senior Community every resident’s home is unique. There are, however, some common elements you should look for that will enhance the enjoyment of living in your house. As a matter of fact, each and every residence and common space in an Active Adult Community should contribute to a feeling of belonging and sense-of-place. If it doesn’t feel “homey”, move on and try another option. The folks responsible for the design of the community need to provide elements throughout the entire complex that capture warm, comfortable touches.
What should you look for when choosing a home in a senior community?
- The option to modify the design—colors, kitchen cabinets, floor and window treatments.
- Plenty of natural light and a view of the outdoors. There should not be design styles that produce an overly dark appearance or window treatments that block light.
- Décor and accessories should be functional and not reduce space or impose clutter. You should be able to move freely throughout your home without bumping into elaborate pieces and visit without talking over the top of decorative arrangements. Make sure there is room to place a book, purse, or beverage on an adjacent surface or table.
- Consider safety. Monochromatic colors on the floor can be difficult for older eyes to discern and may potentially cause a misstep. Contrasting colors between a chair and floor, for example, can help with visual impairment (temporary or not) and are especially attractive.
- Situate yourself in a residence that is big enough to handle some of your prized possessions. You want a home that feels familiar and comfortable to your adult children and long-time friends as well as to yourself. This can be as simple as pictures of family or room for a cherished pet or house plants. Consider small things—a bedspread or certain light fixture can make all the difference in how a space feels.
- Evaluate Common Spaces. The lobbies and group rooms are where senior living communities encourage social interactions feeding the need for friendly, pleasant neighbors and associations. Since these spaces are shared not by just residents but their guests, make sure they are comfortable and provide a real sense of community.
Other things to consider:
- Fireplaces add warmth and coziness
- Conversation spots in the front of a room with room for cards and/or games in a separate, inviting space in the back
- Windows large and dramatic enough to provide interest and an abundance of natural light
- High ceilings, bookcases, natural stone, wood treatments add comfort
Focus on dining, bedrooms, and guests
Carefully examine the dining areas. Dining amenities are something you will use often. The space should be an attractive spot that is flexible enough to accommodate dinner for two or a group of diners. Look for windows, an abundance of natural light and views. The room should feel kind of elegant (not too formal) but certainly spacious—even large scale. Make sure the chairs are not too deep for comfort. Hopefully the campus also sports casual dining areas that encourage spontaneous gatherings in a space that is cheerful and bright. Outdoor dining is a plus and should provide heating for fall and early spring. There should be casual places to sit and a bar is a plus!
And you’ll probably spend more time in your bedroom than any other place (even though you’ll be sleeping most of that time). Any bedroom should have a hanging light fixture so there is a source of light other than nightstand lamps. There should be plenty of electrical outlets on the bed wall so installing a reading light on the headboard is an easy task. Bedrooms should come with “blackout” drapes that can be completely raised when wanted. There should be plenty of storage in the adjoining bath so you don’t have to clutter your nightstand.
And what about guest spaces? Will you be having the grandkids over for weekends, or have a relative that will be spending time at your place regularly? Many residents look forward to guests, but prefer an on-site guest facility so they can “reclaim” some alone time in the evening. One option might be to find a community where it would be safe, fun, and easy to camp out. The night sky and evening breeze are very enjoyable for city dwellers that are basically “drowning” in light pollution. Grand children love the excitement of a new adventure in nature.
Our friends at Sunrise Senior Living have a great tool to get you involved and excited about planning for a new home in an Active Adult Community. And here’s a good article that explains the importance of Universal Design.
Growing older is one of the things in life that you can’t do over—unlike a spouse that wasn’t what you thought, a job that didn’t work out, or a new car that drove better on the test run than when you got it home. When you plan what might be the last house you move to, it’s best to give it careful thought and make sure you are living in a community you truly love.