What to Consider When Looking for an Active Senior Community?

This post is part of a series on where to live as you age

By Hollis Bischoff, Senior College Admissions Advisor

If after reading Aging In Place vs. Retirement Communities: Which is The Right Choice for You?, you have decided to move to a retirement community, I’d like to share my experience and advice on how to select the best one for you. As a college admissions advisor, I approached the hunt for our active senior community the same way I counseled my students in their search for the perfect college fit. When searching for your perfect next home, there are three major fit considerations: financial, lifestyle, and location. 

Financial fit. One of the first things to consider when choosing a retirement community is your financial situation. It’s important to determine how much home you can afford, including considering other regular expenses such as Homeowners’ Association (HOA) dues. Ask what is covered by the HOA fees and how often these fees may go up over time. Some communities may also have additional sub-association fees for specific neighborhoods, as well as nominal fees for clubs and classes. It’s advisable to consult with a tax professional to understand the potential tax benefits, including capital gains and income tax, for both your current state of residence and the state where you’re considering moving to.

Lifestyle fit. Many people mistakenly think of retirement communities as similar to assisted-living facilities, when in fact, they have more in common with colleges in terms of an emphasis on an active lifestyle. The residents are amongst the busiest people I have ever met and are often booked from sunup to sundown. Retirement communities offer a wide range of clubs and activities to keep residents engaged, social, and active. For example, there may be sports clubs and leagues for activities such as pickleball, tennis, golf, bocce, swimming, and more. My retirement community boasts a softball league and travel teams for all the age groups: 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80/90s. Other club categories may include religious, political, art, games, crafting, and needle arts. Some communities even have clubs based on residents’ original location, military service, or specific interests like cars, technology, or travel. Additionally, there may be charity clubs for donating time and money. All of these clubs meet regularly and organize social activities such as dances and dinners. Some retirement communities have an activities desk, akin to a cruise director, that plans and organizes single day events to multi-week travel, making it easy for residents to participate without having to worry about logistics. Most importantly, there are support clubs for common age-related issues, such as hearing loss, Parkinson’s, cancer, balance, and grieving. And if you don’t find a club that suits your needs or interests, you can easily start one––just like in college.

Location fit. Location is another important consideration when choosing a retirement community. Weather is an obvious factor, but equally important are the convenience and availability of support services. Consider whether there are healthcare providers, specialists, salons, shopping, and restaurants within walking distance or accessible via a golf cart, without having to rely on major thoroughfares or highways. Access to an international airport may also be important if you enjoy traveling or want family and friends to be able to visit easily.

A myriad of resources are available to help you research your best fit, and 55places.com is the best I’ve found. 55places.com lists all the retirement communities in the United States and provides detailed descriptions of the community environment, amenities, costs, and new or resale homes for sale. On their blog, you will find rankings and other tips for selecting an active senior living community that fits your lifestyle. 

We found our perfect fit in Lincoln, CA, about 150 miles from our last home. Less than 45 minutes from downtown Sacramento and the Sacramento International Airport and just two hours to either Lake Tahoe or San Francisco. Within 1.5 miles, accessible via walking or golf cart, are two grocery stores, two pharmacies, over a dozen restaurants of varying cuisines, multiple doctors, health services including Sutter, Kaiser, and UC Davis, and other support services like nail and hair salons, home improvement shops, and more. 

I’d gush more about our newfound home, but I squeezed this in after stitching at the Mixed Needles meeting, and I’m late for water volleyball. See you in the pool! 


Hollis Bischoff is a Certified Educational Planner, the highest designation available to Independent Educational Consultants. After a successful professional career, she has a Graduate-level Certificate in College Counseling with Distinction from UCLA to complement her Bachelor of Science in Commerce from DePaul University. She is a professional member of the  Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA).

Throughout the “The Nuts and Bolts” section of this blog, we will introduce you to the practical needs in retirement. 

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