If you have never lived in a 55 plus property, this article will help you select a suitable complex or facility, make the adjustment, get involved socially, and enjoy your life there.
I am going to cover these areas: expectations, research, adjustment, and socialization. Don’t let the first part discourage you as it gets better as you read further and it ends in an encouraging way.
As soon as I turned 50, I immediately got the idea of moving into a 55 plus apartment as soon as I could to take advantage of the low rent and quiet neighbors. The rent was much lower comparatively, but I didn’t expect all the noise I encountered.
I had envisioned a peaceful apartment complex free of loud music, roaring motorcycles, barking dogs, and rowdy neighbors returning from late nights out on the town. I also imagined that all neighbors would be exceptionally courteous. This seemed like a logical expectation since all residents would be over 55. To me, this meant that they would be mature and refined. I was shocked to find that this was not the case.
Although most residents are as I expected, enough of them were not to ruin the peace and quiet I had imagined. Although I got these problems resolved eventually, here’s what I had to deal with.
- Next-door neighbor playing 60’s music at a very high volume. I like this music, but I like to pick the songs and time in which they are played.
- Neighbor across the hall regularly allowed her untrained dog to bark for hours while she was away.
- Resident buys a very loud Harley Davidson motorcycle and decides it’s okay to start it up and take short trips to the convenience store or fast food restaurant (both a short walk directly across the street) late at night (10-11 pm) and very early in morning (1-4 am)!
- Several neighbors arriving home nearly every Sunday morning around 3 or 4 am, after being out partying all night, and talking to each other as if they were trying to be heard over a rock band at a nightclub.
I did get these problems solved, but it was a burden having to do so. I should mention that I am rather particular, especially about noise, so some of these issues might not be a problem for you. Having a good management team was the key to getting these noise problems handled.
I recommend that you don’t establish expectations. Instead, just keep an open mind and don’t expect perfection. In addition, don’t compare living in an apartment with living in a detached house. That would be an unfair comparison.
There are plenty of websites and print publications for researching 55 plus properties, but don’t rely on just pictures for making a decision. The photographs can be very deceptive as they only show the best parts and you don’t know how old they are. So it is imperative that you tour the property.
Here are some questions to ask management when you visit.
- What soundproofing measures do these apartments have in the walls and floors?
- What are your rules on noise e.g. loud music/televisions & barking dogs?
- What utilities do residents pay for and what is the typical monthly cost?
- What are the options for rent payments e.g. bill pay, direct deposit, check?
- What is the procedure for getting maintenance issues handled?
- What are the parking and storage arrangements?
- What are the security features of this property?
- What are the recreational features of this property?
- What activities do you organize and host or sponsor?
- What are the top three complains of residents who move out?
- What are your policies on moving out e.g. giving notice, breaking the lease, cleaning?
Here are some things to consider when picking an apartment within a complex. I’m just going to give you the ideal location and why.
- Top floor end unit. Fewer adjoining walls and no apartment above you means less possibility for noise. You’ll also have lower heating costs since heat rises. If there is an apartment above you, and the floors are “not” made of a soundproof concrete (very few are), then you’re probably going to hear their footsteps, vacuuming, and exercising. In short, you’ll have to adjust to “their” schedule.
- North-facing. Best position for having the coolest apartment during the summer. Also keeps your utility bills down. A south-facing apartment is the next best choice, but you may get more sun and heat than you want during the fall and spring. Refuse a west-facing apartment especially in climates with hot summers.
- Away from high traffic areas. Select an apartment as far away as possible from busy streets, parking lots, pools, laundry rooms, trash shoots, elevators, and entry doors. Each of these high traffic areas are noise creators. To me, daily peace and quiet are more important than having to walk a few extra feet.
Tip: Do not let the leasing agent convenience you to take an apartment that does not meet all of “your” criteria. Keep in mind that most leasing agents receive commissions and/or bonuses for renting apartments, especially for those that are less desirable.
After you’ve visited the property, go back and visit at key times like after everyone returns home between 6-8 pm. If you can, walk the property on your own during this time to determine noise levels and parking availability.
Your final task is to drive around the surrounding neighborhood. Here are some things to look for.
- Is the neighborhood free of litter and trash?
- Is the neighborhood free of graffiti and gang members?
- Is the neighborhood appealing to you?
- Is there a grocery store nearby?
- Is there a convenience store nearby?
- Is there a suitable restaurant(s) nearby?
- Is there a gas station nearby?
- Is there a doctor (and dentist) within your insurance network nearby?
- Is there a hospital within your insurance network nearby?
- Is there an auto maintenance facility nearby?
- Is there a shopping center nearby?
- Is there a shopping mall nearby?
- Is there a library nearby?
- Is there a park nearby?
Tip: Do not listen to anyone who may be more motivated to see you “placed,” so that they are free of responsibility and guilt, than they are in helping you find an apartment “you” truly feel good about.
Like any move to a new home or town, there will be a period of adjustment. If you are living in a detached house, the adjustment will be more significant. If you been living anywhere for a long time, it will take time to acclimate yourself to your new surroundings. There are several things you can do to get familiar with the area so that it feels like home.
Take walks through the property and neighborhood. Take drives around town on Sunday mornings when traffic is lite. If you don’t have a car, jump on the bus and ride the entire route.
Set aside some time to walk around and explore your new grocery store and shopping center or mall. Spend some time at your new local library, community center, and park.
Keep going back to these places until you become very familiar with them. Remember to be upbeat and friendly. But don’t allow your need to find new friends make you too eager and forward. Friendships take time to develop.
Tip: Many 55 plus communities have free shuttle buses to transport residents to the grocery store and doctor’s appointments. In addition, some grocery stores offer home delivery at a reasonable cost.
The more you get to know the area the more comfortable you’ll feel. You’ll also discover restaurants, shops, and businesses that will fulfill your needs.
The age you move in will also be a factor in your adjustment. I moved in at around 55 1/2. It may have been too early as it took me quite a while to adjust to living in an apartment complex where most of the residents were much older than me. Once I did get used to it I found that I enjoyed being the youngest stallion in the stable. I also found that my purpose for being there at that point in my life was to help the older residents when I could and gain insights and inspiration for creating this website. 🙂
55 plus apartments have a unique social environment for several reasons. Unlike moving to a new town or starting a new job, everyone is in the same age group. If it’s an income-restricted property, then the residents are even more alike.
I have found these similarities to be an advantage. There is a sense of comradery that we’re all in the same boat. Everyone is in the same stage of life. There are no conflicts related to a few young unruly residents. Everyone lives a similar lifestyle. The majority goes to bed early and get up early. And most are at home throughout the day.
There is one thing you’ll need to watch out for, however. There is always a few residents who are bitter and negative. They will express their complaints at every opportunity. I recommend offering these individuals a kind smile, an encouraging word, and then move on!
If you’re at the younger end of the resident population and you’re in good shape physically, I recommend that you offer your help whenever a situation arises. This would include mostly simple things like holding doors open, lifting groceries and packages, and repositioning a piece of furniture. This will not only make you feel great, but it will also establish a positive reputation of you among the residents.
Since I moved in at a relatively young age, I found myself in situations to help those who were much older or physically impaired quite regularly. Being a person with a helpful nature and strict upbringing on issues of courtesy, I had no problem with this most of the time. But when a resident appears to need assistance at a time when I don’t feel like helping or I’m in a hurry, I have to remind myself that I’ll be as old as they are someday.
Most 55 plus properties organize and host or sponsor social activities and events. These range from morning coffee, bingo, and movies to barbeques, dances, and trips.
You’ll make friends over time without much effort just by being there if you are friendly and a quiet and respectful neighbor. If you like having many close friends, then going to social events will accelerate the process.
To be well liked, go to social events to learn and listen and not educate and talk. Get to know the residents, the culture, and the dominant players. Get involved and gain a positive reputation by being willing to volunteer your time to help at events.
Avoid giving your opinions and suggestions on matters related to the property or activities until you’ve been there a good amount of time. In other words, when you no longer feel like a new resident but rather an “old-timer.”
Social opportunities abound in 55 plus properties. Even if you prefer to stay to yourself, you’ll still feel like you’re a part of the community because you have several key similarities with the other residents
Life can be good at a 55 plus property. There are more social opportunities and activities than at a standard property. And it’s easy to feel like you are a part of the community almost from the beginning.
The keys to being happy there are: (1) have no expectations, (2) maintain a positive attitude, and (3) be friendly.
Bottom-line: The advantages of 55 plus properties greatly outweigh the disadvantages.