Today’s Campus-Style Senior Housing

Campus-style retirement living

Campus-Style Retirement Living: It’s Healthier, Happier.

An important trend in senior living – the availability of campus-style retirement communities – is helping many seniors achieve a happy and healthy final chapter in their journey.

The new 55-plus community laid out like a college campus-style, accommodates a demand for healthy living, continuous learning, cultural diversity and longevity. From coast-to-coast, these communities offer multi-use housing, fitness facilities and casual spaces for gatherings, dining, and classes.

Benefits extend way beyond not having to shovel snow or mow the grass.

“Living where you’re surrounded by peers feels great at any age. For older adults, it also makes a difference in both the quality and the length of life,” Where You Live Matters, a website for senior living, reports.

“To be sure, in your 55-plus years, life can get rather serious. A happy, thriving and very active retirement benefits people because they feel connected,” said Douglas Day, president of The Woodlands retirement community in Pennsylvania. “While aging changes us physically, it doesn’t take away our need to feel loved, connected and full of purpose.”

Baby boomers shift to healthy living 

The rise is campus-style retirement development is largely in response to a boomer retirement wave. The nation’s 76 million boomers (born between 1945-1964) have a lot of expectations for retirement. They’re not satisfied with the former choices of assisted living or nursing home. 

Boomers want housing options – carriage, condos, and single-family. The homes typically offer one-floor designs, gourmet kitchens, fireplaces and helpful features such as motion detection lights. And they want an extra bedroom and parking for visits by the children and grandchildren.

Nature trails and an on-campus gym appeal to boomers’ interest in managing their health on their own terms.

Maintaining independence

For boomers, independence is key. The stigma associated with traditional nursing homes, with shared bathrooms, continues to loom over the senior housing sector, particularly for assisted living. Many boomers feel uncomfortable with the loss of privacy. Campus-style communities offer more independence.

Between 5-8 percent of Americans, 55 or older opt for seniors-only, multifamily housing, according to the American Seniors Housing Association. While it sounds like a scant number, that small minority adds up to as many as 6 million boomers choosing generation-specific housing.

That means there is a big market and money to be made in senior housing. The Housing Association and National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing and Care Industry reports there are 2.9 million seniors housing units nationwide.

Many of them are active adult developments where people who do not need health assistance and lead busy, fulfilling lives.

According to, active retirement communities offer advantages often overlooked. These include services, easy access to entertainment and fixed monthly living expenses. If you are renting, it’s likely that your rent will include maintenance fees and services and in some cases utilities.

Activity keeps your brain sharp

Despite an interest in savvy housing, a thriving retirement is not just about brick and mortar. Plugging into the right community promotes brain and body health, according to Where Your Life Matters, a website that advocates for senior housing.

“Exploring new hobbies and pastimes and volunteering time with a charitable cause you believe in and embracing new challenges all help keep those neurons firing,” the website reports. “A healthy brain is also key to maintaining a healthy body.”

Sure, many people dream of retiring at 55 but experts advise that working into your 60s or aspiring to a “working” retirement extends mental dexterity. According to the Columbia Aging Center and the Institute of Public Policy at Diego Portales University in Chile, the optimal age for retirement is around the late 60s. So those who step aside from their careers earlier should continue to remain active.

Selecting an independent living community 

Regardless of retirement age and physical capacity, making the decision to move into a senior living community is not an easy one. According to, many people feel like a weight has been lifted once they see the necessity and possibility of a new life in an independent living community.

SeniorLiving.Org defines independent communities with age restrictions ­– usually over 55 – as those that offer houses, townhouse, condo or even mobile homes and amenities such as clubhouses, gyms, yard maintenance and security.

Campus-stlye living communities are designed to help residents stay physically and mentally active. Many aging adults are considering moving to these communities while they are still independent because they realize the benefits these communities offer when it comes to healthy aging.

Independent, 55-plus retirement community benefits can include:

  • One-floor designs
  • Fitness center and swimming pool
  • Restaurant-style dining
  • Beauty salon/barber shop
  • Healthcare on campus
  • Security
  • Activities, including golf

Important questions to ask before signing a lease or buying include:

  • Do they allow pets?
  • Is there housekeeping?
  • Is there visitor parking?
  • Is there a move-in or a waiting-list fee?
  • What is the shortest lease available?

Live better longer 

According to American Senior Communities, research shows a connection between living in an independent retirement community and healthy aging. The agency says that average American can expect to live to be 78 but more Americans than ever are living well into their 80s.

Mary Spann

Mary Spann

Mary Spann is the founder and president of Upside of Downsizing®. In addition to her 26 years in construction, interior design, and home staging, Mary also holds college degrees in Social Work and Psychology, making her uniquely qualified to assist with the downsizing process, and helping 50 plus year olds achieve a happy and healthy life balance. Mary learned the key components of construction and interior design at an early age. Her father was a prominent custom home builder in Minnesota and Texas, and her mother was a successful interior designer and a real estate broker.
Mary Spann