Many boomers are drawn to active-adult communities with single-level homes are having new homes constructed with a universal design concept that allows aging in place. Despite the economic downturn that began in 2008, many of these retirees continue to gravitate to new homes built in active-adult communities in warmer climates located throughout North America.

With housing developments that may also have a central clubhouse, community swimming pool, golf course and social calendar programmed with activities and events, these newly built homes come with a ready-made community of like-minded active adults, says Lyndsay Higgins, director of marketing for Robson Resort Communities with eight retirement developments featuring more than 20,000 homes located in Arizona and Texas.

“The 60-something-year-old demographic is acting younger than ever, and their homes reflect that,” Higgins says. “The homes we build aren’t what another generation might remember as their grandparents’ house.”

Whether active adults are purchasing a second home in a warmer climate or downsizing after retirement, Higgins says these folks are attracted to ranch-style homes that have no steps to climb up and down.

Wally Campbell is a Robson Resort Communities resident with a home in the Temple Creek subdivision, located in Goodyear, Ariz. She and her husband, John, moved into their 2,200-square-foot home in June 2000, and enjoy the perks of one-level living. “One of the things I love the most about our home is that from the moment you open the front door, you’re able to see the entire living area, all on one level, with an open floor plan,” she says.

Creating an environment that encourages outdoor living, while also bringing the outside to the inside of a home is what many of these newly constructed homes strive to achieve, Higgins says. “Outdoor living spaces can include an outdoor kitchen, water features and an outdoor fireplace,” she says. “These amenities increase a home’s square footage outside and let residents soak up the sun, which is an escape from the winter weather in other parts of the country.”

Campbell says their three-bedroom, two-bath home has a kitchen that flows into a family or great room. “The way we entertain with our friends and neighbors here doesn’t require a formal dining and living room,” Wally says. “Gatherings can just spill over from the kitchen/great room area right outside into the courtyard area.”

Higgins says seniors may be moving into smaller homes, but they want to use every single square foot of space in it. Robson and many other “smart-sized” homes have designs in which none of their floor plans have hallways to the bedrooms, which many consider a waste of space. “Some people also opt to build a Casita off the courtyard, which is a separate guesthouse that includes a bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette,” Higgins says. “Our floor plans have flexibility built into them, which allows for the opportunity to expand.”

Home offices or dens are popular additions to floor plans for active aging adults. Many continue to work and are involved in their community, including Campbell, who was elected to her city council. “No matter what you do, it seems like we all need access to a computer,” she says. “Which is why we set up an office in our home.”

Sometimes it’s the unseen aspects that make a home more comfortable than ever. “We are building homes that are energy efficient,” Higgins says. “Our homes can have added insulation, and energy star-rated appliances and windows.” Campbell says her home was built to a standard called the “energy star series,” which also includes a lifetime tile roof that won’t need replacing. Some communities even offer home packages that have a solar-powered panel system and solar-powered attic fan.

Higgins says in addition to selling homes, Robson Resort Communities is also selling a lifestyle. “More builders are offering universal design as a concept so retirees can age in place,” she says. “The key is to make accessibility accommodations in a home, without making it look too institutional.”

by Mary G. Pepitone