NY Times: Niche Retirement Communities Rise as Popular Aging-In-Place Option

Moving to traditional retirement communities can present emotional challenges as well as a steep price tag, but one particular type of community could stand to improve the aging-in-place options available, writes a New York Times columnist. 

Even with a variety of housing options to choose from, if the idea of living out one’s days surrounded by a group of people that do not share a common interest makes the idea of “affinity” communities all the more appealing, the article writes. 

Also known as “niche” communities, these are places that appeal to a specific group of seniors, often with an overarching theme attached to them. 

The New York Times writes:

What I find so unappealing about all these choices is that each means growing old among people with whom I share no history. In these congregate settings, for the most part, people are guaranteed only two things in common: age and infirmity. Which brings us to what is known in the trade as “affinity” or “niche” communities,” long studied by Andrew J. Carle at the College of Health and Human Services at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

In newspaper interviews as recently as 2011, Mr. Carle said there were “about 100 of them in existence or on the drawing board,” not counting the large number of military old-age communities.

Mr. Carle still believes that better economic times, when they come, will reinvigorate this sector of senior housing, after the failure of some in the planning stages and others in operation.

In an e-mail exchange, Mr. Carle said there were now about 70 in operation, with perhaps 50 of those that he has defined as University Based Retirement Communities, adjacent to campuses and popular with alumni, as well as non-alumni, who enjoy proximity to the intellectual and athletic activities. Among the most popular are those near Dartmouth, Oberlin, the University of Alabama, Penn State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Cornell.

Affinity communities can meet the needs of various senior populations. Some of the most common communities at the height of the “affinity” boom, notes the article, were L.G.B.T-assisted living and nursing home facilities.

Read the New York Times article.

Written by Jason Oliva

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