In Active Adult, Tenants Make the Community

by Jeff Shaw

DALLAS — In standard senior living, the selling points tend to be the care and amenities offered for an ailing parent. In active adult properties, though, it’s the tenants themselves that make the community a draw.

That’s according to a panel of seniors living in age-restricted communities throughout metro Dallas. The residents were the highlight of the closing panel at InterFace Active Adult, held April 18 at The Westin Las Colinas in Dallas. 

The panel was titled “Live Interview of Active Adult Residents: What Motivated Them to Move in?” All residents are tenants at Overture-branded communities that active adult giant Greystar operates. Bryon Cohron, vice president of market analysis and business development at research firm ProMatura Group, moderated the discussion.

The residents spanned a variety of target demographics: A married couple looking to downsize their empty nest; widows/widowers looking for like-minded people of similar age; recently retired singles. All said that they loved their new community. But, while the standard selling points of amenities, location and price were all a factor, what made the residents so satisfied were the other tenants in the building.

Linda, whose husband passed away after she was his caretaker for years, admitted that she came “kicking and screaming” when her son suggested moving into active adult. She’s 75, but she didn’t want to move into anything age restricted, even if that age was 20 years younger than she was. She quickly changed her tune after taking a tour.

“I absolutely fell in love with it,” she said. “Living in an over-55 community is the best thing I have ever done in my life. I love the community. If I’m lonely, I can go downstairs; there’s always someone to talk to. We have tons of activities. It couldn’t have been a better decision for me.”

Investors appreciate the active adult space for its low tenant turnover. Charles, who is also a widower, recently retired at 74. He told an anecdote of a prospective resident stopping him in the hallway and asking if he liked the place.

“I said, ‘Well, I’ll probably die here.’ You know, I probably could’ve said that better. But I don’t plan on moving.”

Jeff and Lisa are a married couple with children who sold their house to take a three-month trip to Spain and moved directly into an Overture community upon their return. 

“Several years before we actually retired, we had already started looking at 55-plus housing communities and were considering that pretty seriously,” said Lisa. “Our son didn’t want to take care of our house [while we were in Spain], so we sold it. Honestly, we thought we’d possibly only be in the community for 12 months to see if we liked it, but we’re on our third lease now and we love it.”

Online marketing is key

Though most know it by now, the baby boomer generation is much more tech savvy than the seniors that came before them. Cohron prompted a discussion, asking “How many people went online, found their floor plan before they even visited?”

Almost all the residents mentioned using the property website to research pricing, unit size and amenities before ever calling.

“I wanted to see where all my furniture and stuff was going to fit,” said Becky, who retired in 2018 and moved into an active adult community in 2021. “I did quite a bit of research before I actually went and toured.”

Lisa specifically cited online video tours as a deciding factor, as it allowed her to visualize how she and Jeff could downsize from a 2,100-square-foot house.

As far as knowing what an active adult community was, though, nearly all the residents said they were ignorant of the property type before they began looking for a new place to live.

But the happy residents have also become evangelists for active adult living, encouraging their friends to check out communities that specialize in this niche of seniors housing.

“I didn’t know anyone who lived in active adult. I was totally ignorant,” said Becky. “Ever since I found out and have lived there, I’m a big proponent of that lifestyle. When people ask ‘How do you like it there?” the first three words out of my mouth are: ‘I love it.’ I do. I love everything about it.”

Mike, who moved from Dallas to Plano to downsize, also helps drive the events within his community.

“I spend a lot of time putting together tenant-sponsored programs. You get out of something what you put into it. I put a lot into it and get a lot out of it. They encourage me to do all these different programs.”

He recently started a “Friday Night Lights” movie night at his community, which aims to replicate the movie-going experience of his youth. Tickets were 25 cents to attend, and the first event sold out in five minutes. Mike found old cartoons and newsreels to show before the movie, which was a common practice through the 1940s. The movies themselves are classics from the residents’ youths, such as 1951’s “An American in Paris” starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.

“It takes some effort, but those are things I think are important for the tenants. You hear how much people love being here; that’s one of the things that makes for good times.”

It’s these tenant interactions, encouraged by the operators, that make these communities a home, concluded Linda.

“I’ve had friends who have come over and been flabbergasted with how nice it is. And the people make the community. We have a wonderful community.”

— Jeff Shaw

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