Media Coverage

What’s Hot in 55+ Housing: Wellness, Rentals and Showers, Oh My!

The newer generation of 55+ buyers are looking for more amenity-driven communities.

Broadway-quality shows. A world-class tennis center. A lavish 33,000-square-foot clubhouse.

These are just a few of the amenities available to Baby Boomers at Valencia Bay, a 55+ community in Boynton Beach, Fla.

The project—one of many developed by Sunrise, Fla.-based GL Homes under the brand name “Valencia”—is designed for buyers over the age of 55, a demographic that’s more healthy, active and affluent than prior generations of older Americans. Just like the Baby Boomer generation’s influence led to the rise of the suburbs, feminism and even the popularity of blue jeans, they are now influencing housing as more move into 55+ communities in search of a simpler, yet amenity-rich, lifestyle.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, there will be about 56.9 million 55+ households in the United States by 2024, up from 49.2 million in 2015. These households are an important part of the housing market, and builders are keenly attuned to their needs and demands.

“Twenty years ago, the average age in one of our communities would be about 71, but now it’s trending into the younger 60s,” says Jill DiDonna, senior vice president at GL Homes. “That’s influencing the composition of the amenity and lifestyle plans.”

Boomer preferences are even influencing the type of entertainment GL Homes offers in its clubhouses. “We used to bring in acts like a Temptations cover band,” DiDonna says. “Now we’re hearing that they want Journey and an Eagles cover band.”

Builders active in the 55+ space report that they’re seeing the following new trends in both new-home design and community amenities:

Indoor-Outdoor Space

Reflecting the fact that 55+ residents are younger and healthier than their predecessors, builders say that buyers want home designs with more extensive outdoor-living opportunities. “It’s no longer just a dining table and a fireplace, but it’s now really getting into the interaction between indoor and outdoor,” says Karl K. Mistry, a group president at Horsham, Pa.-based Toll Brothers Inc., which builds 55+ homes in 12 states.

Mistry says Toll’s active-adult homes offer wall systems that open up the back of the house, as well as complete outdoor kitchens and exterior water features. “Our buyers are really investing outside the house,” Mistry said.

Community amenities are also reflecting this trend. At Trilogy in Summerlin, a 55+ community in Nevada by Shea Homes that’s set to open in 2019, the club will include about 9,600 square feet of indoor space along with an additional 2,100 square feet of covered outdoor areas, including an indoor-outdoor living room and a sports and game lounge with a covered patio. The community also has extensive exterior amenities, including a dog park, Zen garden, event lawn for activities and concerts, pool and pickleball and bocce courts.

Emphasis on Wellness

Since Baby Boomers are focused on their health, wellness and well-being, builders are responding by including amenities that help them enjoy life and live it well.

San Ramon, Calif.-based Trumark Communities recently announced the launch of TruLiving, a new-home community model that will integrate fitness, entertainment, connectivity and well-being by offering activities ranging from community volunteer opportunities and cultural trips to cooking and music classes, fitness and outdoor amenities and technology that allows residents to view social-event calendars, schedule an exercise class and more. The first TruLiving community, in Manteca, Calif., will include 490 single-family detached homes. Sales are slated to begin in 2019.

Food and cooking is related to wellness—and another area of interest to Boomers, as builders report a new focus on cuisine. Toll’s Mistry says that’s influencing the programming at its 55+ communities as well as how the clubhouses are designed. “We can do chef demonstrations in some of our clubhouses, and there are wine-making classes,” he says. “There’s a lot more conversation around food.”

Apartment Living

A growing number of Boomers are opting to rent, rather than buy, their next home. Multifamily developer Alliance Residential Co. recently announced the groundbreaking of Marvelle at Southcenter, an apartment community in the Seattle metro area that was designed exclusively for residents age 55 and up.

“We saw the launch of Marvelle as an opportunity to exclusively address the 55-plus apartment segment through affordable, high-end living options, thoughtful amenities, specialized programming, à la carte services, rich social experiences and prime micro-locations near premier retail and entertainment,” says Jay Hiemenz, president of Alliance. “Marvelle will set the standard for Baby Boomers looking to downsize and avoid the maintenance hassles associated with homeownership, while also offering specific lifestyle programs and services designed for active adults who don’t need the higher service levels associated with senior and assisted living communities.”

Another example of a rental community—an infill project built near shopping—is Azulón at Mesa Verde, in Costa Mesa, Calif. The 215 units, in three- and four-story buildings, were designed around three courtyards, one with a direct connection to shopping next door. “The top amenity for anyone in this age group is proximity to grocery stores, restaurants and entertainment,” says Manny Gonzalez, managing principal of Los Angeles-based KTGY Architecture + Planning, which designed Azulón, a project that rented up in nine months, twice as quickly as expected. “The amenities in the community are nice, but it’s the ability to walk out the back door and be at the grocery store and CVS that is the big draw.”

Kiss the Bathtub Goodbye 

You know those giant soaking tubs found in the master bathrooms of many new homes today? Builders now know that most aren’t being used. So they’re eliminating that feature and instead designing luxurious and spacious showers into their master-bedroom suites, often with seating and multiple showerheads.

Branded Communities

Lifestyle brand Margaritaville and developer Minto Communities have joined forces to develop Latitude Margaritaville, a portfolio of 55+ communities intended to appeal to fans of Jimmy Buffett. The communities have resort-style pools, fitness activities, game and hobby rooms, arts and learning programs, live entertainment, signature Margaritaville food and beverage concepts and more. The first community, in Daytona Beach, Fla., is now open, and another location in Hilton Head, S.C. is under development.

Robyn A. Friedman is an award-winning freelance writer and copywriter who has been covering the real estate and housing industries for over two decades. She has published more than 1,000 articles in print and online in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, The Robb Report, the New York Post,, Florida Realtor, Business Week Online, and the Chicago Tribune.