You may think that managing an active adult (age 55+) community would not be any different than managing any other community. In many respects, you would be correct. However, there are aspects of managing active adult communities that are truly unique. The uniqueness is centered around the following two entities: A resident population comprised almost solely of specific generations and the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 (HOPA).
A Great Resident Population!
One of the most amazing aspects of managing in an active adult community is the depth and breadth of experience found in the resident population. People age 55 or older may still be working full time, part-time, or may be retired. These same individuals are also serving as governance volunteers on the community association’s board of directors, standing committees, ad hoc committees, or in various other volunteer or leadership capacities. They bring years of knowledge and life experience to the table.
For example, the community may have a certified public accountant (CPAs) with 30+ year experience serving as the association’s treasurer or as the budget and finance committee chair. Or, the community may have retired judges, psychologists, entrepreneurs, nuclear physicists, journalists, homemakers, and educators serving on the board of directors. The list goes on! As a manager, I have had the opportunity to learn much from these individuals, and I have witnessed grace under pressure as knowledgeable community volunteers have solved thorny issues with thoughtful and measured responses.
The great reservoir of knowledge and experience found in 55+ communities is a unique asset available to the community and to its managers.
At the CAI 2018 National Conference, keynote speaker, Cam Marston, presented a wealth of information about generations and their differences. Two of the generational groups he highlighted were the “Matures” and the “Boomers.” He defined Matures as individuals born in 1945 and prior; and he defined the Boomers as individuals born in 1946 through 1964 (Marston, 2010). These two groups comprise, for the most part, the resident population found in 55+ active adult communities today.
Community managers and their staff teams need to understand their unique resident population in order to provide optimal customer service. Some key items important to residents in 55+ communities are safety, access to health care, fitness, recreation, transportation, socialization, opportunities to provide meaningful service, continuing education, travel opportunities, aging in place, and a community that eases the burden of home maintenance while maintaining property values. Two great resources available to managers for learning more about this unique resident group are the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the American Society on Aging (ASA).
Generational differences within the resident community itself also uniquely influence the management of 55+ communities. Over the last ten years, there has been a shift in generational influence in our active adult community due to changing demographics. The Matures have been the dominant generation for many years and are still strongly represented in the community. But as homes turn over to new residents, we are seeing an increasing influx of Boomers. Dr. Ken Dychtwald, one of our nation’s foremost authorities on aging, predicted the following about aging Boomers:
“On January 1, 1996, the first baby boomer turned 50. By the second decade of the 21st century, boomers will evolve into the largest elderly generation in history. Once their oldest members start turning 65 in 2011, the numbers will skyrocket, from approximately 40 million to 70+ million by 2030. As they age, the look, meaning, experience, and purpose of maturity will be transformed.” (Dychtwald, 1999)
The needs and expectations of the Matures and the Boomers vary and can provide challenges to the community and to community managers. Two issues at the forefront are technology use and communication.
Modern business standard technology is important to Boomers. They have used it in the workplace and at home, are familiar with it, and know its benefits. While understanding the benefit of technology, the Matures generally have not had the same experience with it over the course of their lifetime, may not be convinced of the need for it in a community association setting, and may also be reluctant or unwilling to adopt its use. Below is one, small, simplistic example of how this can play out in community governance and management communications:
The board of directors of nine is a mixture of Matures and Boomers. All of the Boomers use email and are concerned about the environment. They only want to receive board communications electronically and do not want to receive printed hard-copies of board agenda packages. Some of the Matures use email, and some do not. Those that do use email may not necessarily read it on a regular basis. All of the Matures want a printed hard-copy of the board agenda package.
Now apply the above example to all of a community’s standing committees, ad hoc committees, other volunteers, the resident population as a whole, and across all forms of communication needed in a community association. Managers often have to straddle the communication style of two generational groups in order to reach them both effectively. Additionally, the adoption and deployment of new technologies have to be weighed carefully, keeping the resident generational base in mind.
The Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA)
The reason we can have active adult communities currently filled with Matures and Boomer generations is the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995. HOPA provides an exemption to the Fair Housing Act’s protection for discrimination based on familial status, provided one of the following conditions is in place. To qualify,
- the entire community must either have a resident base where all residents are over the age 62, or
2). the community must have “at least 80 percent of the occupied units include at least one resident who is verified to be over the age of 55, and the community follows a policy that demonstrates an intent to provide housing for those aged 55 or older” (Ness, 2011).
Over time, an active adult community can lose its HOPA status if it is not vigilant in meeting one or the other of the above conditions. Helping boards of directors establish and carry out policies that allow communities to keep their HOPA status is another responsibility unique to managing 55+ active adult communities.
Dychtwald, Ken. (1999, p.77) Age Power: How the 21st Century Will be Ruled by the
New Old, New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, Inc.
Marston, Cam. (2010, p.30-32) Generational Insights: Practical Solutions for Understanding and
Engaging a Generationally Disconnected Workforce, Mobile, AL: Generational Insights.
Ness, Bill. (2011, November 25) Yes, Age-Restricted Communities are Legal, Retrieved from:
By Wendy B. Bethke, CMCA, AMS
Wendy is the property manager at Villa Cortese in Leisure World. She has over 10 years’ experience in on-site property management at Leisure World of Maryland, which is an active adult community for individuals aged 55 or older, located in Silver Spring, Maryland.