Ah, retirement communities. A specialized housing development for older folks to go when they’ve outgrown their family home, or just need some specialized programs to stay active.

Traditionally, these sort of communities might have seemed a bit … lame. They may bring up feelings of giving up or giving in, instead of a sense of peace and respite.

Thankfully, the narrative is changing. Retirement communities these days are not only relaxing, they’re exciting, and in some cases, full of life-enhancing amenities. Retirement communities are becoming cool.

In Fort Meyers, Florida’s Shell Point retirement community, residents have access to a whole host of specialized amenities that wouldn’t be out of place in a fancy boarding school. The Academy of Lifelong Learning gives residents access to exactly that — classes and educational opportunities that prove there’s no age limit to learning new things. Nearly every sport and art activity you can think of is offered in the community. A butterfly house and orchid garden grace the grounds, and residents have access to musical concerts and a whole host of social events.

Retirement communities these days are not only relaxing, they’re exciting, and in some cases, full of life-enhancing amenities. Retirement communities are becoming cool.

“There’s a photography group here at Shell Point, indoor cycling, fishing club, quite a bit of activity groups. There are over 100 different activity groups for Shell Point residents to participate in,” Ronnette Isco, Shell Point VP of sales and marketing, told Hellawealth.

Walking trails; volunteer programs; and the “Suzy Q,” a 25-passenger pontoon boat, are just a few more of the activities Shell Point residents can take part in.

“The lifestyle opportunities are beyond what people could experience in their own homes,” Isco said. “And, when they are in their own homes, many times, seniors become isolated and they just aren’t able to experience the type of socialization and the type of new art forms, new opportunities, new programs that they might experience in a continuing care retirement community.”

More features = younger residents

When retirement communities offer so much, residents want to move in. And in Shell Point’s case, they come from all over the country and all over the world to take place in the residents’ choir, golf group, walking club, or whatever other activities float their boat. (Pun intended.)

“Many people who move to Shell Point wish they had moved here sooner because they’re now trying things they never would have tried before,” Isco said. “They’re very excited to explore new art forms, new physical activities, new social opportunities that they may have never tried before.

“One thing we see is that people who come to Shell Point are coming 10 years younger than the average retirement community.”

Western Home Communities in Cedar Falls, Iowa, boasts an aquatic and wellness center that offers at least 22 exercise classes a week, two restaurants and a pub open to the public, and an Aveda salon, among other perks. Linda Bowman, the community’s CCO, told Hellawealth that when Western Home Communities was building its wellness center, “we polled residents to see what they wanted. The No. 1 choice was a walking track, so we have one, and it gets used! All of our therapists were trained in aqua therapy, too, so they can take therapy patients into the pool for non-weight bearing strengthening exercises.

“Our residents started their own BKBK – Big Kids Bike Klub – and gather once a week for rides around the area, where we are blessed with miles and miles of paved recreational trails.”

But it’s not just about shiny, fun exercise options. “We can’t forget that social opportunities are so important,” Bowman said. “It’s why we included a pub where we have live music every Wednesday night; we want to create opportunities for fun and developing connections. That’s how people lead meaningful lives. To me, it’s one of the best reasons for moving to a community like ours — people have neighbors around for friendship and support.

Retirement communities are no longer just a place to go when older folks need more medical support or can’t live on their own. Other communities offer amenities such as horseback riding, in-house movie theaters, and beauty and barber services.

The industry is becoming competitive as more and more locations start to resemble something akin to five-star resorts. As these vibrant, engaging communities become increasingly popular, expect to see more options of how to live out later years fulfilled and content  — while even learning a new skill or hobby.