Conventional senior living communities might not appeal to every older adult, especially considering most people’s preference to age-in-place, but the market for “affinity” communities may boom once the economy recovers.
Even though senior housing options have grown in the past decade, many still don’t like the idea of spending the rest of their lives among people with whom they have no common interests, writes the New York Time’s The New Old Age blog, and it’s to this population that the concept of affinity communities most appeals.
Also known as “niche” communities, these are places that cater to a specific group of seniors, often through an overarching community theme. While the recession has largely halted new development of these eclectic communities, that may change once the economy picks back up.
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 often target the needs of specific senior populations. Some of the most common communities at the height of the “affinity” boom, notes the article, were LGBT-assisted living and nursing home facilities.
Others have included failed nudist communities, a motion picture and television company community supported by the Screen Actors Guild, one for volunteer firefighters in New York, and even one for retired unionized letter carriers.
Written by Jason Oliva