Golf courses and ocean views are no longer the only things that draw people to retirement communities. Niche retirement communities now cater to groups of senior citizens who share interests and cultures, ranging from Harley-Davidson enthusiasts to those who desire to go back to college. "Both current retirees and those just arriving, the baby boomers, are seeking more choices and less of the cookie-cutter options of a community located either on a golf course or in an isolated rural location," says Andrew Carle, founding director of George Mason University's Senior Housing Administration. Check out these innovative retirement communities:
Feng shui. Aegis Gardens is an Asian-inspired retirement community in Fremont, Calif., which caters to people who speak Mandarin and Cantonese. "An interesting trend is for communities catering to growing immigrant populations and cultures," Carle says. Feng shui consultants contributed to the building's design and avoided the use of the number four, which symbolizes death. Signs are printed in Chinese characters as well as English, and popular activities include tai chi, Chinese calligraphy and Mahjong.
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Hot rods and Harley-Davidsons. In some retirement communities, a loud motorcycle or RV parked on your lawn might be met with complaints from the neighbors. Lake Weir Living, near The Villages in Florida, encourages baby boomers to bring their campers, boats and classic cars, and will even customize your home to fit them, perhaps to include a three-car garage or an area designed to house an RV. The homes generally range in price from $105,000 to $169,000, but could be more if you add special features. "We specialize in custom homes that feature unique garages," says Adriana Rosas, a spokesperson for Lake Weir Living. "We embrace RVs, motorcycles, boats and ATVs."
Bollywood nights. At ShantiNiketan in Tavares, Fla., Indian-American retirees age 55 and older can immerse themselves in Indian culture. "Translated to 'abode of peace' in Sanskrit, it's a gated condo community for Indian-Americans," says Jan Cullinane, author of "The Single Woman's Guide to Retirement." There's plenty of Indian food on offer, including a number of vegetarian options. There's also a prayer room where bhajans are held each evening and an auditorium that plays Bollywood and other foreign language movies every night after dinner. The first 54 condos, completed in 2011, sold for between $130,000 and $160,000. A second development is under construction with an expected completion date of 2014, and the condos are estimated to sell for between $160,000 and $185,000. "It's a place where one comes for their soul," says Iggy Ignatius, founder of ShantiNiketan. "Pure vegetarian food, yoga and meditation is the lifestyle here."
RV lifestyle. The nonprofit Escapees CARE in Livingston, Texas, allows its 50 to 70 residents to live in their own RVs while receiving significant adult day care services. For $850 per month for a single resident or $1,275 monthly for a couple, residents receive three meals per day, transportation to medical appointments and help with bathing, cleaning and laundry. "We are a very cost-effective solution to aging baby boomers that wish to live independently as long as they can," says Russ Johnson, the facility director for Escapees CARE. "Living in their RV on our campus keeps the costs low and they don't have to give up treasured possessions to fit in a tiny room in a facility, plus they have their own patio to invite friends over for a cookout."
Express yourself. Retirees at the Burbank Senior Artists Colony in Burbank, Calif., have access to a performance theater, creative art studios and a Hollywood-theme clubhouse. The community of 141 apartments for people age 55 and older opened in 2005, and rentals start at $1,725 per month for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,314 monthly for two bedrooms. "We believe the Burbank Senior Artists Colony was the first to pair an independent living senior apartment community with arts-focused programming," says Jody Webber, senior business manager for the Burbank Senior Artists Colony. It's "open to professional artists and aspiring artists, retired and employed." The NoHo Senior Artists Colony in North Hollywood, Calif., also has one- and two-bedroom residences above a professional performing arts theater starting at $1,750 monthly for the smallest units. Both communities have lifelong learning programs that specialize in teaching the arts.