originalbestyears

Minimum Sq. Footage for Empty Nester Retirees

Bestyears
last month

We probably have another move in us and I've been thinking about square footage a lot. Here in Texas, where houses are relatively cheap, everybody I know has 3000 sq. ft. or more. I've lived in other places enough to know that isn't the norm, but I think I've somehow become somewhat accustomed to it as well. If one or both of our young adult children are home, they use their old bedrooms and the upstairs bathroom, but otherwise, if it wasn't for my sewing room, we'd never use the upstairs. So, we live quite comfortably in the first story of this house, which includes a kitchen, DR, family room, MBR suite, and office for DH. I'm guessing it's about 1800 sq. ft. But of course that doesn't include a sewing room for me or a guest room. There are lots of additional factors like floor plan, storage, size of rooms, etc. -but I'm curious what others have concluded in terms of minimum square footage for this phase of life.

Comments (161)

  • Bestyears

    There is a Del Webb community just north of Austin, called Sun City, which we have not yet visited, but it sounds amazing. According to the woman we met with at the nearby DW community we visited the other day, Sun City has 10,000 (!) homes! I haven't verified that yet. I was stunned when she gave us that number because the community we were touring felt huge to us, and it has only 1500 homes. But here's what I think is fascinating, and kind of compelling... In addition to three 'world-class' golf courses, and the pools and pickle ball courts you would expect, they have a ceramics studio, a sewing studio, classrooms for ongoing lectures, hiking clubs, biking clubs, etc. It just sounds amazing to me. The local woman explained to us, and of course it made instant sense, that only with a community that size do you really have the resources to offer such a grand array of amenities. Since we would be moving three-ish hours from home, and don't want to be overly dependent on our young adult daughter for a social life, this is very appealing to me. Unfortunately, it is a little further from her than we would like to be. If we were right in town, we could go grab her dog from her apt. for the day, she could stop by for a mid-week dinner, etc. But with Austin traffic, this place would be over an hour away after work, and that would just make that implausible.

    I've also been thinking recently of a comment somebody made above -something about having a two-story home, but they could easily live on the first story. I've been kind of focusing on one-story homes just trying to think ahead. Although I am only 62 and hope I have many active years ahead of me, my husband is 77, though in excellent health. But that comment made me realize that as long as it was a two-story with mbr on the first level, we could consider the home if it checked all the other boxes.

    I found a photo of the 'optional sunroom' in another DW listing. Although I don't like the way this one is furnished, and it's hard to really appreciate it without seeing the surrounding rooms, you can get the rough idea. In the model we toured, It projected out into the yard from the back wall of the house, and immediately to the left side was a covered patio. Here in Texas, that really makes the difference in your enjoyment of the backyard.

  • maddielee

    Google (images) “floor plans Del Webb” for lots of looks.

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    This link shows a floor plan that may work: http://www.houseplans.net/floorplans/03900545/northwest-plan-2750-square-feet-3-bedrooms-2.5-bathrooms Below is a list of changes that would reflect my vision: 1st floor: 1) The garage-mudroom would share the kitchen west wall. The mudroom would be replaced by a drop zone, a powder room and laundry room. From the dining room walking towards the garage, you could turn right to access the laundry room and turn left to access the powder room (or vice-versa). 2) To reach the front door, I would keep the pathway from the street to your house but I would also give access from the right side of the porch to accommodate people who reach your entrance from the parking. 2) The kitchen sink would face the north wall 3) The powder room and the closet by the foyer would be reworked to enlarge the pantry and have the closet entrance turned 90 degrees. 4) The master ensuite and master bedroom would be replaced by the guest bedroom, closet and its own bathroom. If you have room you could maybe add the flex room. One option to include your flex room on the first floor would be to move the foyer to the left. This way it would give you more space on the right side of the house to have the guest bathroom, bedroom, closet and flex room. If you do that, you would need to keep the pantry the same size and your entrance closet turned 90 degrees as suggested above. 2nd floor: 5) Each storage would be replaced by his and hers walk-in closets 6) The bathroom and loft area would be replaced by the master ensuite 7) If you can't have the flex room on the first floor, you could replace the opened area to below by the flex room 8) The roof slope would probably need to be changed. Original floors plan:
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  • Bestyears

    Great idea maddielee. I found this image. Again, I don't particularly like the way the room is furnished, the lack of any window treatment at all, etc. but this is very similar to the room we liked.


  • Feathers11

    I recently looked at a home that had a sunroom almost exactly like this, Bestyears. Such a wonderful space. My parents had a room like this at their house (my stepfather still lives there), and it's in a colder climate. But still nice to sit and listen to the rain, or watch the snow fall.

    Bestyears thanked Feathers11
  • roarah

    My 2000 sq ft present home has a snug 13x8 foot sunroom off the living room. Our friends' 11 year old son, who lives in a 5000 sq ft new build, every visit plants himself in our sun room, closes the doors and keeps repeating this is my favorite room ever. There is something special about small rooms and the feeling they invoke. A smaller house with many small rooms can be as or even more pleasing to our souls as large open floor plans. We often forget this in a world where occasional entertaining needs sacrifice day to day priorities and comforts.

    The above mentioned child is an only child and his parents built their mansion size house because they heard so many young adults are moving in with their parents. I am keeping a smaller foot print house to avoid enabling that in my offspring. I am saving the money a larger mortgage would have cost us in an account to help place ailing parents or failing young adults up in their own places either senior living or dorms so my child can be educated in a well paying field :).

  • mtnrdredux_gw

    There is something special about small rooms and the feeling they invoke.


    I have had this experience, too. Much like dogs like to "den," humans are drawn to coziness.

  • aprilneverends

    We don't forget, we remember))

    When I was a kid I often went to sleep in a tight space on the floor between a desk and a window. My Mom would always shoo me back to my (comfotable) sleeping sofa. She didn't understand why I want to be stuck between wall and desk on the floor. It's something primal. My DH also wants private, small, dark. A cave.

    Even though I must say-I also prefer small houses, many smaller rooms-but bedrooms are very small nowadays, comparing to rooms of my childhood homes. True we were many people in one space, we were 6 people in 2 rooms for quite a few years too, rooms were both to live and to sleep in, but rooms themselves-they were much bigger. Older buildings-bigger rooms. No, we didn't have lots of "stuff". Still.

    Now though..For example my MIL arrives to live with us (which was the whole point of finding new place and remodeling. I, personally, was happy and fine in the old condo. ). There'll have to be a lot of sacrifice. Unlike me, she loves to display family photos. It calms her. It'd be a totally different tiny space all covered with family photos. I'd be against putting them above the bed-Cali..then there's a wall with window, window with drapes takes it all, normal sized window..then there's a wall with closet, closet takes all the wall..actually only one small wallis left to display her beloved photos. and maybe couple more surfaces(a nightstand for example) that are also needed for lamps, glasses, etc. We'll deal with it as it comes, but it'll be a one-room challenge..

  • Feathers11

    I remember when Susan Susanka's Not So Big House book was published, and poring through its pages and really connecting with how she designed homes for living. I'm not particularly drawn to her style (lots of wood), but I like her philosophy of living in a home. Although many of her floor plans are spacious, I've been eyeing her Not So Big bungalow--not for a new build, but perhaps for a remodel because so many homes in my area are bungalow style.

  • tigereye

    We have a 1400 sq ft rancher that we bought when the boys were 4 and 6. Three bedroom 2 bath, We used to think about adding on, but now I am focused on cleaning out what we really don't need or use. The grandkids used to sleep over, but they have gotten to old for that now. I may spring for some new furniture,

    The area is nice and calm. We have all the stores or restaurants we could ever need in a 2 mile radius. Delivery works great for Amazon and etc. The main hospital is only 3 or 4 miles away. We never intend to move.

    If 3000 sq ft works for you great. Look at how far the stores, doctors, and hospitals are from the house you are looking at. How about house cleaners, painters, yard people? They are what will let you stay in your house longer. Guest bedrooms are nice, but a great hotel is even better. We don't need either anymore, but everyone lives close. If they ever move away, we will just go with the hotel option.

    Bestyears thanked tigereye
  • Annie Deighnaugh

    Feathers, we were big fans of the susanka books and used a lot of the principles she espoused when we created our house. It truly does work and feel bigger than it really is. Though we did not mimic her style. Our home is very traditional.

  • tigereye

    One bath is 5 x 7 and one is 5 x 9. My walk through galley kitchen is 8 foot on one side and 7 1/2 foot on the other. One 5 ft closet, 2 3 ft closets, and 2 4 ft closets in the bedrooms and 2 3 ft coat closets. all reach in, no walk in. No attic and no basement. Laundry, ha, is in the garage attached to the kitchen.

  • chipotle

    There is something special about small rooms and the feeling they invoke.


    I would add there's something very special about lower ceilings. I know new builds are typically 10 feet plus but I never really feel comfortable in a home like that. We have 8', but I consider 9' ideal.

  • roarah

    I prefer well fitted reach in closets to walk in ones. Every walk in closet I have ever known is always a disheveled mess more often than not. More space can often equate to more stuff which quickly becomes more mess. I like closed door storage to walk in pantries in the kitchen too. My favorite kitchen to cook in is the galley of a 34ft sailboat. The only island I want to see is in the water. So take my appreciation for small spaces with a perspective grain of salt.

    and yes to ceiling height! 9 is probably the magic number but even 8 feels right compared to higher. I think it is a sound thing for me.

    Bestyears thanked roarah
  • Bestyears

    Thanks Feathers and Annie for the book mention -hadn't heard of it, and it sounds interesting and would probably be helpful to us in evaluating layouts. The idea of how much space we need is relative of course. Moving from NH (where the houses were quite small with low ceilings) to CA, (where the houses were lovely and light, but still small), to Texas (where the houses are grand, but cheap and include many luxury touches that even my wealthy friends in Calif. didn't have), has given me perspective. Although our Calif. house was already feeling cramped for us at 1200 sq.ft. when we moved out of it with two young children, a lot of that had to do with layout. We certainly could live very easily in much, much less than the 2800 sq.ft. we have now. In fact, I started this post because I felt that I had probably gotten a little too comfortable with the feeling that we needed x amount of sq.ft., and was looking for balance from people who are living quite comfortably in less space. So many valid points have been made here, layout vs. sq.footage, need for storage, paring down, need/no need for guestrooms, etc. It's been really valuable to me, so thank you everyone.


    Edited to add: I found the Not So Big House book at the library, so yay!

  • aprilneverends

    Our kitchen is small. Like, for real.. It's a post-war ranch too(but a younger one).


    So there were no walk in closets-we got one in the master because of that addition that let us reconfigure things. It's pretty tidy actually because I reign there. It's not perfect but it's tidy. We keep our linens and towels there too (the rest is in the linen closet-also squeezed it in while remodeling)

    I'm from Eastern Europe and then Middle East..I'm very appreciative of things)) Take my word for it)))

    Now, years go by, one inevitaly becomes more used to...say, having a closet in a room))

    (we mostly had armoires. With exceptions. If you happen to remodel and room is big-you can "chip " space for a reach in closet for example. Etc.)


    Now I'm soon leaving to buy an apartment there. Not where I'd want too, but where it's needed.


    Me living here for years, going through huge remodel, reading tons of books, being for 4 or so years on this site..all of it won't help. At all. The prices are like in OC....I'm looking at whatever pics I see, in our price range-and you know, I just want safety for my Mom..and I see these showers and I, like, "I'm not putting my Mom here, and I don't care to pay for whatever you call your remodel.."..and I'm not remodeling there either. I'd be happy to find a place, to buy a place, to basically furnish the place. It's several months endeavour if I'm lucky. I'll be alone-DH stays here fr most of the time. My brother will help, but I can't just drop on him all this-he's the one who s there all the time, I come to help solving stuff, not to add stuff to take care of.

    Everything is different there, and I'll need to remember that. Again. I'm there every year=well it's different from living. One forgets. Banks, lawyers, how real estate market works(very different from here. Wildly different. Only similar thing-very high prices. Lol)


    And we'll see very soon I guess how much my appreciation works IRL)))

    If I stay sane-I'll share with you how exactly I am humble and appreciative)))


  • roarah

    good luck finding a safe and happy space for your mom. Xo

  • aprilneverends

    Thank you)))

  • tinam61

    Bestyears, our sunroom is very similar (window wise) to what you shared. We are in that room every. single. day. It is furnished much like a den, although I have a vintage drop leaf table that I can pull out and bring the leaves up and we can use that as a dining table in that room if we want. Our house may be compact and the space used well, but our rooms are not small and we have high ceilings in the main rooms. I like that open feeling. We do have a walk-in closet, but it is not a mess. It's not huge but we have cabinets/drawers at the end. We also have a pantry in the kitchen, which I would not do without.


    April, I feel for you and wish you the best with your mom. We have just in the last few days determined that dad really does not need to be on his own any longer. Have found a spot at an assisted living and moving forward on that. It is bittersweet.

  • Bestyears

    aprilneverends -sending good energy your way...

    tinam61, what a great idea to include a drop leaf table! Would love to see a picture of your room if you feel so inclined.

  • Bonnie

    We have lived in this house for 35 years (and in another house in town for 7 years before that) and hope to stay until we need an easier house/yard to maintain. The house is 2500 square feet (4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths) with another 500 sf in a finished basement. Like Tina and Local our friendships and proximity to family are keys to our happiness and we can't imagine living anywhere else. In our town there is a very nice condo development where lots of our friends have moved to, and from there the next housing move tends to be into a lovely continuing care community here in town. Many people questioned whether we would sell this house and move to our vacation house full time, but as much as we love it there, it is too far away from our family and friends, and the city. I went to college in Boston and live in a suburb not too far out. It is a nice lifestyle, with a good balance of quiet and access to the action (and airport.) I like seeing new cities and just enjoyed a week in Charleston and Savannah, but it always makes me appreciate life here.

  • Kswl 2

    We are outliers in that we seem to need more guest rooms, not fewer ones. For example, we are in Florida visiting our older son for a week. DS2, who has friends in our town in ga. came down for the weekend to our house bringing two friends with him. They were attending a party in town (one of their age friends who moved to our little town, bought a house and is already very involved in local politics and is the only 28 year old on our downtown development council). Our house is a good place for DS2 and his peeps to stay after the party—-20 min. away from town and plenty of bedrooms and baths. They got up and had breakfast at the golf club and went back to Atlanta this evening. We really want our kids to feel that this house is still home—-that we are their home regardless of how old they are. I feel that way about my mother’s home and appreciate that welcoming attitude.

    Right before we left town the bureau arrived for DD and SIL’s big “bedroom“ downstairs. It was used by PWs variously as a gym and a sewing / craft room. It’s huge, 29’ x 12.5’ with windows onto the golf course. No closet so I bought a 10 drawer dresser for their clothes. As a bonus it is 40” high and suitable to use as a changing table. DD loved the fixer upper people’s doll house so as a surprise I bought that and it’s already in the corner :)



    I Put all the travel posters we’ve collected over the years in this one room. DD and SIL are avid travelers so I was glad to have a place to put them all. The big leather bench at foot of bed was put into storage when dresser arrived (SIL’s penchant for big leather furniture doesn’t take into consideration the room sizes in their current 1950s house or previous city condo.) Chaise in front of window was fromDD’s first apartment.



    Other end is sofa and coffee table.



    A couple more Florida posters left to out on sofa wall.




    Rainy weather, diapers for the dogs as they don’t get taken out as often.

  • Fun2BHere

    I love all of the framed travel posters, @Kswl 2.

  • Kswl 2

    The bigger ones are not framed, they are mounted to foam board and there is a “frame” attached to the backs that keep them about 3/4“ away from the wall. The smaller posters above the others on the long wall are promotional pieces from the Disney movie Planes. Each one shows a cartoon plane in a different country. They were a gift from someone in the business and I had them framed. Again, for a future child’s room! SIL and DD are fine with all the grandkid prep and are happy we are making plans for a nursery when needed.

  • Bestyears

    KSWL that is such a wonderful room for a grown daughter, her DH and eventual baby to come home to! I too always want my children to feel they have a place to come home to as well -in fact, it's a big priority. Our son works a truly remote job (he's a software engineer), and he's here with us now for a few weeks (from his home in Colorado) just because he can. It's so nice to be able to spend time together this way.

  • Kswl 2

    Isn’t it great they have that freedom of movement, Bestyears? Three of our kids also can work remotely at times, Bestyears. DD and SIL are both software engineers and DS1 has his own company and performs transaction reviews. He only has two employees and they work remotely too, So we also set up a partners desk arrangement downstairs where they can work in a large room, and the other downstairs BR and one of the upstairs guest rooms have their own desks. I am doing my best to make this an extended family retreat.

  • czarinalex

    April... best of luck and good wishes to you. I hope you find a safe place for your Mom.

  • Feathers11

    April, I, too, wish you and your family well as you go down this path.

    Kswl, that's such a nice, comfortable room. Does your (or anyone's 55+) community have restrictions on age/number/duration of guest visits?

  • Bestyears

    Feathers, the 55+ communities I've spoken to have restrictions for under 18s, but not under 55s, so long as one member of the household is at least 55. So if we go that route, we could have our adult children visit, even move in, so long as DH and/or I lived there. We've been told under 18's are limited to 90 days/year and there can be additional restrictions as to pool usage during specified hours, etc.

  • Kswl 2

    Exactly, Bestyears. When we first moved in our DS2 moved with us for a month. we had already gotten him his own ”affiliate” membership to the amenity center so we didn’t have to check him in any time he went. He is 28. There are a surprising number of younger adults who live with their parents in our community. One child is disabled and a few are rebounding from divorce. Another “kid” we know just likes living there with all the amenities and has privacy from his parents on the other side of their home. He takes care of it and the dogs when they travel. If our DS2 had found a job closer to home he may have stayed with us indefinitely, which would have been A-ok with us. Our recent health problems have made us value our children even more as responsible adults we can rely on for almost anything. DS2 is the one I thought / worried had little ambition or drive and he’s spent the last year or two proving me dead wrong.


    I think the under 18 rule (only staying 30 days in any calendar year) also protects the seniors from getting stuck with daycare duty or raising their kids’ kids. I guess if it comes to that they have to move—-but of course they know that moving in.

  • OutsidePlaying

    Kswl, your extra spaces for your adult kids look great. Now that our grandkids are older, our extra spaces aren’t used as much so we are considering transforming at least one bedroom into something else more useful for us. Three of the six grandkids are in college and who knows where they will end up. All the kids live within either 30 minutes or a couple of hours from us.

    Our 3000 square foot house is fine, and while I ‘could‘ live in something a bit smaller, I’m not sure I want to. I like space and being able to feel uncramped in certain rooms. Ask me again in 10 years when I’m 80-something and maybe I will feel differently. We are aware we won’t always be able to take care of our large property forever but dread the thoughts of a small lot with close neighbors and noise. I hope we can find something in a 55+ area when the time comes. In our area it doesn’t seem like there is much to offer in that intermediate range, it just goes from single family living to the old-age homes. Or maybe I just haven’t checked out it out enough.

  • Kswl 2

    I could easily live in 3000 sq ft,, that is plenty of room for a couple. DH wouldn’t agree, though.


    We have stayed at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo several times and seriously considered buying there for retirement until DH got sick. After that we wanted him to be close to his doctors and our family support. I LOVE.the Keys and envy you!

  • mtnrdredux_gw

    I always wondered if 55+ was a suggestion or a requirement; now I see how it works. I guess it makes sense but the idealist in me also really thinks intergenerational relationships are good for everyone.

  • Bestyears

    mtn, I don't think I would ever even consider a 55+ community here, but I'm finding it strangely appealing when considering a move to a place where we would know almost nobody. With people of similar ages, and all the activities, clubs, sports, etc., it feels like college again! Without the papers and exams!

  • Kswl 2

    A singleton must be 55 or older in our community, but in a couple just one has to be that age. In a funny way, Mtn, we do have inter generational living. One of my friends who already lived here (she and her DH moved from NJ 11 years ago) is 80. She is in the gym at 5:30 am every day, swims twice a week and plays golf weekly. I am 63 and DH is 61, so theoretically she could be either his or my mother. There is a woman in her early forties here married to a 55 year old man and I could be her mother :) Notwithstanding the age restrictions this place teems with kids at holidays and during the summer. They can’t be dropped off at the pool or playground or amenity center, which is great because it means they are actually spending quality time with their grandparents. One week of summer is designated Grandchildren’s Week, and they have extended pool hours for the kids (normally two hours each in the morning and afternoon), a pizza party one night, an outdoor movie at the pool one night, a golf lesson, arts and crafts classes, a teen night, a dance party, and other movies at our on site theater. The golf club restaurant has special kids‘ meals and everywhere you see kids learning to drive golf carts alongside their grandparents. We don’t have any gkids yet and I can’t wait to have them for that week!


    I guess what I am saying is that we don’t have young families here but there are lots of younger people around, especially in summer. On our street there are two couples who live across from each other, and their kids are married. The second couple to move here was looking for a retirement home when the one on our street became available. They made sure the in-laws had no problem with it, and now the young family comes to stay and spreads out between both homes. It’s incredibly convenient for everybody at holidays, and like an idealized vision of small town living with grandparents on both sides of the same street. How wonderful is that?.


    Like I said originally, we are the poster children for living in a 55+ community, I guess that is pretty obvious!

  • nini804

    Gosh, Kswl, you make it sound TOTALLY up my alley!! I was the girl in college who moved back into my sorority house my senior year bc living with just one roommate in my first apartment junior year was too quiet & lonely for me, lol!! I would totally do it when we get old enough and I get tired of my house. I just love my house & yard so much that I can’t imagine leaving it...but if all my friends started moving to a fun place like that I could definitely see doing it too! 😊

  • Kswl 2

    Mini when I was in my forties and kids started going off to college my friends and I joked about moving into an sited living / party house divided up into small apartments with a huge common kitchen and other shared public spaces. With about seven meals a week catered in a common dining room. How fun would that be?..

  • jmck_nc

    We live in a large planned community. Part of it is an age restricted over 55 area with it's own amenities (admittedly not as extensive as kswl's place). The homes are small (1400-2000 sq ft) but very nicely laid out and appointed. I like the fact that is is also within a larger community of all ages but you can retreat away from all that if you are tired of it. Might be a consideration if we need to move to a place on one level in the nearer future for some reason.

  • maire_cate

    Over 55s are not for everyone and if you're thinking about one there is a lot to consider. A friend of mine moved to The Villages in Florida - it's huge, I think she said the population is over 150,000. She loves the overall town, but is disappointed that most of her immediate neighbors are snowbirds and in the summer she feels she's living in a deserted community. Since the homes are on smaller lots there is greater interaction with neighbors which can have both a positive and negative impact.

    We've been in our over 55 for 2 years and I love it. DH is not as thrilled. Logically he knew this was the right move he just thought it would happen later. But then he also thought he would never retire much less leave our family home that we had extensively remodeled in 35 years.

    This move is primarily one of convenience. When DH's health issues arose we decided to not only downsize in square footage but to simplify too. DH was 70 and I was 68 - we wanted a home that was right for the 2 of us but also manageable for just one. We could have stayed in our old home and moved the bedroom down to the first floor library which had an adjacent full bath. We had contractors who took care of the yard and landscaping, who plowed and shoveled snow in the winter. We had someone who did the windows and gutters and house cleaned. It seemed there was always some project that needed to be dealt with. Plus we still have our other place in the mountains - but that one is easy since we have one local contractor who handles everything.

    I visited other 55's in our area, 3 new ones which were still in the building process where we could have selected the lot, model and interior; one that was only townhouses; two with golf courses, and a couple in PA and Delaware. Selecting this community turned out to be surprisingly easy. Again - convenience - based on location, overall size of community (240 homes, 15 townhouses), amenities (clubhouse with gym, card and craft rooms, pool, tennis courts, bocce), availability (these homes usually sell by word of mouth before ever hitting real estate listings). There is a social committee that arranges pool and clubhouse events, show trips to NYC, garden tours, visits to historic sites and baseball games etc. We only moved 8 miles from our home so very little in our lives changed. We were able to renovate before moving (new kitchen, 3 baths and removed a wall and hallway).

    If considering an over 55 or any HOA for that matter you need to research the financial stability of the association and read a copy of the covenants that regulates the HOA and the rules and regulations for homeowners. Find out if there are any lawsuits or contractor's liens placed against the HOA, what financial reserves are maintained, what percentage of homeowners are current with their dues etc. Are rentals allowed?

    This is quick look at how to evaluate an HOA.

    https://www.fsresidential.com/corporate/news-and-events/articles/buying-a-home-in-a-community-association-part-two

    HOAs are governed by a board but must follow federal, state and local regulations. Our HOA agreement is liveable, but some HOAs are very stringent even dictating that drapes must be lined in white so that all homes are uniform. We can do anything we want to the interior but as KSWL mentioned the exterior must conform: holiday decorations must be removed 2 weeks after the holiday, major landscape changes must go through a review process, we can change the siding, shingles or color of the house trim but it must be one of the 40 or so approved colors; no clotheslines, fountains, ponds, or political signs, residents cannot have commercial vehicles, pets must be leashed when outdoors (only 2 per home). The regulations do make everything uniform but they also help maintain the property value too.

    Our HOA has an annual outside audit that verifies financial and age compliance. They conduct a census every year to check that one person is over 55 - the actual homeowner doesn't need to be 55, my neighbor's 40 year old son bought the property for her but one adult must be over 55.

    Bestyears thanked maire_cate
  • Kswl 2

    Maire Cate our circumstances were similar to yours. DH would never have moved if he hadn’t gotten ill, and our new community is only 20 min from our old house, so we have maintained old friendships and associations. In our case, moving to a completely new state without that support network would have been much harder. In fact, we probably would not have attempted it. Owning the house for half a year before we moved also gave us time to start using the amenities and meet other people here, We furnished our bedroom and the screened porch and would spend a couple of nights at a time in the new house trying to get our dogs acclimated, In November after one weekend we did not want to leave and knew we were ready.

    One of the nicest things about the new place is that I don’t have to do anything with the landscaping unless I just want to, The groundskeepers trim bushes and cut grass. We didn’t do that stuff at our other home but the supervision of 12 acres and infrastructure was a good bit of work (and a lot of money). I spent $4000 (two applications ) a year on pine straw ! Several days ago I came back from a hair appointment in town to find mountains of bales of fresh, long needle pine straw dumped between every two homes on our street. I had forgotten the email that told us which day our mulch would be redone. A few hours later every bit of ground around our shrubs and porch and walkway, all down each side of the house and around our patio, too, was covered with a blanket of beautifully rolled pine straw that I did not have to remind anyone to do, tell them where it should be heavier or lighter, call afterwards to tell them where they missed a spot or pay (separately) for any of it. Lawn maintenance is included in our HOA and that makes it practically a vacation for me.

    Our fresh mulch! I took a picture to send to my mother, who regarded pine straw as a gift from God herself and was scandalized at how much we paid for it.





    I was trying to find a picture that shows the size of our side yard but neither of these does. It’s a lovely size and gives our dogs a large area for their business especially on days when we don’t go to the dog park.

  • Feathers11

    It's so helpful to me to read about these experiences and learn more about these communities, so thank you for continuing to share. And for the HOA link, Maire Cate, because I have lived with HOA's, but they served more as insurance that a neighbor wouldn't paint their house neon pink or set up a trailer in their back yard.

    Kswl, I've watched parents and in-laws make living decisions later in life, and so far, I haven't seen examples I want to follow. My father was a hermit and insisted on living on his own, had a terrible fall, landed in the hospital, and essentially gave up and died in a skilled nursing facility when he realized he wasn't going to be able to live on his own again. It all happened within a span of a few months, and I can understand in his mind he was doing it on his own terms. But I wonder what his later years would have been like with more safety measures in his day-to-day living. Plenty were suggested, but he was stubborn and intensely paranoid.

    My in-laws have a large home on property which seems similar to what you left. A lot of land, a lot of house, and a lot to manage. The outside work kept my FIL active and busy in his early retirement, and he truly enjoyed it. Now, they're both around 80, and, after some terrible accidents that could have ended badly, he's finally realized he cannot much of it anymore. He hires out the work, and family helps when we can. But each time we visit, we notice more decline in the upkeep.

    Unfortunately, while their property is beautiful, they're a good 20 minutes from town. Most days, they spend sitting in recliners, watching TV and eating. Their health is suffering as a result of inactivity, poor eating habits, and low social engagement. I'd rather see them in a community like yours, which they could very well afford, but neither wants to leave. I remember "the call" about my dad's fall. I'm waiting for the call about my in-laws.

    All I can say to those of you considering your next step, as well as those of you have taken it--no matter what it is--is that you've given your adult children and/or loved ones a wonderful gift, and not just spare bedrooms. But reassurance that you're both in a positive, healthy and safe environment. Good lesson for me to remember, too.

  • Bestyears

    We live in an HOA now, which I think will be helpful in adjusting to an over-55 if we do go that route. Although we have occasional annoyances with them, for the most part, it's no big deal. So we are used to the restrictions on outside appearances. I love the idea of a large master-planned community with a portion dedicated to over-55 -that sounds like perfection. One thing I'm finding in the Austin area is that it's difficult to sleuth these places out. I haven't found any in the city proper that are homes (even townhomes might be acceptable). They are all apartments, and most of those you cannot own, but must rent, and are full-service/concierge style living that is way beyond what we need or want). I'm frustrated with the fact that Sun City is about 40 miles from DD. With Austin traffic, that can easily be 1.5 hours before/after work. That eliminates the possibility of things like mid-week dinners at our house, going over to her place to pick up her dog to hang out with ours, etc.

  • Kswl 2

    I agree that an over 55 neighborhood as part of a larger planned community would be ideal. it would probably have to be in a much more densely populated or higher income area than ours to be viable. Frankly we were shocked when this one was built in our area. We are only about 40 min from the Atlanta airport though and that is a big draw. Also the golf course which is apparently pretty nice although not super challenging. ( That May be part of its appeal for our age group also!). It sounds like your traffic in Austin is as bad as the Atlanta traffic, which is absolutely vile.

  • jill302

    I guess we are upsizing rather than downsizing. We are planning on buying a second home in a Del Webb community in the Palm Springs area in the next year or so. We have friends that already live in the community, they love it. We visit often.

    As far as our current house, we also plan on moving within our community at some point. Hoping to find an almost forever house. However, I am not ready to downsize to the house I may need In my 80’s at age 60. There are still 3 of us here, so we will likely wait until we are an empty nest. We will be looking for a single story or 2 story with a downstairs master, at least 3 bedrooms with a nice sized backyard most importantly a functional layout. So a bit smaller than our current house but we want room for guests and an office/craft room. Like KSWL I want it to be a welcoming home for visiting family.


  • mtnrdredux_gw

    Your comment Feathers, brings to mind a conundrum discussed in Being Mortal. The author/physician who wrote the book noted that the overriding concern that drives institutions' decisions about elder care is safety. To a fault. Safety over autonomy and quality of life. Safety above all else.


    Someone here recommended the book, there have already been a lot of posts about it, but I think its very thought-provoking. I think its especially useful to examine these things very early , when they are theoretical.

  • Bestyears

    Mtn, I think it was me who recommended the book. My oldest DD recommended it to me about the time we were having to place my mom in a nursing home. That passage about safety vs. autonomy is one of the parts I find myself sharing with others. The book made me realize that I would never have selected a pre-school where safety trumped all experience -even though safety was critical.

  • Kswl 2

    Although I can see how an overriding concern for safety could result in less active lifestyles, the architectural challenge of making a safe, liveable home beautiful and interesting is something the home construction industry should be jumping all over. If homes were easier to stay in as we age, fewer people would have to or want to move—-for that reason, at least. I will take safety over esthetics any day of the week In the bathroom especially. Our old bathroom floor was a beautiful polished marble that was dangerously slippery when wet. Both DH and I fell more than once in the 15 years we lived there. Our new bathroom has a tile floor that feels “grippy,” for lack of a better word, and I actually feel safer walking on it. I hadn’t realized how carefully I was walking in our other bathroom until we moved and it’s been kind of ....revelatory.

  • mtnrdredux_gw

    KSWL, that was not really the issue the book was addressing. It was the fact that nearly *every decision* for the elderly has safety at its root, not "quality of life."

  • Kswl 2

    Interesting, mtn, I will have to download that. My mother will be 87 this spring and these are issues for her to an even more timely degree. I imagine what people would choose for the elderly is probably quite different than what they would choose for themselves. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people criticize relatives of an elderly person who fell, assuming that the person should have been moved to a safer, smaller, more supervised, etc home before things got to that state. As if you could force someone to move when they weren’t ready or didn’t want to, or that the fall might have happened anyway.

    I will be interested to read and find out how best the quality of life vs safety issues can be reconciled. With our country’s demographics (and the age of our president and some of the primary candidates) this should be a topic of national interest.


    Adding WRT health care, I think every decision made for a person within striking distance of their lifespan should be made for quality of life. The bulk of our healthcare dollars are spent on the last two weeks of peoples’ lives. Economically that just doesn’t make sense at age 80.

  • Bestyears

    The examples in Being Mortal regarding the balance between safety and autonomy were really compelling. The author talked, for example, about allowing some assisted living residents the autonomy to take their own regimen of morning meds, rather than under the supervision of a nurse, which is often a blanket policy. When I listened to that portion (I did it as an audio book), I instantly gathered an image in my mind of me giving meds to my children when they were young, and realized, of course an elderly person wouldn't want to feel infantilized in that way, although I had never thought of it that way before. Other ideas in this specific area included allowing residents to live in small pods, (in groups of 4-6) with a shared kitchen area, living area, and private bedrooms off these areas. That would give rise to the possibility of fire, amongst other threats, but again, it provides autonomy. Official bed times, wake times, etc. are other examples. I remember particularly, one older gentleman, whose grown daughter was trying mightily to secure a place for her dad. He bounced between her home and more than a few assisted living places, all of which he was miserable in, until finally he landed in a place where there was definitely some risk, but the trade-off was that he was happy to live there. Definitely food for thought.

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