According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 76.4 baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – in 2016. The peak of boomers in the country was in 1999 when there were 78.8 million.
The first master-planned adult community opened in 1954 in Arizona. Dedicated exclusively to retirees, Benjamin Schleifer developed Youngtown and the active adult community caught on. After garnering national media attention, other developers began to view this type of environment as profitable and necessary for the burgeoning group of home buyers.
In a 2018 Pew Research Center article, boomers were cited as still being the number one group of homebuyers, though millennials are on “the cusp of surpassing Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living adult generation . . .”
But not yet.
Baby boomers are more active than ever before and living longer and healthier lives. Del Webb Sun City in Arizona was the first active adult community to have a minimum age requirement and is still the longest running 55 plus community in the nation. The developer pioneered the concept and over the decades, these types of neighborhoods have sprung up all over the country.
This population is as diverse as the communities in which they live. Lowcountry developers recognize that. Over the past decade the landscape for these active adult communities has changed. They’re not “retirement communities.” They are instead a lifestyle – not of retiring from work or settling in to live out the “golden years.” These buyers are just getting started.
The new horizon of active adult living
Just a decade ago, active adult communities weren’t plentiful in the Lowcountry. That has changed and continues to do so.
“We don’t categorize these communities as retirement homes or communities,” said Lindsay Martin of the Martin Freeman Group, Carolina One Elite Real Estate. “These buyers are active adults – they are 55 and better.”
Martin, along with her colleague, Britt Freeman are specialists in this demographic. “They (55 plus) are thriving,” Freeman said. “They want to keep their mind and bodies young so instead of spending their post-career years confined to their home, they’re joining their peers in activities, traveling together and staying vital.”
The two agreed that the “stigma” of what 55 plus communities once represented has vanished.
“These types of neighborhoods are definitely trending up,” said Martin.
Freeman said that she believes the trend will continue. “In the last three years we’ve had three active adult planned communities open their doors.”
The Four Seasons at The Lakes of Cane Bay opened in June 2016, Del Webb at Nexton in 2017 and in the summer of 2018, Lennar Homes bought the Liberty Cottages in Park West. The Liberty Cottages in Park West in Mount Pleasant is a small gated, 55 plus community that has become so popular it sold out at the end of September 2019.
There are at least 10 communities that are age-targeted or true active adult communities in the Charleston area.
“In 2007, Del Webb opened its first location in Cane Bay Plantation in Summerville,” Martin said. “They set the bar for these types of communities in the Charleston market.”
Freeman said that several other national and local builders have followed suit from the Del Webb concept. “When these buyers approach buying a new home, they’re putting an emphasis on the community over a home.”
Those amenities are world-class – indoor and outdoor pools, beautiful shared spaces and clubhouses and chartered clubs such as wine or golf clubs.
“Most of our clients stay so active, they feel as if they are in the prime of their lives,” Freeman said.
The two have two listings in Cane Bay Plantation. One home is in the Four Seasons subsection for $449,900 that has 2,490 square feet and the other is in Del Webb subsection for $369,900 that comprises 2,535 square feet.
Cane Bay Plantation
Cane Bay Plantation in Summerville is very popular and amenity rich. Marketing Manager, Blanche Sullivan of K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons at Lakes of Cane Bay said that this area was extensively researched for this type of development in Charleston.
“We felt confident that the Summerville area would hold a great appeal – particularly those seeking an ideal place to retire – due to its location in South Carolina,” she said. “The area has grown by leaps and bounds as developers, medical organizations and other businesses have recognized the growth potential and entered the market to address this growing consumer need.”
Sullivan cited the area having proximity to downtown Charleston, but added Four Seasons at Lakes of Cane Bay’s “unparalleled amenities” as one of the main reasons why this particular neighborhood appeals to active adults.
“Residents enjoy the Lake House Amenity Complex among a park-like setting that features a 300-acre lake with eight miles of navigable waterways,” she said. “The Complex is 24,000 square feet on the lake and it includes a Lowcountry Café, art studio, billiards, gameroom, state-of-the-art-fitness center, movement studio and a grand ballroom with an audio stage with seating up to 300.”
In addition, the massive clubhouse that opened in March of this year has a catering kitchen, fireside lounge with a pizza oven, community dock, tennis courts and games, three saline pools and an indoor lap pool. If family and grandkids visit, there’s also an outdoor children’s pool and an outdoor adult pool with “beach-style” entry. Sullivan said the community has over 30 social clubs among residents.
“These residents want beautifully designed homes, elegant features and outdoor living space within aesthetically appealing surroundings,” said Sullivan. “They like a pretty community – tucked away but yet still close to it all.”
Sullivan said because of the rising demand for these type of communities that K. Hovnanian Four Seasons community will come to Bluffton in spring of 2020. “The popularity of Hilton Head is why we are opening this new community.”
It will comprise approximately 550 single family homes.
The Cresswind at Summerville
“Three factors have helped grow the area’s appeal for 55 plus communities,” John Manrique, Vice President of Marketing of Kolter Homes. “First is the growth in the job market with Mercedes, Boeing and others. An ancillary effect of these new jobs is attracting the parent and grandparents of the new employees moving into the area. Second is Charleston’s rise in stature as one of the Southeast’s premier destinations from publications such as Travel & Leisure magazine. The third driver is South Carolina’s welcoming tax climate and cost of living for 55 plus active adults.
Cresswind Charleston, a nationally recognized and award-winning neighborhood for active adults has an enormous range of amenities to satisfy this demographic’s lifestyle.
“Our lifestyle programming is based on the Cresswind pillars of fitness, nutrition and relationships which we see as the recipe for living better and longer,” Manrique said. “We have a full-time lifestyle director who plans and curates activities based on the Cresswind lifestyle program that has earned national recognition and awards.”
In addition, Cresswind has a fitness center, pool, pickle ball, demonstration kitchen and arts and crafts. Part of that healthy lifestyle includes the way in which their home sweet homes are designed – modern construction and all that goes with it.
“These buyers want flexibility and low maintenance,” Manrique reiterated. “They also want the peace of mind of new construction with healthy, energy-efficient features. They want fresh, open home layouts that can adapt over time such as using a space for a home office or art studio or game room.”
Manrique said the Cresswind isn’t “your parent’s retirement living.” Instead, the community’s emphasis is on the next chapter.
“Residents here pursue passions, have fun, stay engaged and are very active,” he said. “They may retire from a career, but they’re not stopping. Many times, the opposite occurs as this ‘next chapter’ provides them with a greater freedom.”
The best is yet to come
Baby boomers, senior adults and active adults – the “labels” and lifestyles applied to this large and healthy population of our country differ vastly from 20 years ago. Increased life expectancy, good health, elimination of mandatory retirement age in some industries are a few factors that result in this modernistic, mature group of people enjoying life to the fullest. Reinventing one’s self is a part of this vibrant population’s lifestyle.
Comfort, connectivity and community are the common thread among their communities.
“Besides living longer, this demographic is truly living a more active lifestyle than ever before,” Sullivan said. “They’re on the go, more knowledgeable and very proactive about their health. Not to mention more assertive regarding their happiness and a quality of life that is fulfilling and joyful. Age is irrelevant – they are fun, fearless and the envy of those who haven’t yet ‘retired.’”
The List – Charleston-area age targeted and/or active adult communities
1. Del Webb at Cane Bay Plantation, Summerville
2. Four Seasons at The Lakes of Cane Bay, Summerville
3. Del Webb at Nexton, Summerville
4. The Elms, North Charleston
5. Liberty Cottages in Park West (bought by Lennar and reopened in summer of 2018 – sold out), Mount Pleasant
6. Pines at Gahagan, Summerville
7. Cresswind at The Ponds, Summerville
8. Carillon at The Ponds, Summerville
9. Marrington at Cobblestone Village, Summerville
10. Enclave Park, Johns Island
Source: The Martin Freeman Group, Carolina Elite Real Estate