Most unusual retirement communities: There's something for everyone

Golf and playing cards aren't the only things to do in retirement. At least not at many retirement communities, which specialize in unusual activities or cater to retirees with the same interests.

"Just because someone is old doesn't mean they want to sit around and play Bingo and watch TV all day," said Don Shulman, general manager of Fox Hill Senior Condominiums in Bethesda, Maryland, in a telephone interview with WalletPop.

Baby Boomers and their children have moved more often and are spread across the country more, leaving retirees searching for a new sense of community and housing where they can be around people who share the same interests. From senior housing for hippies to people who want to live in high luxury, there are retirement communities for all tastes.
Here are some of the most unusual and unique retirement communities where like-minded people can find something in common:

The Burbank Senior Artists Colony, in Burbank, Calif., is an apartment rental community for seniors that provides opportunities to engage in visual arts, theater and writing, according to Judith Zausner, an artist who blogs about creative senior retirements. The Burbank apartment complex has a performance theater, art studios, art display galleries, choir, and classes in writing, poetry and computers.

Mail carriers
Finally, after years of delivering mail and always having to be on the lookout for biting dogs, mail carriers can relax and retire at Nalcrest, a retirement community about 70 miles east of Tampa, Fla., that doesn't allow dogs.

Jan Cullinane, co-author of "The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life," points out that Nalcrest is one of the many retirement communities that's either focused on a specific lifestyle or a previous job.

Nalcrest was named after the National Association of Letter Carriers. Shared hardship creates a communal feeling in the town, which has its own ZIP code, 33856, but doesn't have working mail carriers but has boxes available for rent at the post office.

Snow skiing
The Gray Wolf Ski Club of Pagosa Springs, Colo., promotes golf, hiking and other outdoor sports, but focuses on skiing. Retiree Bob Pohly, 62, said in an e-mail exchange with WalletPop that he moved there five years ago and that the ski area, Wolf Creek, is 40 minutes from his home. Pagosa Springs is a tourist destination and a second home community for people from New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma, Pohly said. "We chose Pagosa, to retire, because of the wonderful beauty of the San Juan Mountains, the hiking, fishing, skiing, golfing, and mountain biking," he said.

All retirement communities have some form of exercise equipment available, but Fox Hill Senior Condominiums in Bethesda, Maryland, offers what it calls "wellness" offerings for the mind, body and spirit. It has a gym with Keiser athletic machines that are designed for elite athletes but well-suited for seniors, a full-service spa, three health conscious gourmet restaurants, organic herb garden, indoor golf range, putting green, outdoor walking trails, swimming pool with electronic lifts, and onsite physical therapy. There are also daily classes including water aerobics and an onsite personal trainer.

Cultural offerings include an art studio, wood working shop, professional recording studio, performing arts center, wine cellar and tasting room for owners' private collections, and resident-run clubs for poetry, foreign affairs and other topics. Resident Sydelle Sipress, 74 and a former English teacher, started a poetry club and said she appreciates the flexibility that the staff allows in letting residents determine activities.

"You can do what you've always done, but you can also be exposed to things you never thought of doing," Sipress told WalletPop in a telephone interview. "You do them and it works out fine."

Back to school
Lasell Village is a retirement community featuring a formal, individualized and mandatory continuing education program for residents. It's on the campus of Lasell College in Newton, Mass., and is an independent living residence for older adults that requires residents to commit to 450 hours of education programming annually.

Members work side-by-side with undergraduate students, but they also learn through travel, museum visits, fine arts workshops and other programs, both on and off campus. Residents also volunteer at on-site pre-school and day care centers, and participate in intergenerational programming.

Another educational site is NewBridge on the Charles, a continuing care retirement community that opened last year in Dedham, Mass. that focuses on how seniors can help young students. It has a K-8 school that is opening on the campus in September. The school offers intergenerational programming, volunteer opportunities in the school library and classrooms, and the chance to be foster grandparents.

The Escapees, based in Livingston, Texas, has an eldercare community where people who live and travel full-time in RVs can live in their RV's while getting medical care for themselves or spouses, according to Janet Groene, who blogs about the RV lifestyle. There are also many 55+ retirement communities/trailer parks nationwide where people can live in their RVs, Groene said.

Rocinate is a retirement community in Summertown, Tenn. for aging hippies. The 100-acre community is named after Don Quixote's horse. Residents must build or buy their own cabin (which should cost $30,000 to build a one-bedroom cabin, the site says) and be able to support themselves.

It's website says that "Rocinante's specialty is making good, loving attention available to the beginnings and endings of life. Midwives bring unique value to the death process; they know so much about how 'good energy' can be used to make major transitional experiences proceed naturally and in good spirits. And it can be joyful for the elderly and dying to be aware of the new life around them.

High-end living
At the other end of the retirement community spectrum are places such as those built by the Senior Resource Group. With prices beginning at $3,995 per month, The Village at Sherman Oaks, in California, offers weekly maid service, raised container gardens and a greenhouse for resident gardening that the on-site chef uses in his menu, full service spa, swimming pool, media lounge, Wii for in-door tennis or golf, tai chi, yoga, book clubs, and a rarity -- a full service bar.

The company's $90 million "village" in Northridge, Calif., has an in-house movie theater, artistic decor and looks more like a W Hotel than a retirement home, according to the Los Angeles Times. One resident compared it to the Ritz-Carlton. But this place has a playroom for grandchildren and great-grandchildren, an amenity unlikely to be found in high-end hotels.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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