Daily Sociologist the Active Seniors Community

There is much confusion about the term “senior”, and rightfully so. In some cases, being age 50 or older classifies and individual as a senior citizen. In other cased, the ages can lie between 50 and the hundreds, depending on which agency or situation is making the definition. For a person to start their retirement on Social Security, the youngest age is 62. For a retail senior discount, some businesses use age 55 and others use age 62.

To further confuse the issue, the elderly are, of course, senior citizens. But where is the line drawn in the use of the word “senior”? The age range lies between age 50 and well past the century mark!

The term “active senior” was supposed to apply in real estate terms to individuals who were 55 and older, but who were capable of living independently and of either continuing to work or being involved in a host of activities. There are categories of “active senior” housing that ranges from standard apartment layouts with no special perks to complexes that offer the full range of care and assistance. There are luxury complexes that offer clubhouses that host libraries, billiards rooms, sports facilities and ballrooms. Many have concierge service, community activities and vans that offer transportation to shopping and to events.

The problem with “active senior” communities lies in the “granny dump” process. There is a greatly difficult transition period from elderly to incapacitated, where seniors who are in need of care and assistance are moved to active senior communities and left to fend for themselves for long periods of time. One of the biggest problems in non assistance complexes is in determining whether the individual is capable of caring for themselves or of fending off social and financial predators. The period of the senior aggressively demanding independent living versus the increasing need for assistance can go on for years, resulting in inappropriate housing.

Otherwise, active senior communities can be great communities where there is safety, lower crime, interaction with others, social activities, and limited numbers of children and their associated problems. One common phrase is “remember the personalities that you dealt with in high school and you will find that they are all here!”  As a consequence, there are people available for just about any activity that a person wishes to engage in. This helps to decrease the isolation and loneliness of older years for those who are either empty nesters or who have distant relatives.

The seniors represent a wide array of experiences and knowledge that makes for interesting stores, barter, mutual assistance and advice in a wide array of fields. From high school dropout to the lawyer of physician, the range of knowledge is a great aspect of the active senior community.

But there are also the same types of crime and malfeasance as there are in the larger society. Seniors present a drug and alcohol laden community, with high levels of both prescription and illegal drug activity. As such, they present a centralized and concentrated area for drugs and alcohol of all types. Gambling is a major problem, and many seniors are computer savvy gamblers who supplement online gambling with visits to the casinos. It is very easy to develop a gambling disorder as a senior citizen.

There are wide ranges in wealth and in character, making active senior communities as vulnerable to abusive predation, sexual misconduct and financial predation. The benefit is that there are more than average numbers of savvy professionals among the residents who can step in to detect and report such activity.

Active seniors know what it is that they want and will speak up about the desired activities, problems, services and quality of services in great detail and with excellent solutions for any community issues that come up. There are, however, some of the more difficult and demanding residents who require more attention.

The staffs at active senior complexes can range from helpful and caring individuals to criminal, interpersonal and financial predators. The pay is low and the turnover is high. Major problems arise in rental complexes where the staff have master keys and can enter apartments with no approval, the tenant’s knowledge, or notice. The savvy tenant or occupant will place surveillance cameras and state of the art security systems in their apartments.

Alcohol and drug abuse often lead to much excitement from the resulting out of control behavior in problem drinkers and substance abusers. Residents establish and have the range of experiences from romantic, clique, and the other interpersonal relationship issues that go on in close knit communities. Gossip is a major activity for those who are more inactive. The process of rumor spreading and of communicating about the complexities of the community is active and robust.

 The major illness and death rate is much higher than the normal community, with many deaths and major illnesses occurring throughout the year. Major illnesses, including very rare illnesses are to be expected, resulting in a community that understands, rather than questions the need to restrict activities or to have special diets and accommodations. The community is far more likely to keep an eye out for residents who are in decline or who are in need.

In some jurisdictions, registered sex offenders cannot be denied access to senior housing, if they meet the other approval requirements. Affordable housing complexes may refuse convicted felons and registered sex offenders, but depending on the local ordinances, there will be some RSOs in an active senior community.

As a result, the average active seniors community is full of life, and death; activity, fun, wisdom, ignorance and rest. Much has been done to accomodate special needs for handicapped access, safety, security, transportation, socialization and varying levels of assistance and care. There are affordable complexes and complexes that resemble resort living. There are complexes designed for the working and independent retiree and there are complexes that provide the full range of care and assistance.

 And there is also sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll when there is not big band music, visiting generations of family members and friends, and the challenges of aging while living independently.