Next Avenue: These new retirement communities sound ideal, so why do so many towns resist them?

by | Jan 30, 2023 | Stock Market

This article is reprinted by permission from When Joan Robinson was planning her retirement, she didn’t look to a gated community in the Sunbelt. She wanted to be able to walk around and engage with people. A former theater teacher and arts administrator, she relishes — even in the middle of winter — her home in Wake Robin, a walkable retirement community in Shelburne, Vermont.

Wake Robin has more than 400 residents in 250 cottages and apartments on 136 acres near Lake Champlain along with multiple walking paths that connect sections of apartments and cottages with a building for residents who need more care.

“Pedestrian-friendly developments are largely banned by outdated zoning codes in more than 90% of U.S. metropolitan areas, says one developer.”

Because the community is so walkable, Robinson is out nearly every day with her dog and “didn’t feel that winter thing”— pining for a warmer, snowless locale. She meets lots of regular walkers and fellow residents, many of whom carry dog treats for her pooch.

Vermont’s Lake Champlain seen from Shelburne, Vermont.


Many varied activities “There are lots of activities,” Robinson said, who is on a program committee that oversees some 48 separate interest groups that arrange lectures, performing artists and field trips. “I am learning silversmithing and building a bench in a woodworking class shop,” she said. “You have to work at being monastic here.” Although they are not the norm yet, walkable retirement communities represent the leading edge of active retirement living complexes where retirees can enhance their physical, mental and social wellness by walking where they need to go. These developments are not gated, de-emphasize vehicle traffic and may connect with an established town or city. They are so new that the American Senior Housing Association doesn’t know how many are operating or being built. Read: So long, senior centers and nursing homes. Older adults don’t want to spend their time in places where they are seen as victims in decline.Fitting into the surroundings Michael Glynn, CEO of Monarch Communities, which specializes in walkable retirement developments, said these developments can be integrated into existing towns so that essential services such as retail and grocery stores are a short walk away. They also may feature apartments or townhouses that offer independent living, assisted and memory care. Glynn noted while older cities with established neighborhoods are already set up to be walkable with a plethora of services, he and like-minded developers are “focused on suburbia, which has limited walkability, although it’s harder to build there.” One of Glynn’s ongoing projects is a development in Mahwah, New Jersey, which is adjacent to a New Jersey Transit stop and offers living units above retail space. He …

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