Beyond bingo

Retirement communities today are geared toward longer stays filled with enriching activities

Seniors doing yoga

Today’s best retirement communities are like Disney Worlds for mature adults.

They’ve come about in response to statistics like these:

  • Retirement now lasts nearly 20 years for most Americans.
  • Roughly 1 million Americans reside in senior-care facilities — a number that’s expected to double by 2030.
  • People over age 65 make up more than 13 percent of the population in the U.S., today — and that percentage is expected to increase to 20 percent by 2050.
  • Roughly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, a trend that began in 2011. Seniors today are more highly educated and alert than any previous generation and they’re more driven to participate in activities.

Here’s what many communities are offering to entice the growing Silver Tsunami of older adults:


Today’s retirement communities are definitely not like your grandmother’s nursing home — where a single bingo game was often the only highlight of the week.

Entertainment at today’s best communities includes screenings of top films, sing-a-longs, trips to local sports games, concerts and plays, picnics at local lakes or parks and more.

Local music groups often provide entertainment at evening meals.

Available games might include highly competitive Wii video games (such as golf), poker, bridge, bingo or canasta.

Most communities offer numerous activities to help seniors stay fit, too, including exercise classes such as yoga, tai chi, chair exercises and dance (such as the Texas two-step).


You could compare today’s retirement communities to college campuses for seniors.

Facilities usually include exercise rooms, game rooms and an abundance of free weekly classes that teach a surprising array of skills — such as crafts, foreign languages, meditation or how to write memoirs.

Some facilities actually go way beyond what you would find at most colleges:

Most have large, attractive dining rooms that offers gourmet food prepared by a chef (plus small kitchens in each living unit, too).

Most facilities have beauty shops on campus.

Some include workshops for woodworking enthusiasts.

And many have movie rooms with special acoustics and padded chairs.

Outside grounds are apt to include putting greens, or shuffleboard or bocce ball areas. Some offer community garden plots, too!

Home services

In addition to all this, retirement communities also appeal to many seniors because residents don’t have to do repairs: They don’t need to mow the lawn, clean their gutters or worry about adapting their spaces to any disabilities they might develop.

At many facilities, trained nurses are on hand around the clock; some even boast health clinics that offer daily checkups.

Many retirement communities offer light housekeeping — including laundering sheets and changing bed linens each week.

Some communities organize their own choral, acting and walking groups.

Almost all offer vans that take residents on free weekly trips to grocery stores, pharmacies or shopping centers.


Doing preliminary research on most retirement communities, even ones that are far away from you, is reasonably easy these days if you’re computer literate.

Most retirement communities are delighted to invite people in for a free meal, a tour or a special event; you may even know residents there who can give you pertinent information from their point of view.

Some communities may offer to put you up overnight in one of their guest rooms for free.

Here are a few things to look up if you’re considering a move out of town:

Check the town’s Chamber of Commerce site for a list of annual activities, general information about size and population of the town, plus photos taken in and around the area.

You can also talk to the chamber about organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis, AAUW chapters or particular churches or synagogues.

Climate matters to many seniors. shows average monthly high and low temperatures for most towns and cities in the U.S., and shows natural features such as lakes, rivers and mountains.

Check out a community’s crime rate at Finally if you’re interested in the possibility of retiring to another country, check out and for articles such as Six Cheap Places to Retire Abroad, and information about up and coming communities where retirees can live on less than $2,000 a month.

Sunny McFarren is a contributor to the Senior Wire News Service, which has been providing curated editorial content for older adults since 1990.