Who Can Live in a 55+ Community?

by Robert Borges on November 6, 2018

3.5 minute read

Jump to:

55+ Community Rules and Requirements
Can Children Live in 55+ Communities
The 80/20 Rule
Where Can I Find a 55+ Community?

What you'll get from this article: An overview of the guidelines that are associated with most 55-plus age-restricted communities. Gain a better understanding of what it's like to live in a 55-plus community and explore options to start your search for the perfect community. 


You’ve worked hard all your life and are nearing retirement age. Perhaps you’ve raised a family, have an empty nest, and it’s time to downsize and simplify. Or maybe you’re just ready for a change of pace—looking to reinvigorate a more social and active lifestyle with peers of like minds and corresponding generations. 

Your new life awaits in a retirement community with residents of similar interests and age—typically 55 and older. To help you make an informed decision, let’s parse all the age-restricted regulations and get to the bottom of who can live in a 55+ community. 

While not all 55 and older communities have the same rules, here are some of the basic guidelines you can expect to encounter as you conduct your search for your ideal retirement community.  

55+ Community Rules and Requirements 

The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits “denial of housing or real estate transactions based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, and familial status.” You’ll notice age is not included, so developers and communities can set restrictions on who can own property, most notably within 55+ communities. But are they all strictly “senior adults only”? Not necessarily. 

When looking at most 55+ community requirements, there are two standard rules. The first says that each household must have a resident who is 55 years of age or older. 

The second of the 55+ community rules pertains to the remaining members of the household—spouses, partners, and children. In most cases, the minimum ages for other residents are set at 40 for a spouse or partner, and 18 for a child. 

Can Children Live in 55+ Communities?

The simple answer is no. Or at least it’s extremely rare to find a retirement community that allows kids to live there on a full-time basis. But that doesn’t mean your grandchildren are forbidden from visiting, or that you’ll never see a child in your 55-plus community. Children are welcome as guests, though usually only on a short-term basis. The rules pertaining to visiting children vary with each community, but two weeks to 30 days is the typical range of time you’ll spend each visit with those lovable rugrats.

The 80/20 Rule in Active Adult Communities 

If you’ve been researching 55+ adult communities, you’ve probably stumbled upon the “80/20 rule.” It means that in accordance with the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 (HOPA), at least 80 percent of the occupied units of an age-restricted community must include one resident age 55 or older and the community must show an intent to provide housing for those 55 and up. The “intent to provide housing for those 55 and up” part is important to the remaining 20% of the rule. That doesn’t mean that the community lifts the age restrictions for 20% of its units. Instead, it’s simply meant to allow some flexibility should an issue arise that violates the age-restriction. For instance, if a 67-year-old and 52-year-old move into a 55+ community home and the older occupant passes away. The underage resident can remain in the home, under the 20% cushion of the 80/20 rule. 

All that being said, most age-restricted retirement communities try to maintain the minimum age requirement in 100% of households. 

Where Can I Find a 55+ Community? 

Over 55 communities have a range of housing options including condominiums, townhomes, single-family homes, and more. Location is not limited to the typical retirement destinations in the Southeast. There are options in every region of the United States, from mountains and deserts, to lakes and coastal areas. To get your search started, check out these featured 55+ communities by state to discover specific amenities and available real estate, view photos, and request information:

Browse the complete list of 55+ active adult communities to find your perfect place to retire.