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Retirement communities adapt to active seniors

June 11, 2012

The concept of retirement has changed drastically over the last several years. Seniors are no longer content with settling into a leisurely lifestyle, and many expect to stay active as they age. The trend has been reflected in retirement communities across the country, which have begun providing more tailored experiences to their residents, according to CNBC.

Sometimes known as niche communities, there have been a growing number of options for retirees. Some of the most popular have helped older adults continue their education after they've left the workforce. Specifically, retirement communities located near college campuses often join with the schools to offer classes. But heading back to the classroom is not the only upside, experts say.

"Courses don't cost much, and you get lots of cool stuff like discounts at the college bookstore," industry insider Andrew Carle told CNBC.

Although lifelong learning opportunities are some of the most popular options at retirement communities, they are not the only choices available to older adults. Some provide opportunities for certain hobbies while others may appeal to specific demographics.

While niche communities may still be catching on, they are the reflection of a wider shift in how the public views retirement. Most significantly, the emphasis placed on staying mentally active through lifelong learning may help more people enjoy the benefits of healthy aging.

Among those who are touting the benefits of staying mentally active is Dr. Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at the Cambridge Health Alliance. She says staying engaged is one of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle for seniors.

"They are taking classes and going to lectures, read the newspaper every day," Fabiny told The Boston Globe. "It' s maintaining an engagement with the outside world. They don't change that engagement fundamentally."

Returning to the classroom may be a popular option, but experts say there are also many others. Volunteering, maintaining a social circle or even helping take care of grandchildren all offer benefits.

A recent survey from AARP revealed just how important keeping strong relationships later in life is to overall happiness and health. A large portion of respondents said that things like spending time with family and friends (69 percent) are important to their overall happiness. Additionally, experiencing a special moment with a child (64 percent) and making progress in personal goals (51 percent) also play a large role.