Senior Retirement Communities Get a Makeover

In the early 1960’s, Del Webb coined the term ‘Golden Years’ as he reshaped the idea about aging to entice people into his retirement communities in Sun City, Arizona. That model has held for the last fifty years. As baby boomers reach retirement age, new models for senior retirement communities are emerging.

With seniors living longer, people like Tim Carpenter are expanding the concept of affordable senior housing. As founder and executive director of EngAGE, Carpenter is creating “vibrant centers of learning, wellness and creativity”

Understanding that people need more meaning in their lives with this extended lifespan, he developed the Burbank Senior Artists Community in California. Moving beyond shuffleboard and golf, this 141 unit senior apartment community has a 60-seat theater, in-house theater group, art studios, film company, fine arts with intergenerational arts and music program. Innovative computer media arts center with a digital filmmaking lab support the dreams of aging filmmakers.

Carpenter and his EngAGE group are expanding into other parts of the Los Angeles area. One of his newest facilities is the NoHo Senior Arts Colony which has 126 units. The EngAGE group has an additional 17 senior retirement communities throughout Southern California.

Carpenter explains his philosophy, ““EngAGE takes a whole-person approach to creative and healthy aging. We provide arts, as well as wellness, lifelong learning, community building and intergenerational programs.”

Instead of basing his model of senior retirement communities on those already existing, he looked to colleges for his inspiration.

“Retirement and going to college are similar, because they are both significant leaping off points in your life, going from one phase into another,” Carpenter said. “In college, you are starting to plan your career; when you retire, you leave your career and move into a new phase of life. If you look at that phase with the goggles of opportunity, that this could be a great new stage of your life, it makes all the difference.”

Beyond the college experience, Carpenter taps into the creative spirit he believes seniors want to express as they get older. “Art creates a positive sense of community to find those answers, because life becomes about being creative, and not about getting old. Instead of sitting around talking about their various illnesses and hardships, they’re talking about art, whether it’s painting, writing, music. All of it is good for the soul.”

Will baby boomers embrace this new model of senior retirement communities? Is there a market for this type of affordable senior housing outside of Southern California?

About Cathy Severson

Cathy Severson helps baby boomers find more meaning and purpose in their lives and work. Get your copy of her complimentary e-book Guide to Retirement Activities a comprehensive look at work, volunteering and leisure based on an individuals’ personalities. Call for a complimentary 20-minute consultation to answer your most pressing concern. 928.775.4949 or email Cathy at

2 Responses to “Senior Retirement Communities Get a Makeover”

  1. Thank you for the great information in this post. As I am planning for an early retirement this gives me a lot to think about and discuss with my spouse. I appreciate your insight.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Laurie. The days of the dowdy, dreary or leisure only retirement communities are changing. The first thing to do is make a list of what you think you want and the visit, visit, visit as many communities as you can.