Reading Between the Lines

by Kathie Boyd

In these digital days, it is hard to believe that one of the best sources of information about a 55+ community is their monthly newsletter.  Having had the amazing opportunity to start one in my own, just developing senior community years ago, I am familiar with the time and talent involved in such an endeavor.

Adult Community NewslettersThey are called newsletters but these publications are not just a few printed pages stapled together by a few residents in a back room.  For the most part, they are professionally printed by a local publisher hired by the Homeowner Board after a contract is negotiated.  All content is contributed by residents and submitted to an editorial committee for approval.  All advertising is solicited by the publisher so there is no cold calling on businesses on the part of residents.  The publisher, in turn, keeps the profits from all advertising and delivers the finished product to the community at an agreed-upon date.  Most senior communities publish their newspaper/newsletter once a month.  Depending on the number of homes and quantity of submissions, the paper can range between 15 to 40 pages.

The paper usually will contain the names of the Board Members, the Management Company officials, and surrounding area resources.  It will also list all the activities and clubs available for residents, birthdays, anniversaries, essays, poems and columns.  However, the real “meat” of the paper is what lies between the lines.  Does the Homeowner Board’s column project a strict authoritarian tone or does it give you the feeling that this is a fellow resident working hard for the community?  Do the social events and its policies give you a feeling of welcome or make you feel like an outsider looking in?  Pictures are always worth 1000 words and if the only images you view are old people sitting around a table eating and drinking, you might want to look elsewhere.   Look for residents playing bocce, tennis, swimming, and dancing.   Remember these are “active” adult communities.

In the community where I started the newsletter, we created a Mission Statement that emphasized that our paper would be a means of communication which would foster community spirit and goodwill.   Any submissions that contained complaints or dissatisfaction were politely re-directed by the resident editor to the appropriate Homeowner Board member for satisfaction.  Our newsletter is 16 years old now and I am happy to see that it has developed into a positive, forward-moving publication—one that residents look forward to reading each month and are proud to call their own.  If the paper is nothing more than a vehicle to air one’s personal grievances or agendas, it is most likely a community where you do not want to hang your hat.

Ask your realtor to supply you with a copy of the community paper.  After you have read the words (and the inferences), looked at the pictures, identified with any activities that interest you, let the paper speak to you.  If you get the feeling that you have just been personally invited to the best lifestyle ever, don’t wait!  Make an offer on that house!

If you would like a sample newsletter emailed to you, just send us a message using the Contact Us form on this page.

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