When Jim and Linda Crawford hit their 70s, they began lightheartedly pondering where on the first floor of their sprawling brick Brookline home they might place a hospital bed if they remained there well into old age.
They ruled out the formal and elegantly furnished dining and living rooms, and the jam-packed library, recalled Jim, 75, laughing, as he and Linda, 73, relaxed recently by their gas fireplace in their spacious cottage at The Groves in Lincoln. They downsized to this retirement community 16 months ago.
“We knew we were going to get old and intended to do it in a nice, safe place,’’ said Linda, a retired teacher.
“Now we’re living in geriatric heaven,’’ added Jim, minister emeritus of Old South Church in Boston.
While retirement communities vary widely, luxury developments aim to provide a myriad of amenities, services, and conveniences, plus a host of health care options, since residents are usually late 60s and older.
Most communities offer independent town houses or cottages, or apartments - many with high ceilings, modern appliances, and spaces that range from cozy to spacious. The Crawfords’ cottage is 3,400 square feet, counting a garage bay that doubles for storage.
The Groves has 168 cottages and apartments, with units starting at $95,000. Monthly maintenance fees - which cover such things as utilities, snow and trash removal, 24-hour security, and the fitness club - start at $2,300.
Most retirement communities require an “entrance’’ fee - typically a few hundred thousand dollars - which “buys’’ the residence and is largely refundable when someone leaves or dies. The amount of the refund depends on how long the resident has lived there.
Some communities offer rentals only, such as at the elegant Waterstone at Wellesley, which will open next spring with 86 apartments starting at $5,500 for a 700-square-foot, one-bedroom unit. It will have assisted living on the property.
What sold the Crawfords was that they could live in an independent cottage, while participating in amenities if desired - then purchasing more services as they age.
“Friends say, ‘Oh, you two are so smart, but we’re not ready yet,’ ’’ said Linda. “It takes time - you can’t say you’ll move by the end of next week. You have to mentally plan out what can fit.’’
Rhoda and Ed Neidorf, who live in a spacious two-bedroom corner unit in The Groves’ community building, also came while still healthy because they didn’t want to burden their children as they aged. They chose The Groves in part to remain near friends, family, shopping, activities, and volunteer work in Lexington, their home of many decades.
“It’s independent living here, but when it’s winter and the weather’s awful, you don’t have to put on your boots,’’ said Rhoda, 80. “Everyone’s right down the corridor.’’
A huge part of the appeal is the built-in social life, and the amenities, for which one pays usage fees. Typical are gourmet dining, transportation, theaters for movies and live entertainment, community gardens, and hair salons.
Health care is vital too for this age group, with services varying from 24-hour emergency aid and in-home care to short- or long-term skilled nursing on the property, or nearby.
Marion Sanders, 77, a retired psychologist, moved last April from a condominium community in Bedford to a cottage at Dedham’s NewBridge on the Charles. While both homes were one-floor living and similar in size - 1,700 square feet - Sanders’s heart condition drove her decision to move.
The campus includes everything from a medical practice and complete health care center to a recuperative center with skilled nursing and rehabilitation care.
Sanders’s cottage has two bedrooms, three bathrooms (she uses one for storage), high ceilings, lots of light, and views of trees. She likes that most residents are Jewish, although it is “open to people of all cultural, racial, ethnic, political, economic, or spiritual backgrounds,’’ according to Ruth Stark, director of marketing for the independent living communities of Hebrew Senior Life, which also runs Orchard Cove in Canton.
“I’m very pleased with having come here,’’ Sanders said. “It’s an extremely comfortable, welcoming, gracious, helpful community of people.’’
Her neighbors Carol and Eldon Clingan have lived in a 2,000-square-foot cottage at NewBridge since it opened in 2009. The Clingans and Sanderses sold their homes for well under value in the down real estate market, which meant coming up with excess funds to move to NewBridge, whose entrance fee starts at $500,000 and has 224 apartments, villas, and cottages.
“When this came along,’’ said Carol, 68, “it was just the right thing - it was high end and that was a bit of a struggle, but we . . . have this whole gorgeous campus and a whole program of activities.’’
Jim Crawford, who once speculated where a hospital bed might go one day in the lower level of their house, laughs at the irony of his impending hip replacement surgery. Afterward, he can “be right here in his own bed,’’ said Linda, pointing toward their first-floor bedroom at The Groves.