In this age of health, wellness, and organic everything, active adult living has essentially become synonymous with being alive and over 55. And, the building and development industry has responded…in force.
Active adult communities have been around for a while, but suddenly they’re everywhere and the number of baby boomers flocking to them is at an all-time high.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, the 55+ housing industry market reached 71 points, the highest reading in history, in the fourth quarter of 2017. The 55+ single-family HMI is based on builder perceptions of new 55+ single-family home sales, both current and expected for the next six months and traffic of prospective buyers. Builders are asked to rate conditions as “good,” “fair,” or “poor” (or, for traffic, “high to very high,” “average,” or “low to very low”). The responses are used to create diffusion indexes on scale of 0 to 100, where any number over 50 indicates more builders report positive than negative conditions.
So, what has changed? For starters, the number of baby boomers who have reached active adult status has increased dramatically in recent years. The United States Census Bureau reported that the number of U.S. residents age 65+ increased from 35.0 million in 2000, to 49.2 million in 2016, accounting for 12.4 percent and 15.2 percent of the total population, respectively.
Then, there’s the societal or ideological shift from canned or frozen, and rocking chairs and knitting to community gardens, fresh and local only. Social groups and fitness centers are everywhere you look.
A continually heightened focus on nutrition, overall health, community, and a long, vibrant life is driving baby boomers to seek situations and communities that support an active and healthy lifestyle. So, all-day porch sitting and days spent crocheting are a thing of the past. Not to worry, though, active adults haven’t totally given up the chill and focused life. They’re just doing less of it, or doing it with friends or in groups for smaller chunks of time, making even relaxing activities inherently more “active” given their social nature.
History and Popular Culture
The first active adult community on the scene was Del Webb’s famous Sun City community in Arizona in 1950. A mile-long waiting list and record sales within the first 48 hours was a sure sign that Del Webb was on to something. Fitness-focused, 55+ restricted, and activity and socialization-centered, Sun City was a 180 degree spin on mid-century retirement communities.
Now, nearly 70 years later, active adult communities can essentially be found everywhere in the continental U.S. And, the non-active senior has become the more rare of the two.
Active adult icons from the famous to the super-fit are good representations of this new retirement era we’ve found ourselves in. Here are a few standouts.
There’s President George H. W. Bush, who celebrated three of his birthdays – 80, 85, and 90 years old – skydiving from an airplane. Rolling Stones lead and great-grandfather, Mick Jagger, still appears on stages around the world. And, none other than the great Betty White, pegged “the grandmother we all wish we had,” became the oldest person to host Saturday Night Live when she stepped onto the SNL stage at age 88.
Then, there’s the slightly less famous, Judy Meyers, the oldest female competitive barefoot water-skier in the United States. All it took for Meyers at 53 to first try barefoot skiing was a dare.
Now 74, Meyers not only “walks” on water but also flips, turns, stands on one leg, and does tricks that would make your body hurt just watching her.
And, finally, there’s the great Ida Keeling who, with her daughter’s help, wrestled herself from depression after her losing two sons in her late 60s by taking up running. At 95, she was both setting and breaking 100-meter race records and, days before her 101st birthday, became the fastest running centenarian in history. Now 102, Keeling is still running with no intention of stopping.
And, these are just a handful of the hundreds of stories like them. While these examples may not represent the average active adult, they do represent the trend toward a “55 and better” mentality.
Sun City’s success drove home the idea that 55+ could symbolize new beginnings, fresh perspectives, and second chances. And, while the concept definitely turned developers heads, it took a couple of decades and an influx of aging baby boomers for active adult communities to become a widespread phenomenon.
“Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast, a tennis pro, or an avid chef, our wide range of group activities meet the diverse needs of our residents. We’ve created a world-class lifestyle environment that supports those passions, and then some. There’s something for everyone here,” McCarron said.
K. Hovnanian’s® Four Seasons communities are speckled along the East coast from New Jersey to South Carolina to Florida. Dr. Amy Rady, resident of K. Hovnanian’s® Four Seasons at Parkland, has lived both extremes.
When she and her husband decided to move from their K. Hovnanian® community in New Jersey, they knew two things: 1 – they wanted to be surrounded by active folks in their age range, and, 2 – that they wanted to be in Florida. They also hoped for the same K. Hovnanian® experience they’d had in New Jersey. When they finally chose Parkland as their Florida destination, they were in luck.
“(We) basically had no other interest in looking at any other area, and we’re very happy that we found Four Seasons K. Hovnanian ® in Parkland,” Rady said. “It’s been wonderful. It’s absolutely beautiful. And, there’s a great ambience within the clubhouse.”
Aside from social and fitness opportunities, K. Hovnanian® Four Seasons resident, Ken Brager, said it’s the connection that he values most. “We came to this community, and I have to tell you that, for the first time, there’s a sense of camaraderie and community here at Hovnanian that we never felt anywhere that we lived before,” Brager said. “I’m not sure what it is, but the people here are just fantastic, generous, fun, and active.”
Landmark Homes, a builder and developer in Pennsylvania, started developing communities specifically for active adults due to requests from customers.
“We found that this was what the majority of our 55+ customers were looking for,” said Cliff Weaver, vice president of Landmark Homes.
Weaver said that aside from a general desire for low-maintenance living, the charm and serenity of the Central PA region, and some universal home design elements, Landmark has learned that one size does not fit all when it comes to active adults residents.
“We’ve learned to accommodate a range of people and lifestyles,” said Weaver. “Yes, some want the one-story 1,200 sq. ft. home that’s easy to maintain,” he said. “But, downsizing means different things to different people. Some folks are moving to Landmark Active Living Communities from really big homes. Small to them may still be big to others. We also find that a lot of our residents equate being active with having visitors and grandchildren come to visit; and, others want to continue to entertain and host parties. Both require more space.”
So, Landmark offers a variety of models with lots of customization options.
Weaver says that the most definitive change in the past few years has been the number of people participating in activities offered. “There was a time,” he said, “when the fitness centers, tennis courts, and other activity centers were empty most of the time. But, now they’re either full of people or about to be.”
This increase in interest, and requests for more activities, has persuaded Landmark to bring on an activities director at the corporate level.
Traditions of America, a 55+ exclusive development company headquartered in Pennsylvania, was named the #1 55+ homebuilder in the nation in 2016 and has a reputation for delivering for good reason. The company, said Jay Goldberg (Vice President of Marketing), was founded out of necessity more than anything.
“Our company founder, Timothy McCarthy, decided 25 years ago to focus on the 55+ lifestyle when he was searching for a new home for his mom,” Goldberg said. “He realized that though there were choices, all of the elements of the purchase process and lifestyle weren’t being addressed by traditional active adult builders.”
So, McCarthy took matters into his own hands.
“One of my favorite quotes,” said Goldberg, “is from John Roman, a resident of our Bridle Path community in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. He said, ‘I love it here because every night is Friday night, and every day is Saturday.’”
Traditions communities all include clubhouses, fitness centers, social clubs, events and activities, and community ambassadors to help welcome new residents.
So, where are Traditions-bound active adults coming from? Everywhere, it seems.
“But, more often than not,” Goldberg said, “it’s within a five mile radius of the community they move to. They just decide that with their kids grown and out of their home it is just time.”
Many, Goldberg said, are actually returning to the area from a move to Florida or the Carolinas in order to be closer to children and grandchildren.
So, like everything in life, the perfect active adult lifestyle depends entirely on the active adult. And, the great news is, there are lots of options.
What Active Adults Want
ideal-LIVING Magazine’s parent company, RPI Media, issued a survey in 2018 asking 55+ participants to list what mattered most to them when choosing an active adult community.
Activity, the ever-present need for good healthcare, a sense of community, and access to travel hovered at the top. Here’s a look at the results:
Walking Trails 90%
Hospital/Healthcare Provided 90%
Town Center & Shopping 89%
Wellness/Fitness Center 89%
Sense of Community 89%
Swimming Pool 85%
Social Clubs 82%
Beach Access 74%
Golf Course/Club 44%
Tennis Courts 38%
Developers have mirrored these results by focusing their efforts around them.
Dog parks are a top amenity on the ideal lifestyle list for many dog families.
A quick scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed will prove that 21st century dogs are officially in the limelight, right where they belong. Many who are looking to relocate consider an area or community as much for the sake of their dog(s) as they do for themselves. Dog-friendly hiking or walking trails – check. Dog-friendly beaches – check. Leash-free dog parks? More and more checks guaranteed. As people become aware of the benefits of having a pet, they’re also coming to the realization that, in essence, “pets are people too”. Roaming outdoors, getting plenty of exercise and staying social are all as important to a dog’s health as they are to our own.
Master-planned communities across the country are heeding the healthier living calls of canines and their humans by creating spaces for dogs and their owners to mingle with other dogs…and their owners.
Here are a few communities that have gone above and beyond for their canine residents:
Keowee Key, a lake community just outside of Clemson, SC in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is full of parks. But, its latest addition may be one of the busiest. Residents are thrilled to have a place where they can plan doggie dates or schedule daily or weekly visits to so that dogs can play off-leash both on and off the “agility equipment” with new and old canine companions. Owners can also sign up for dog training sessions held at the park.
At Lakewood Ranch, the three acres of fenced-in, leash-free space at the Paw Park is every dog’s preferred stomping ground. Also a resident favorite, the Paw Park is a popular spot for neighbors to mingle. A doggie drinking fountain, a separate small dog and puppy area, benches and a bag dispenser are on site.
The folks at Hampton Lake in Blufton, SC are convinced that pet companionship can be vital to health and well being at all ages. So, they went all out for resident canines and their families. Sand pits, earth mounds, and grass fields allow dogs to do more than just stretch their legs. And, the six ft. fire hydrant and handheld shower is a hit with dog owners not so fond of mud-covered paws. The picnic shelter with tables and benches is a great space for neighbors to become friends and for good friends to spend time together.
The Villages at Citrus Hills on The Nature’s Coast in Florida has decided to integrate two and four-legged exercise spaces. At Rockwood Park, you can play basketball, bocce ball, run with your dog(s) on the fitness trail, or let them run free at the Rockwood dog park. Aside from the standard dog park amenities, bone-shaped sand traps and water-play features like the spraying fire hydrant keep dogs digging and diving, providing the ultimate in doggie aerobics.
At St. James Plantation near Southport, NC dogs are everywhere – hanging their heads out of golf carts, running with their owners, and paddling alongside swimmers in the surf. But running leash-free, socializing and relaxing at one of St. James two dog parks – Woodlands Park and St. James Drive Park – are dog and owner favorites. If access to a restroom is essential, then Woodlands Park is your best bet.
Master-planned communities are integrating parks and ample spaces for dogs to roam because a dog’s life is the good life. And, given the benefits of having them in our lives, communities and their residents want to do whatever they can to make a dog’s life even better.
All In: Sustainable Gardening (and Living) at Babcock Ranch
Sustainability is a way of life at Babcock Ranch and it’s planted firmly in the garden.
By: Jamie Penn
It’s not at all surprising that residents of America’s first solar-powered town care where their food comes from, or that they want to be a part of the process. The only surprising thing about living in the garden at Babcock Ranch (about an hour from Naples), says community garden consultant, Whitney Tucker, is that residents can make things grow this time of year.
“It’s not easy, but it can be done,” said Tucker. Southwest Florida is known to get a little too steamy early to mid-summer for most varieties of vegetables. But, cherry tomatoes, like the sweet and savory yellow “Everglade,” many types of peppers, and most herbs can hang with the Florida heat. While summer isn’t the optimal time to grow along the Gulf-side of the panhandle, every other time of the year is, says Tucker. And, an eight-month optimal growing season is pretty darn good. Year-round harvesting includes tomatoes, bell peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, microgreens, and herbs.
Running the Show
There is one varietal harvested on Babcock Ranch land, however, that is more plentiful during summer months (as well as every other month) than in any other planned community in the country. 440 acres of land at Babcock Ranch is covered in 343,000 glistening blue, sun-loving solar panels that serve to produce 74.5 megawatts of power, enough solar energy to power the entire town. And, those numbers will soon double on land adjacent to current solar fields.
While this staple crop requires very little water, the farmland that provides produce for two restaurants and a general store does. Because Babcock Ranch is a 100% sustainably-developed community, Tucker said zero percent of well-generated freshwater is used to irrigate crops. All irrigation is sourced from wastewater and reused water located on the Ranch.
Sustainable is as Sustainable Does
Sustainable development is all about minimizing your impact and footprint on the natural environment. Whitney Tucker and her previous employers at Herban Gardens (Kitson family-owned) have been all about sustainable development since the inception of Herban Gardens. Tucker, age 26, worked for the Kitson family for over 10 years, starting her learning of “everything she knows” about growing microgreens and sustainable and organic gardening in general. She’s now a full-time employee at Slaters Restaurant and works as a community gardens consultant for the Babcock Ranch H.O.A. Herban Gardens continues to farm a large plot of land on Babcock Ranch, accounting for produce provisions for both restaurants.
“It’s pretty perfect, because I’m always on call, but I never feel like I am,” Tucker said. Community gardeners often come in to dine so that they can get a few garden tips. “I love being a part of their enthusiasm,” she said.
It’s residents like the Graham family, Tucker says, that remind her how important this process is. The Grahams visited Tucker recently at Slaters just so their four-year-old daughter could tell her that she got to eat the very first cherry tomato that she helped to grow.
The Grahams are one of 16-20 families growing and harvesting in Babcock Ranch Community Gardens. Twelve 4 ft. x 5 ft. metal containers and eight 4.5 ft. x 16 ft. are available to all residents on a first-come-first-serve basis. Thyme trails over metal and rosemary, and tomato plants still hold strong in raised garden plots in the heat of the summer sun next to acres and acres of solar panels. And, a teaching garden, planted and tended by Tucker, is available for all to watch and learn.
“It’s important to residents that they know where their food comes from when they sit down to eat at Slaters or pick up a few things from the General Store,” Tucker said. But, it’s another thing altogether, she said, when they get to learn how it all works as a family, and to reap the benefits of their labor.
“It feeds them in a different way,” Tucker said. “And, they constantly express how grateful they are to have access to it.”
Along with Herban Gardens’ farm plot, there are several tenant farmer plots, as well. A bee farm and a large-scale tomato and watermelon farm are among them. The honey from the bee farm provides honey for the general store and replaces sugar in all recipes used at both Babcock Ranch Restaurants.
In a sustainable environment, renewal and repurposing are consistent. And, at Babcock Ranch, it’s in everything residents do. It’s at the base of every program that’s created and in the blueprint of every house built.
Tucker says there’s no better way to experience sustainability’s progressive cycle than to hover around the table at a monthly S.L.E.T. (Slaters Babcock Ranch Eat and Talk) meeting.
Residents buzz about new sustainable solutions on the horizon and what they can do better and more consciously as a community. They ask questions – i.e., how and where to recycle X.Y.Z., or when and where to find organic and sustainably-produced products. And, Tucker is always there to mediate.
“It’s a pretty inspiring thing to watch,” she said.
New solar-powered town near Fort Myers in sunny Florida promotes active, healthy living with 50 miles of trails to get out and explore. Take in 9,000 acres of preserved green space, farm-to-table restaurants, community gardens, and the Healthy Life Center that align with the Babcock Ranch vision with a focus on wellness and sustainable living. Residents can choose from a mix of affordable, moderate and luxury residences that blend with the natural environment.
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A fairly young city, Aiken, South Carolina was founded in 1835, and named after William Aiken, then president of the South Carolina Railroad. Near the South Carolina-Georgia border, Aiken is just thirty minutes from The Augusta National Golf Course, home of the Masters Golf Tournament. It’s centrally located; approximately two-and-a-half hours from both the Blue Ridge Mountains and Atlantic Beaches.
Aiken is a smallish town with a big personality, and a year round equine and golf destination. Its humid subtropical climate boasts temperatures ideal for those trying to escape harsh winters, but still desire seasonal variance. It’s famous for an average of 210 days of sunshine, and the native Sabal Palmetto Palms that line roads and highways, and pop up along the outskirts of shady forests. Over the years, southern charm and the area’s northeastern roots have blended to create traditions and a culture that have made Aiken a bit of a South Carolina standout.
Once a winter colony designed to create an escape for the elite of the northeast wanting to flee from harsh winters, the equine sporting tradition in Aiken began with families the likes of the Vanderbilts, and the Rockefellers. The horse racing and training industry remains a integral force in Aiken’s culture and economy. It’s known as the horse training capital of the world. The home of the Fall Steeplechase and spring’s Triple Crown, Aiken attracts tens of thousands of visitors from around the world.
While the equine sporting tradition remains, the city of Aiken has changed and modernized significantly around it. Dirt paths still connect to downtown Aiken, with a stoplight designed specifically for horses and their riders. Recent downtown revitalization brought an influx of high-end restaurants, boutique shops, and a thriving arts and culture scene.
The Augusta National is indeed the area’s most famous course, but Aiken is an equally popular golf destination for non-professional players.
Places to See
Carolina Bay Nature Preserve
Not your average old body of water, Carolina Bays are oval or circular depressions thought to be the result of meterorite impact. Over centuries, they have become natural wetlands in the lowlands of South Carolina. The preserve boasts plant and wildlife not seen elsewhere.
Walk beneath century-old Live Oaks along Hopelands Gardens Estate paths to tour the property and gardens bequeathed to the City the Aiken by Mrs. Oliver Iselin, known as “the great lady of horse racing”.
There’s nothing like a narrated peek at what’s up and out there. Situated on the campus of the University of South Carolina at Aiken, the planetarium’s educational program is directed and run by professors and students of the College of Sciences.
Mardi Gras Festival
Creole cuisine and Abita Beer dominate this yearly festival scene in downtown Aiken every February. Complete with a parade, plenty of beads, bagpipes, and a raucous good time, you might want to plan your trip around this one.
Rose Hill Estate
Initially a winter colony for elites from the northeast, this complex was the first in Aiken to make the list of National Register of Historic Places. It encompasses an entire city block in downtown Aiken, but its intimate charm, stunning grounds, and stately aura has been maintained.
Formerly the Rose Hill Estate’s stables, this downtown Aiken restaurant is one of four in the country to have made the stable-to-table transition.
Hitchcock Woods is sprawled out over 2,100 acres, making it one of the largest urban forests in the country. 70 miles of sandy trails make a horseback tour with the folks at Rebel Ranch Horse Tours the way to go.
Art and Soul of Aiken
Aiken’s creative outlet and gallery of fine, local art, Art and Soul is a place for local artists to sell, and for budding artists to learn to create.
Seahorse Stables offers charming cottages and nearby stables for visiting horses and their families. At Seahorse you can rent horses or bring your own. Trails, tours, and lessons are available.
Aiken Steeplechase and Horse Park
Home of the Triple Crown Races, plan to discover Aiken in March to view the race of your life at Aiken Steeplechase.
Where to Live
A Southern Living-Inspired Community, Woodside is a gated, golf-centric, 55 plus community. The Reserve Club is the community’s social hub with 60+ clubs including a 75-member Trails Club. Woodside makes it easy for visitors to “live like a resident” with a $199, 2 night, 3 day Discovery Package when exploring their ideal living options.
A 2,000-acre private golf community situated between Aiken and Augusta, Mount Vintage hosts a 27-hole golf course designed by world-renowned architect, Tom Jackson. The semi-private clubhouse is a fully restored Piedmont Plantation home built in 1840. Mount Vintage’s nearby Town Center complete with Athletic Club, community garden, and lending library speaks to the family and community focused culture at Mount Vintage.
The Bradshaw Group – Lake Greenwood Real Estate Source/Greenwood Real Estate
Lake Greenwood property is coveted, to say the least, both as second home sites and by active adults looking for their ideal forever home. The Bradshaw Group is Greenwood’s top source for ideal lake homes and property. A bustling and progressive Downtown Greenwood breaks through lake life seclusion, lending lake lovers access to cultural luxuries, nightlife and culinary sophistication.
Mount Vintage is a well-established 2,000 acre private community conveniently located just a few miles from Augusta, GA and Aiken, SC.
Carefully planned to enhance the natural beauty and tranquility of this setting...it is truly one of a kind.
Carefully planned 2,800-acre gated community, recently named one of Money Magazine's "Top Ten Retirement Communities."
Three private 18 hole championship golf courses, tennis pavillion, wooded walking trails and more. Top medical facilities, university town with a mecca of cultural events.
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Springtime Tea and Tour. Spend a spring afternoon at Savannah’s friendliest community. Enjoy a true southern tea as you tour nine beautiful model homes including our Design Home Showcase featuring three stunning custom home models. It’s the perfect way to find your dream home and picture your life at Savannah Quarters®.