To many it is a sanctuary, the most wonderfully versatile piece of recreational equipment ever conceived. A thing that allows you to close your eyes and connect to the ancient swells and rhythms of the sea. A thing that can silently transport you to secret coves and unimaginably beautiful places. A thing that allows you to work as hard as you’ve ever worked and race 32 miles out to Catalina Island in the sport’s iconic championship. Or express your inner “devotional warrior” on your floating yoga mat … your paddleboard. While every long pull on the paddle carries you farther and farther away from the stress of the day.
Jump on Board
Sound inviting? Then seek out a place near you to learn to paddleboard and you’ll begin to understand the enriching hold of the fastest growing water sport in the world and an elixir for those in their silver years…both from a fitness standpoint and an aesthetic one.
Tom Lawn got hooked on paddleboarding as a newcomer five years ago when he bravely decided to paddle out to a shrimp boat trawling just off the tip of the North Carolina coast where he was unexpectedly adopted by a pod of some 80 dolphins following the boat for free snacks. So close Tom could touch them, the pod let him paddle along for a mile or so. And then the board had him.
At 66, Tom is a fixture at St. James Plantation, a 6,000-acre planned community of beautiful coastal landscape in Southport, NC, where he is unmistakable driving the mint condition, aqua blue Dodge van he and his wife Sue bought new in 1977. His paddleboards ride on top of the van, surfboard inside, with the couple’s Llewellin Setter, Esker, calling shotgun.
According to Tom, “Paddleboarding is so many things. It can be spiritual while paddling alone through the pristine backwaters of the bay. Or just family time, with Esker perched on the nose of the board and Sue paddling beside in her kayak.”
Sometimes Jenna Chenevert and Susan Goodwin will just sit down on their paddleboards and eat the lunch they packed earlier back home. Neighbors at Eastman, a welcoming four-seasons community in New Hampshire, the two thrive on the fitness and aesthetic benefits of paddleboarding on the community’s miles-long lake, and all around New England.
Jenna shares that, “It’s amazing how much stand up paddling exercises your core and legs, plus it requires excellent posture. But for seniors, perhaps the biggest benefit is how it enhances your balance abilities.”
Susan particularly embraces the natural beauty that comes with the activity. “I love paddling through the early morning fog on our lake, or for 30-mile stretches on the Connecticut River, where the fall foliage reflected in the water is just stunningly beautiful.”
A Little History
Today’s paddleboarders carry on a legacy that some suggest dates back 3,000 years to Peruvian fisherman who paddled reed boats out past the surf break, then stood up and surfed the fully stocked boat back home. But the earliest actual evidence shows a Polynesian paddleboarder heading out to greet Captain James Cook off Hawaii’s Kona coast in a famous engraving dating back to 1779. It would be his ancestors who brought paddleboarding to light two centuries later on the north shore of Oahu.
You will want to do a lot of research before buying a paddleboard, but generally you’ll be looking at a board that’s 10-12’ long and costs between $500-1,500. A lighter graphite paddle will be worth the investment to your hands and arms on long rides. Make certain, also, that the weight of the board (generally 24-30 pounds) is manageable and that you’re able to lift the board, or comfortably load it on a car rack for transport. There are even inflatable paddle boards that are lighter and easier to manage.
So, if the idea of enhancing your physical and spiritual health, while meeting new friends sounds inviting, just look for the mint condition, aqua blue van and say hi to the explorative new world of paddleboarding!
This 3,600 acre lakeside community is tucked in the Upper Connecticut River Valley in the Dartmouth-Lake Sunapee Region. Two hours north of Boston and minutes from Lake Sunapee, New London, Lebanon and Hanover, residents have easy access to medical facilities, employment, educational opportunities and a multitude of cultural venues.
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For a couple interested in residential offerings, it’s fun and instructive to rent a private water taxi for several hours and tour the coast, stop for lunch, and maybe pick out your favorite oceanfront lot.”
— Matt Brown
As Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula stretches toward the Caribbean Sea, it signals the southern edge of the country, where it then shares a border with Belize. An otherworldly place of sultry beauty, ancient Mayan relics, and flourishing culture (and eco-tourism!), it’s all framed by the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and dotted with luxury resorts and communities tucked on tropical cays and islands.
Belize is an adventurer’s paradise, with the teal waters of the Caribbean Sea beckoning on the east and a fascinating rain forest ecosystem in the highlands to the west. The country is only 68 miles across, so it’s easy to spend the morning drifting with sea turtles on the reef and the afternoon exploring the ruins of the ancient Mayan pyramids of Caracol and Xunantunich.
But most importantly, Belize is a place intently balancing its emerging and bountiful popularity with its boundless commitment to sustainability and environmental protection. National Geographic recently released its list of “Best Places to Visit in the Upcoming Year,” and Belize received high praise for its protection of the Bacalar Chico Marine Reserve coral reef by banning all offshore drilling, passing a law to phase out single-use plastics, and taking steps to protect mangrove forests, home to the endangered manatee and countless other aquatic species.
That commitment will have to be girded as resort operators like Marriott, Wyndham, Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville have plans to build resort communities in Belize within the next several years. Even Leonardo DiCaprio and a business partner have purchased a private island called Blackadore Caye for $1.75 million with plans to sensitively develop a restorative, 68-villa eco-resort.
Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, gained its independence from the crown in 1982. But, Queen Elizabeth still graces the dollar, English is the official language, and the government is a parliamentary system that believes in contract law like Australia and Canada. Unlike some other Caribbean countries, real estate purchases are fully titled and deeded (rather than leased for 99 years or not allowed at all). There is no inheritance tax, no capital gains tax, and residency is relatively easy to gain.
The country is easily accessed (just a four-hour flight from Chicago and two hours from Miami or Houston) through the international airport in Belize City (BZE). The islands are reached by a short 20-minute airplane ride or water taxi.
Much of the popular resort and residential activity resides on Ambergris Caye, a long narrow strip of land (you’re never further than 500 yards from water) and the largest of Belize’s offshore islands. And although the Belize mainland is essentially a rain forest, the island only gets about 1/5 of the rain as inland (to be safe, the dry season runs from January to May). Ambergris Caye also restricts cars and trucks to commercial purposes, so everyone drives a golf cart or ATV.
Among the existing island resorts is the opulent Grand Caribe just north of San Pedro, the main city of Ambergris Caye. The waterfront Ramon’s Village Resort in San Pedro is an elegant slice of thatched-roof heaven, and the Grand Baymen Condo Resort also beckons on the Ambergris beachfront.
Local Coldwell Banker realtor Matt Brown suggests a creative idea for exploring Ambergris Caye. Brown reveals, “For a couple interested in residential offerings, it’s fun and instructive to rent a private water taxi for several hours and tour the coast, stop for lunch, and maybe pick out your favorite oceanfront lot.” Matt Brown moved to Belize in 2011 from Canada and saw the potential in this English-speaking country for an easy transition into an incredible new life in a pristine location.
On the mainland, the family Coppola (as in Francis Ford) offers two embracing resorts: the waterfront Turtle Inn near the charming Creole fishing village of Placencia in south Belize, and the Blacaneaux Lodge, which actually was the Coppola’s tropical paradise hideaway in the rain forest from 1980 to 1993, when they opened it to the public as a 20-room luxury resort.
Perhaps the most valuable asset for all of these resorts is their relationships with trusted dive shops, fishing boat captains, and interpretative eco-guides who help Belize’s wonders come to life.
One of those wonders is the Great Blue Hole, the largest aquatic sinkhole in the world that spans three football fields in diameter and over 400 feet deep, located about 40 miles off the Belize coast on Lighthouse Reef. The Great Blue Hole came to modern attention when Jacques Cousteau explored it in 1971. Just this last December, Cousteau’s grandson Fabien joined with billionaire Richard Branson to fully map the hole and discover its coral fringes and ancient stalactites. Needless to say, the Great Blue Hole is on many a recreational diver’s bucket list. Search the Discovery Channel to view the December exploration.
Another wonder was stumbled upon in 1989 when the rain forest revealed to researchers the Actun Tunichil Miknal (Cave of the Stone Sepulcher or ATM), a Maya sacrificial burial site hidden nearly a mile underground and the resting place of the “crystal maiden,” a complete skeleton of a 20-year old woman that sparkles from crystal calcification. Accessing the cave requires precarious rock climbing and underwater swimming and is accordingly highly regulated. National Geographic ranks ATM at the top of its new list of “Sacred Places of a Lifetime.”
You will also want to explore the Altun Ha and Lamanai Mayan sites, visit the tidy Belize Zoo, where its lush landscaping will have you thinking you’ve stumbled into the jungle. There is also cave tubing on rushing underground rivers, plus myriad zip-lining options. Try hiking the lush jungle trails of the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the only jaguar reserve on the planet. Or, just luxuriate in the old-world charm and secluded stretches of beach on Caye Caulker.
“You don’t need a retirement home, you need a great home for retirement,” ~ Francisca Alonso
There is the passion of an artist, the preciseness of an engineer, and a profound empathy for the human condition that informs a conversation with architect Francisca Alonso, one that is as captivating as the transformative vision she has for residential design in the 21st century.
Francisca and her husband/architect partner of 30 years, Antonio, are co-founders of AV Architects + Builders, established in 2001 and based in Great Falls, VA, just outside of Washington, D.C.
Francisca’s father was the famous architect Melvin Villarroel Roldan, who has designed luxury resorts and hotels on the Mediterranean coast and all over the world. When Francisca and Antonio launched their business in 2001, they decided to carry on the legacy of resort-style living. The company’s mission is, “Building custom dream homes designed around your lifestyle, that make you feel like you are on vacation, every day of the year.”
While there are many formative pillars of AV’s design philosophy, Francisca sums them up with the following tenets:
Removal of Clutter
Control of clutter is a key ingredient to a happy house. It’s rejuvenating. It’s like a detox. At the end of the day we don’t need so much. When have you ever walked into a luxury vacation home that had clutter? When you are staring at clutter, it creates distractions, so make certain that multiple storage solutions are a part of your home design.
Every indoor space that we design has a mirror image in an outdoor related space. A master bedroom has a patio. A great room may have an outdoor grotto. A front entrance will have a front porch.
A 2,000 sq. ft., home, for instance, should have at least a third of that – 700-800 sq. ft. – set for designed outdoor space.
Double the Windows, plus Limited Hallways and Doors
Our designs call for double the amount of window space in a standard home in our area. And there should be at least two viewpoints to the outdoors and nature in every spot in the house, all of which reduces stress and adds to your well-being. This requires broad open-concept floor plans, multi-use spaces, and the limiting of hallways and doors.
(Many of Francisca’s window designs, especially in bedrooms where windows have to provide egress in case of emergency, have an almost Mondrian quality, with offset panels virtually creating a piece of art in glass. The offset allows for one large casement window – facilitating egress and allowing for cross ventilation – while smaller windows of different sizes and shapes infuse design interest.)
Quality of Materials
We don’t want you to have a lifetime membership at the hardware store, so we build with materials that last. Instead of using pine trim we use PVC, which is rot-free. We use aluminum windows, so you don’t keep painting them, and engineered quartz or porcelain instead of granite so you don’t have to keep treating it. You should enjoy your home, not have to maintain it.
Smart Home Peace of Mind
Home security from your smartphone is so easy to do nowadays. We design a fully integrated system that controls lighting, alarms, temperature settings, and locking systems. The system can even detect moisture in specific areas and will send a message to your phone that will tell you if there is water under you dishwasher. It’s all about safety and energy efficiency.
But Francisca and her team have added another layer to the concept of stylish resort living, and it is outlined in a book she authored called, Nesting for Empty Nesters, The Vacation Style Living Approach to Aging in Place.
A magna cum laude graduate of The School of Architecture at The Catholic University, Francisca is also CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) certified, a prestigious designation bestowed by the National Association of Home Builders. It is with that training that she imagines a residence that uses smart design to prepare your home now for a better quality of life in retirement and beyond.
Francisca explains, “People are living much longer and more active lives these days. If we design or remodel a house for a couple in their 50s, they may live there until they’re 90. So why not build blocking now behind a wall that can anchor a grab bar or handrail in 20 years? Why not build a curbless shower with no doors that looks sleek now, but will allow disabled access in 30 years? There are hundreds of beneficial manifestations of Aging in Place design.”
In this regard, Francisca seems to think of everything. She is currently working with researchers at a Washington D.C. area university on building a sensor into a shower floor, or any space, that will detect an unusual compression of the floor that might be consistent with a fall, which can then be signaled to a family member for follow-up.
In addition to her father’s influence, Francisca admits to an affinity for Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, which is hinted at with some of her flowing horizontal rooflines. “Wright designed a home that was built for the end-user,” she describes. “Architecture is not monumental or ornamental, it’s designing for a person and how they will operate in their home.”
And like its co-founder, the company is passionate, precise, and profoundly empathetic in bringing trusted and flexible home design solutions to those of us approaching a fulfilling and active life as seniora. In Francisca’s sage affirmation, “You don’t need a retirement home, you need a great home for retirement.”
“Before retiring, we filled our days with working. Now we fill them by being active and making new friends … it’s wonderful.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) began creating dams and lakes for hydro-electric power starting in 1933. Over the decades, the TVA has generated 11,000 miles of pristine shoreline framing nearly 300,000 acres of reservoir land, its newest coming in the early 80s with the creation of Lake Tellico in eastern Tennessee, wrapped by the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains and just 30 minutes from the university town of Knoxville.
In 1986, the lake became the crown jewel of a 4,600-acre planned retirement community called Tellico Village, home to three golf courses, five marinas, a myriad of other amenities, plus an uncommon spirit of engagement embodied in its homeowners. With the original developer long gone, today Tellico Village is entirely managed, governed, and invigorated by its residents.
Originally from suburban Chicago, Jan and Dennis Dougherty never knew how active they could be when they completed construction on their 2,600-sq.-ft. age-in-place retirement home at Tellico Village just last April. Says Jan, “Before retiring, we filled our days with working. Now we fill them by being active and making new friends … it’s wonderful.”
The Doughertys are about to enter their second and final year as New Villagers, residents who may choose to be introduced to the community, and scores of activities and clubs, at monthly socials. There are specific New Villager activities, but there are also hundreds of Home Owners Association activities, 300 formal clubs, plus programs outside the community, and the freshmen couple from Chicago take advantage of all of them.
Jan is in three different hiking groups—one called Muddy Boots—and does water aerobics and a power walk every day. She also is an event coordinator for Dine Outs (which lure up to 40 folks out to different area restaurants), has joined a couple of book clubs, is a member of the Purdue Alumni club, and is a Litter Angel, residents who volunteer to pick up litter to keep the main parkway beautiful. And as a former teacher, she also tutors first-graders weekly at the local Boys & Girls Club.
Dennis, who has a degree in physics, helps organize Astronomy Club “sky parties” for the residents. He also raises funds for both the local library and the fire department. The couple are both in the Illinois club, the motorcycle club, and a couple of wine clubs. They play in the weekly golf scramble, kayak on the lake, play pickleball, and go to sporting and cultural events in Knoxville.
Tellico Village is a lakeshore community in east Tennessee that offers a unique combination of natural beauty, mild four-season climate, outstanding recreational facilities and close proximity to Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains.
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To live where you vacation is more accessible now than ever.
Let’s take a quick look at history. It’s not something you really ever think about, but who actually were the first Americans to take a proper vacation… other than the ultra-rich Vanderbilts, et al. According to research by the Smithsonian Magazine, they suggest that the first American vacationers were lured to the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York by a Boston preacher, who in 1869, wrote a widely-read treatise on the spiritual and health benefits of time spent lakeside in the forest. An unusually wet spring that year, however, meant the mosquitoes and flies were abundant in both numbers and aggravation. City slickers who had never slept in a starched, white tent under the stars were underwhelmed at the prospect of their vacation.
This is not so much a problem in 2018, when vacation possibilities are endless and luxurious. And with repeat visits, vacation destinations become ever-more comfortable, familiar, homey, and sometimes even soul-transforming. So much so that a vacation destination might just grab hold and say, “You know, this would be a wondrous place to relocate or retire.”
Just ask the couples we spoke to about their transformation from vacationers to residents.
Nick and Diane Karbonik first started bringing their girls to Ocean City, MD, and Rehoboth Beach, DE, 40 years ago during summer vacations from their home near Baltimore. So there was no learning curve when the couple decided to retire at The Peninsula, an artfully-sculpted 800-acre community tucked between those two historic beaches and framed by the expansive Indian River Bay.
Diane reveals, “A couple years ago we were visiting our daughter and son-in-law, who is the head golf professional at a country club in Rehoboth Beach. One day he managed to get us a tee time at The Peninsula. I remember driving through the community that first day and saying, ‘Gosh, I could live here.’ And now we do!”
The Peninsula offers gracious waterfront living, a predictably spectacular Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, and a stunning new clubhouse that just opened last year. Amenities also include an eight-court tennis center; an indoor, outdoor, and wave pool complex; athletic club; a protected nature reserve; the restorative Calmwater Spa; and gourmet fare from the Terrace Grille.
“When we first started coming here on vacation, Rehoboth Beach was a sleepy, little summer town. But now it has year-round vibrancy, with plenty of great restaurants, quaint shops, civic activities, and of course the historic boardwalk, which is great multi-generational fun,” explains Diane.
One of the added benefits of The Peninsula’s central location is easy day-trip access to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia (all just over a two-hour drive), and Historic Williamsburg and Jamestown are just over three hours away.
“When we first started coming here on vacation, Rehoboth Beach was a sleepy, little summer town. But now it has year-round vibrancy, with plenty of great restaurants, quaint shops, civic activities, and of course the historic boardwalk, which is great multi-generational fun.”
— Diane Karbonik
We thought the Karbonik’s 40-year vacation history with Rehoboth would hold the record until we met Gail Mitkoff, who has been vacationing in Ocean City from her family home in metro Washington, D.C., since junior high, a full 50 years!
Decades of blissful vacationing at Ocean City over the years finally led to a more permanent villa purchase there in 2015, overlooking a rare eagle’s nest near the beach. But a year later, retirement took hold and Gail decided to seek life in a more formal community and a single family home, where friends were easier to meet and recreational amenities were in abundance.
Enter Bayside, a welcoming planned community on Fenwick Island, just a stone’s throw over the Maryland border north into Delaware, and a new chapter in life.
Gail had to stop and gather herself prior to describing all the activities in which she participates at Bayside. “Well, first there is the golf course, which I don’t use a lot, but it sure is beautiful to look at. And I certainly take advantage of the new health and aquatic center, biking trails, crabbing, and fishing, not to mention the miles of sublime beach strolls that can only come with a coastal life. And I even joined the mahjong club,” she said with a twinkle.
Gail is also in regular attendance at the Bayside Institute, a catalyst for bringing community residents together in wellness, creative writing, heart- healthy cooking, kayaking, flower arranging, and loads more. And she thoroughly enjoys concerts at the community’s outdoor Freeman Stage, featuring musical artists like Vince Gill, Smokey Robinson, the Celtic Tenors, a theatrical performance of Mary Poppins, and more.
The same central location travel benefit go for Bonnie and Tom Nelson, who purchased a vacation condominium 15 years ago at Bay Creek in Cape Charles, VA, overlooking the historic waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Turns out Bay Creek was just far enough south from their permanent residence in Kinnelon, NJ, to get close to water and enjoy a more temperate climate, while enjoying all the benefits of living among both Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus golf courses.
Three years ago, the Nelsons graduated from vacationing in the condo to a more permanent residence in a single family home wrapped by holes 3, 4, and 5 on the Palmer course, which the grandkids have turned into a kind of five-hole loop to play after dinner when the course is quiet. Now in high school, those kids learned to play golf at around age five from the assistant golf professional at Bay Creek, and one of them has made his high school varsity golf team as a freshman!
Bay Creek is predictably rich in amenities, most noticeably a two-mile stretch of sand beach, one of the few beaches on Chesapeake Bay’s eastern shore. There’s also a marina, beach club, and fitness center, plus bayside dining at the embracing Coach House Tavern.
Bonnie is an accomplished gardener, as evidenced by their home’s recent selection for the 2018 Eastern Shore Home and Garden Tour. “What attracted us to Bay Creek in the first place remains what we love today: The great vistas, the beach, the golf, and the amazing sunsets,” offers Bonnie.
Cape Charles is a vintage seaside town overlooking the Chesapeake Bay on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Founded by a railroad magnate in the late 1800’s, it was said to be designed around New York City, with even a small “Central Park.”
Dorothy and Marv Gelb | St. James Plantation, Southport, NC
Some folks are more quickly smitten than those who have waited 50 years, like New Yorkers Dorothy and Marv Gelb, who bought a pre-retirement lot on their very first visit to St. James Plantation in Southport, NC, in 2006. The pair was visiting Dorothy’s best friend since third grade, Linda Jenkins, and her husband Bob.
Dorothy describes that, “The Jenkins gave us a glorious tour of St. James and coastal Southport as only locals can, then took us out on their boat for a picnic cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway. And we were sold. It’s that wonderful here.”
The Gelbs have had a lot of time to reconsider their lot purchase, but repeated vacations over the years confirmed their love of the area, and in 2016 they built their dream retirement home and have quickly become engaged in the local community.
Bob is an adept piano player and has become in high demand, playing ‘standards’ at charity fashion shows, art galleries, the local hospital, and fundraisers for the St. James Service Club. Dorothy is very active in the Southport Presbyterian Church, when she’s not playing tennis or taking a tennis clinic.
St. James Plantation is just an idyllic 6,000-acre planned community of beautiful coastal landscape tucked at the very southeast tip of North Carolina. Life at St. James is all about being outside and being active. The community has 81 holes of golf, 13 tennis courts, a marina, a beach club, four fitness centers, and 36 miles of hiking and biking trails. Naturally, there is also the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean beyond for boating, paddleboarding, and kayaking.
“We are completely embracing the active lifestyle in Southport,” remarked Marv. “We are on the Atkins diet, we’re bicycling every day, going to the beach and pool, and living as active and healthy a lifestyle as we can in this beautiful setting.”
And, of course, they can always grab a can of bug spray at the marina store in the event of an unusually wet spring!
“We are completely embracing the active lifestyle in Southport.”
— Marv Gelb
Bayside is an award-winning classic beach resort community developed by the regionally renowned Carl M. Freeman Companies. Tree-lined streets showcase a community of stunning homes - all inspired by the New England coastal towns.
Our Bayside community is ideally nestled in this quiet resort town with access to all that it has to offer. As one of Delaware's finest coastal destinations, Fenwick Island is beautifully serene but with plenty to do. Once you're here, you might notice your cares melting away as the beaches of Fenwick Island call your name.
The Peninsula on the Indian River Bay offers an exquisite collection of homes in vintage coastal architecture. With a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, unmatched amenities and instant access to Delaware's famous Atlantic beaches, there is simply no place like The Peninsula on the Indian River Bay.
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