The Club Life | Social Networks That Can’t Be Hacked
Once upon a time, retirement communities were built around amenities like golf courses and recreation centers with pools and tennis courts. Social life revolved around the country club or racquet club or other popular activities like boating and gardening.
Today’s active-adult communities offer that and so much more. Baby Boomers still play golf and tennis (or, increasingly, pickeball), but we also like some diversity in the things we do and the connections we make. What may have begun coincidentally in some places—“You collect stamps, too?”—has become a proliferation of “interest clubs” that are changing the dynamics of community social life.
Large planned communities can have 100 or more active clubs, but every community these days has dozens of groups where you can share your writing, learn to play an instrument or sculpt a vase, enjoy sports and games from kayaking to keno, and give something back by tutoring a student or helping the needy. The bonuses are new social networks created and a quality of life enhanced.
Cresswind Communities: Building Relationships
“‘Relationships’ is one of the three core Cresswind lifestyle components,” says John Manrique, Vice-President of Marketing for Kolter Homes. “Clubs are a major part of creating, growing, and strengthening personal relationships in our communities.” Kolter began to develop its Cresswind brand for age 55+ homebuyers in 2010, and today there are eight communities in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. While each site was chosen to enhance active-adult options in its area and offers distinctive amenities, all began the planning process in the same place.
“We design our Cresswind communities around the clubhouse as the social and activity
center for our residents,” says Manrique. “It’s the starting point for each masterplan and then we design the clubhouse itself with a flexibility of space for future uses. Our residents are empowered to create and lead the clubs that they and their neighbors are interested in exploring together. Most have a book club and a cooking club, but we also have clubs for horseback riding, canoeing and kayaking, and even triathlon training. And we’re especially happy when they take the initiative to address a need in the area, so we’ve got clubs that lead food drives, mentor students, build homes, and raise funds for a variety of good causes.
“To accommodate that diversity of interests,” he continues, “we have a lifestyle director at every location to help establish new clubs, schedule events, and reach out to the surrounding community. As interests change over time, we want their opportunities to expand as well. After all, how many pickleball clubs were there 10 years ago?”
For most Cresswind residents, there are no additional dues to pay. “Access to and the full use of all on-site facilities is included with membership in the property owners’ association,” Manrique says, noting that groups like travel clubs set their own budgets for off-site adventures. And while none of the Cresswind communities have their own golf courses, most partner with local clubs that offer access and discounts.
True to the core component of “relationships” in the Cresswind communities, each hosts a monthly cocktail party or potluck dinner in the clubhouse so that new residents can meet their neighbors and find out about existing clubs and activities. Those mixers are appreciated not only by couples, but also by those who are single, divorced, or widowed. “And we recently heard from a new owner in our Cresswind Peachtree City location near Atlanta,” Manrique concludes. “She had decided to move in a few months ahead of her husband, who was finishing up his business back home. She thought it might be a lonely time, but instead was delighted to join several activity clubs and found she was busier and happier than ever. That’s what it’s all about.”
Fairfield Glade: Amenities Abound
Located on Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau between Knoxville and Nashville, Fairfield Glade is an established community with a 50th-anniversary celebration planned for 2020. It’s also a vacation resort, which means that Fairfield Glade has amenities that include five 18-hole golf courses, a Racquet Club with indoor/outdoor courts for year-round play, and meeting facilities at the Conference Center, which is adjacent to medical services the Wellness Complex.
“Our monthly fees are a fraction of what you’d pay for most other homeowners associations with amenities we have,” says Fairfield Glade’s director of marketing and events, Mary Jo Paige. “We use a ‘pay-as-you-play’ model where our residents and members get a reduced rate for what they actually use. Guests pay a different rate and those fees help to keep member dues low.”
The abundant facilities are an obvious draw, but a half-century of experience has taught Fairfield Glade that interest clubs are the heart and soul of community life. “We have more than 50 different active clubs today,” says Paige, “representing just about everything imaginable. In addition to our golf and racquet clubs, we have groups for fishing, birding, cycling, chess, softball, card games, quilting, kayaking, photography, and writing, to name just a handful. And since all are organized by our residents, new ones are created every year. In addition, we have an events team that plans and manages more than 130 community events every year.
“We’re especially proud of our spirit of volunteerism that supports charitable activities,” Paige continues. “The Fairfield Ladies Club is one such organization with nearly 500 members. And Fairfield Glade hosts our “Get Involved Expo” every year, where over 40 local non-profits can inform our residents about their good work and recruit new volunteers.”
Paige also cited an example of a Fairfield Glade interest club that has, literally, branched out into the surrounding area. “Years ago, a group of residents started a ‘Friends of the Trails’ club to promote hiking and trail building within the community,” Paige says. “Today we have more than a dozen great hiking trails in Fairfield Glade, which the club members maintain.” Many Fairfield Glade residents have gone on become “Friends of the Cumberland Trail,” putting their experience and enthusiasm to work in establishing what’s well on its way to becoming a 200-mile Tennessee trail.
Regular items on the Fairfield Glade schedule are the newcomers’ events that acquaint recent residents with available clubs. “Our residents come from all over the country and bring with them a diversity of backgrounds and interests,” says Paige. “Our activity clubs get and keep them engaged socially and, most importantly, having fun.”
Compass Pointe: A Club for Every Interest
Compass Pointe is a master planned community on the North Carolina coast near Wilmington that offers residents an impressive amenities package and membership options.
The Compass Pointe Golf Club features a centerpiece 18-hole course that opened for play in 2016. Membership also includes access to the nearby 27-hole Magnolia Greens Course. The separate Grand Lanai Amenities Center is open to all, with a recreational lawn out front for bocce ball, a central building with flexible meeting space, a resort-style pool, a new indoor pool and lazy river, tennis/pickleball courts, and a wellness center with fitness facilities.
Amanda Marks is the Vice-President of Operations at Compass Pointe. “All property owners pay a monthly association fee for access to Grand Lanai amenities, plus common areas like the dog park, walking and biking trails, and lakes and ponds for kayaking and fishing,” she says. “Residents can also enjoy our golf course and restaurant on a ‘pay-as-you-go‘ basis or they can choose a full golf membership plan, which gives them unlimited play, access to members-only events, and significant food and beverage discounts.”
While new members are joining the golf club every month, community clubs that meet at the Grand Lanai are growing, too. “We now have more than 30 active interest clubs at Compass Pointe,” says Marks. “They’re all formed and run by residents. Our tennis club is huge with more than 250 members and our bocce club has 200 participants. We also have clubs for for everything from gardening, bowling, and knitting to card games of all kinds and Bible study. One of our more unique new clubs is ‘Professionals Without Walls’ for residents who work remotely and benefit from the interaction and networking opportunities.
“Giving back to the community is a big theme at Compass Pointe,” she continues. “For instance, we have groups that raise money for breast-cancer awareness and volunteer at local community theaters and animal-rescue centers. We also have a very active Veterans Club that organizes patriotic events and fundraisers, and our Culinary Club awards a scholarship every year to a local student studying to become a chef.”
In addition, Compass Pointe has organized a Singles Club for residents who appreciate companionship when attending Wilmington-area events. “Clubs are such an important way for people to make friends, especially when they’re new residents,” Marks says. “In fact, that sometimes happens before they move in: When our agents tour prospective buyers around on Sunday afternoons, they always stop at the rec lawn where the bocce club plays. Many times our guests will join right in and that’s how they make new friends who may soon become their neighbors.”
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