Today’s healthy retirees aren’t slowing down.
Linda ferguson is already doing her dream job. She has toured breweries and distilleries and attended live cooking demonstrations put on by local chefs, all in a day’s work. Just this past year, she took six of her clients whitewater rafting: “We booked a chalet with Ace Adventure West Virginia. We went up the night before, drank wine and hung out in the hot tub. The next day, we hopped into a van and took off into the mountains.” Ferguson says the trip, while strenuous, was a total blast. “We had one guy in our group that, each time the guides offered a scary option, like, ‘Who wants to go into this stream where the current shoots you out?’ he volunteered for it all.”
Ferguson, 34, is the lifestyle director at Celebrate by Del Webb, a planned community for seniors age 55 and up in Fredericksburg. Her job is to plan activities and events for the residents, and to hear her tell it, it’s the best job in the world. “It definitely makes my job easier to have residents who are adventurous and always looking for new, fun activities to explore.”
You might think a place like Celebrate is unusual; an experimental community designed for a special set of senior go-getters. But the reality is so much more exciting: Communities serving seniors across the state are already incorporating activities and amenities into the day-to-day mix that go way beyond bingo, and demand for them is growing.
Why the surge in lifestyle offerings? “Thanks to modern health care, many of us are still able to do physical activities well past the age of 50,” says Ginger Thompson, communications director for AARP of Virginia. “That wasn’t the case for previous generations. The average person didn’t go whitewater rafting, mountain climbing or bungee jumping 50 years ago, regardless of their age. Now, it’s more common for people to participate in those activities. Most of us want to continue exploring as we age.” The golden years are no longer a time to wind down—instead, they’re a time for seniors to live at the very top of their game, and fitness is a big part of it.
“Many of the boomers today are much more active and health-conscious in terms of exercise and diet,” says Joseph Chamie, director of research at the Center for Migration Studies in New York City and former director of the United Nations Population Division. For instance, at Celebrate by Del Webb, residents can work out in a state-of-the-art fitness center with cardio and Nautilus equipment, and indoor and outdoor pools and Jacuzzis. To combat sore muscles, they can even book massages by appointment.
Celebrate residents Clayton and Cathy Hill are just two of many who make frequent stops at the fitness center. At 62, with 28 Marine Corps Marathons under his belt, Clayton shows no signs of slowing. During training season, he gets up at 3 a.m. to run the trails surrounding the community before heading in to his full-time job as an electronics engineer for the Federal government. If the weather is bad, he runs on the fitness center’s indoor track and often cross-trains using the stationary bike and weights. “I’ve exercised over 5,000 days in a row now,” he says. “I started counting in late 1999.” Cathy, a part-time music teacher and, with Clayton, co-president of the community choir, stays fit by using the cardio machines, taking Zumba classes, swimming in the pool and relaxing in the Jacuzzi.
Celebrate is not the only community responding to a desire among seniors for more fitness opportunities. Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge in Charlottesville, a CCRC (continuing care retirement community, defined by AARP as one that offers independent living, assisted living and nursing care in one location), is building a deluxe exercise facility designed to cater to current residents and to the boomers who will be moving to the community in the next 10 years. “Any community that plans around residents and seniors just sort of sitting there all day is going to have an empty community,” says spokesperson Laura Jones. “Things are very different now. We all know, no matter what our age is, the importance of exercise and physical activity. And the residents who live here are all right in that group.” To that end, a host of other local planned senior communities offer well-appointed gyms.
For a more leisurely approach to exercise, many communities, such as Four Seasons at New Kent Vineyards, a 55-plus community in New Kent County near Williamsburg, are situated on or adjacent to championship golf courses. Many others, such as the Village on Pheasant Ridge, a CCRC in Roanoke, offer walking trails. And Westminster Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach and Westminster Canterbury Richmond, both CCRCs, have popular croquet courts. Horseshoe pits, billiards rooms, swimming pools ... these days, most every retirement community has at least one fitness offering.
But for all the amenities and activities offered, quite possibly the most important aspect of fabulous senior living is also the simplest: the chance to make connections.
“When you have kids, your friends become the parents of other kids. And at work, your co-workers become your friends,” says Celebrate resident Greg Collins, 67. “When you leave work and your kids are no longer in sports, here’s another place where you find friends. And it’s pretty nice.”
Sales Manager Tae Wills of Toll Brothers (the development company of 55-plus communities Regency at Dominion Valley in Haymarket, Regency at Chancellorsville in Fredericksburg, and the new Regency at Ashburn) echoes this sentiment. “One gentleman who’s buying a home from me …. he and his buddy rode their motorcycles across Croatia this past September with their wives following behind in cars. And I thought, ‘That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.’”
Perhaps no one says it better than Celebrate resident Marianne Young, 62. “It’s not just about a bunch of people living around each other that are close in age,” she says.
“It’s real lasting friendships. I call it chapter three. Chapter one was growing up. Chapter two was having the job and raising the family. Now this is chapter three, which is like a whole new part of life.”
For more information about these communities go to www.VirginiaLiving.com/senior-living/