Central Virginia is considered a great place to retire—and with good reason. In fact, Money Magazine, working with Sperling’s BestPlaces.net, shows Charlottesville as Number Two on their national top-ten list of Places to Retire Young. Criteria include a thriving economy, reasonable cost of living and housing coupled with positive population and job growth. They also seek an airport served by major airlines, sports, recreation, arts and culture and a major college in the vicinity.
Yes, yes, yes and yes. Clearly this area fulfills everything on that list, plus activities and housing developments designed specifically for the over-55 crowd, and the exceptional medical care provided by the University of Virginia’s Healthcare System and Martha Jefferson Hospital. Add in abundant recreation options from skiing to golf and an remarkably active arts scene and you have a vibrant community for seniors.
Activities and Services for Seniors
Of course, many seniors join activities for all ages such as church functions, musical groups, sports activities and volunteer programs. Some also like programs exclusively for older folks.
The SENIOR CENTER, INC., (www.SeniorCenter.org), on Pepsi Place is an extremely active organization with both paid staff and volunteers and membership open to those 50 or older. Their mission statement: Our vision is to be an indispensable asset to seniors and the community.
Programs and services embrace health and fitness, lifelong learning, recreation, arts and community service. An Open House is held the first Tuesday of each month where visitors attend a noon orientation session to learn about programs, classes and activities such as trips.
The Jefferson Area Board on Aging, (www.JabaCares.org), locally dubbed JABA, aims to help elders remain as independent as possible. Each year JABA helps older adults and their families by providing food, health care, cooling and heating assistance, insurance counseling, transportation and companionship. JABA volunteers visit the homebound and JABA nurses make home visits and provide checkups at JABA housing, community centers and adult day care facilities. JABA has several affordable independent living facilities as well as Mountainside Senior Living, an affordable assisted living community with memory care.
JAUNT, Inc., (www.RideJaunt.org), is a regional transportation system providing independence to seniors who cannot drive or easily get to a bus stop. Transportation is available to get to doctor’s appointments, the airport, shopping and other activities.
Seniors Love to Volunteer
There are many avenues to volunteering in the area. Recently, for instance, www.volunteermatch.org listed 77 volunteer-needed requests for everything from Habitat for Humanity to helping out at the Discovery Museum on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. JABA offers a variety of volunteer positions such as mentoring, working at the JABA Thrift Shop, delivering meals, recording for the blind and other services.
Local SPCAs need foster homes and dog walkers and some of Charlottesville’s many entertainment venues use volunteers. “We have approximately 250 volunteers,” says Jason Williams, Facilities Manager at The Paramount Theater (www.TheParamount.net). “I’d guess that at least 60 percent are over the age of 65.” Another example is Live Arts (www.LiveArts.org), where volunteers work as performers, creating sets and costumes, ushering and other aspects of live theater.
Housing Options Abound
People who retire to the Charlottesville region have a wide range of housing options. Here are some examples from the most to least independent living.
Mixed Generation Community
This is the classic American community. It could be a long-time existing in-town neighborhood or a brand new development for homeowners from young families to retirees. One example is Lake Monticello in Fluvanna County.
Ray and Joy Calfo purchased a lot there in the mid-1990s, although they didn’t move from Pittsburgh, PA until 2007 when they came to build their retirement home. “We explored Charlottesville as a possible retirement location because we liked its proximity to outdoor activities like skiing, golfing and hiking,” says Joy Calfo. “We didn’t want a senior community that would primarily be filled with people in their 70s because we felt that younger families with retired people would make a better blend of energies.”
She continues, “We chose Lake Monticello, www.lmoa.org, specifically because it offered a gated community, a beautiful lake with beaches and a marina, a golf course, tennis courts, a dedicated fire/rescue squad, and a number of developing businesses for shopping nearby rather than driving into Charlottesville or Richmond.”
Active Adult Communities
Generally these developments require that at least one person in the family be at least 50 or 55. These are usually comprised of owner-occupied homes or condos and include recreational facilities such as fitness centers, golf courses, tennis courts, hiking trails and such. Children’s visits may be limited to a certain number of days each year and other child-related restrictions may pertain to hours of using common facilities.
One example is Four Seasons of Charlottesville, (www.khov4Seasons.com/Charlottesville), located in Ruckersville. “It’s a very nice community with a great clubhouse,” declares Linda Broadbent of Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate III, a REALTOR® in this area for 21 years. “Residents come from different areas and they have formed a close-knit, intellectually active community that does a lot of things together.”
Various floor plans are available for the senior-friendly detached homes and a full-time activities director oversees the Clubhouse with a fitness center, cyber café, billiards room, library, sports TV area, bocce and croquet lawns, tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools and spa, a putting green and five miles of paved walking trails.
Homes are low-maintenance and the community maintains all roads including snow removal and mows all lawns, both personal and in common areas.
Another example is the Villages at Nahor, (www.TheVillagesatNahor.com), the first active adult community in Fluvanna County offering patio homes with garages. Planned amenities include exterior maintenance, a swimming pool, fitness center, tennis courts, a fitness track, picnic pavilion, playground for young visitors and community gardens.
These communities generally require that at least one person in the family be older than a specific age such as 55. Some are for homeowners and others are rental properties. Accommodations might be single-family homes or multi-family units such as duplexes, townhouses or apartments. Visiting children are frequently restricted to a limited number of days each year and to usage of common areas such as game rooms or swimming pools.
Options range from completely independent living to some assistance such as partial or full meal plans and housekeeping. In some cases transportation is provided for medical appointments or shopping. Often emergency alert systems are included in units and many have activity directors who plan in-house entertainment as well as outings. Some permit pets.
University Village, (www.universityvillage.biz), is one of the first such communities in the area requiring buyers to be 55+, although 20 percent of the units are for persons of any age and often are bought by people associated with UVa. Realtor® Broadbent describes it as a well-maintained, well-operated community. “It’s independent living with different floor plans, an indoor pool and a fitness center,” she says. “People live there for many years.”
An aptly named example of independent rental living is The Independence, (www.TheIndependenceCville.com), in Charlottesville. This was the choice of Jane Holbrook, 82, who moved from Minneapolis about a year ago. “Yes,” she admits with a grin, “That’s my face on their website. I’m even on the back of the little bus they use to take residents to appointments and daytrips, although I still have my own car.” There are upscale apartments with full kitchens for 55+ renters. “We have an activities director,” Holbrook adds. “She arranges exercise classes and outings and such. There are even gardens for residents to have their own little plot.”
Jefferson Heights, (www.JeffersonHeights.com), in Charlottesville is poised between independent and assisted living with rental apartments “as care-free as you would like.” There is a fitness center, indoor therapy pool, business center, lending library and regular social events and outings. Optional extras include at-home health care, housekeeping, laundry service, furniture rental and meals.
Branchlands, (www.Branchlands.com), is another 55+ Charlottesville rental community combining independent living with “all the amenities of assisted living, minus the health care,” according to Resident Services Manager Sue Liberman. She adds that most residents are in their 80s and 90s and don’t want to leave, so she can assist families in arranging for extra help on a private basis.
Residents have most meals provided in the refurbished Manor House, built circa 1860. Other amenities include housekeeping, transportation services, day trips and outings to local theaters and concerts and even out of town, and visits by the bookmobile, lecturers and musicians. “We are small enough to be intimate,” she concludes, “but large enough to have good community offerings.”
Assisted Living Communities offer meals, medication management, assistance with dressing, bathing and other daily needs, transportation services to personal appointments or for outings. Often an activities director arranges for pastimes ranging from exercise classes, entertainment from outside, bingo or bridge and outings to theater performances, luncheons or shopping excursions. Staff is available 24 hours a day.
Skilled Nursing Communities offer assisted living plus medical care such as daily injections or care for a chronic disease. Some offer temporary accommodations for persons recovering from surgery or an injury. Meals may be offered in a central dining room or in a person’s room. Rooms may be private or shared. Many have activity directors.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) offer a ladder of care from independent living to assisted living, nursing care and often memory care. Once residents move into the independent living portion, continuing care allows them to move to a higher level of care. This can be especially valuable when one partner may require temporary or permanent nursing care, or the safety of a memory care facility. The other partner can remain in the independent portion of the community, easily able to visit.
CCRCs in the area include The Colonnades, (www.sunriseseniorliving.com), which offers rental independent and assisted living and nursing care and Our Lady of Peace, (www.Our-Lady-Of-Peace.com), a non-denominational rental community with residential living or assisted living plans in the same apartment. Assisted living residents have priority admission to the on-site nursing care center or memory care.
Westminster-Canterbury, (www.WestminsterCanterbury.org), in Charlottesville is a “buy-in” CCRC with accommodations from cottages to apartments. It has a Fitness and Aquatic Center with exercise classes and a heated indoor pool and hot tub. An important feature of this “Life Care” community is that monthly fees do not increase when a resident must move to assisted living or nursing units and all rooms in those facilities are private.
It’s clear there are good choices for seniors in the area and REALTOR® Broadbent believes there will be more built in the future. And where will she go when it’s time for her to retire? “I think I’m going to stay right here!” she says with a chuckle. “The cultural environment and medical facilities are really strong in Charlottesville. We’re a little big town for all ages with things you usually find in big cities.”
Marilyn Pribus and her husband, Glenn, moved from California to Charlottesville to retire, but well ahead of time. They live in a Mixed Generation Neighborhood.