Second wind: why seniors love Central Virginia

Second wind: why seniors love Central Virginia

The boomers are retiring, ready for the good life, and they’re not all heading to Florida.

Senior citizens make up 14 percent of the population in our area, a number that will more than double between 2000 and 2020 –  and is it any wonder? Named by the AARP as one of the top ten healthiest places to retire –  our moderate winters are a huge plus–  the region boasts a university town surrounded by lush countryside. Its horse country and mountain valleys are dotted with breweries and wineries, golf courses, resorts and historical sites. Its music and cuisine scenes, its intellectual life centered on its great university, and its top notch medical facilities, stimulate, delight and reassure, attracting out-of-staters and holding the natives right here at home. How you gonna make ‘em move to Florida when they’ve seen the Blue Ridge Mountains?

The Senior Center

Not only do seniors love Central Virginia, Central Virginia loves its seniors, offering an enticing array of services, activities, and housing options. The epicenter of activity for the area’s “seasoned citizens”  is Charlottesville’s Senior Center on Pepsi Place, where 2,000 members and 6,000 annual visitors participate in programs designed to promote longer, healthier, happier living. “Healthy aging,” is what it’s all about, says Program Director Jennifer Ayers. “We want people to live to be 100 but also have quality of life. That’s what we strive to help them do.”

One way they stay physically and mentally fit is to help run the place. Members give more than 40,000 hours of volunteer service to the Center and other organizations in the community – work valued at almost $1,000,000 by the Virginia Employment Commission. Members also lead many of the Center’s 100 programs a week. Among the most popular are classes on travel, finances, wills, Apple computers and brain fitness. The physical exercise classes run the gamut from line dancing to improving one’s balance to coping with arthritis. Recently the Center has added classes on drawing and quilting, and on writing legacies and fighting crimes against the elderly.

By 2024 one of every four residents in our area will be 65 or older, and the Center is planning for that future with a $21 million campaign to finance a larger (60,000-square-foot) Charlottesville facility on Belvedere Boulevard off of Rio Road. Counting gifts, pledges, and the value of the current Pepsi Place facility, the Center has reached the one-quarter mark in funding.

Jefferson Area Board for the Aging (JABA)

If Central Virginia is known as an excellent place to grow old, says JABA publicist David McNair, “it has that reputation, in large part, because of Gordon Walker. Walker’s vision is “to make our area more age-friendly. His idea has been that what’s good for seniors is good for everyone: better public transportation, walkable communities, infrastructure that makes it easier to get around. In addition to being a beautiful place to live in general, JABA and other organizations provide a well of services for seniors. More importantly, JABA and other area organization are committed to the 2020 Community Plan on Aging, one of the most innovative initiatives in the country, which aims to make our area a great place to age.”

Working with state and local government, educational institutions, businesses, nonprofits and private citizens, JABA has been serving seniors in the city of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson since 1975. “Along the aging continuum, from the first moment you feel you might need assistance to the time you need 24-hours assistance, JABA offers services,” says JABA’s David McNair. Last year alone it provided those services to an estimated 9500 seniors.

Those services range from finance and health insurance counseling and estate planning, to  home delivered meals, health and advocacy services, caregiver support, and respite care. JABA operates Community Seniors Centers in Charlottesville, Scottsville, Nelson County, Fluvanna County, Greene County, and Esmont that serve hot lunches, and facilitate day trips and other activities.

JABA provides housing for seniors of financial  circumstances. For independent seniors who want affordable housing, it maintains three communities in Charlottesville and one in Nelson County. “Our facility at Timberlake Place (in Charlottesville’s historic Woolen Mills neighborhood) is quite popular,” McNair says. “In addition to being affordable, residents enjoy beautiful mountain views from modern units designed to allow residents to maintain their independence. JABA’s free Health Services are available to residents there.”

For seniors who want 24-hour services, JABA’s Mountainside Senior Living home in Crozet is Central Virginia’s most affordable assisted living community. Located just 10 miles west of Charlottesville, Mountainside boasts beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Residents enjoy 24-hour medical care, onsite therapies, plus individual and group activities and outings. 

For seniors who live in their own homes but want daytime company, JABA operates Adult Care Centers in Charlottesville and Louisa County, where seniors are helped to maintain active and independent lifestyles. Blue Ridge Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is a partnership between JABA, Riverside Healthcare and UVA Health System, offers coordinated care services that allow seniors to stay in their home and communities instead of moving to nursing facilities.

JABA’s Vinegar Hill Café, in Charlottesville’s Jefferson School City Center, serves breakfast and lunch fare, generating funds for JABA’s senior meals program. JABA’s preschools in its Adult Care Centers in Charlottesville and Louisa allow kids and elders to interact in a variety of activities.

Active Adult Communities

For seniors who prefer to own their own homes, active adult communities are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional retirement homes. “Seniors are looking for one level living, with the master bedroom on the first level, and an open kitchen and great room type of design,” says Arleen Yobs Associate Broker at Nest Realty. “They want an entry-level garage, so that they don’t have to take steps in and out, and a low-maintenance yard. The other thing that is becoming very popular, is the universal design concept – features and amenities that allow you to age in place.”

Such “universal design” features include “zero threshold” entries without steps, and three-foot wide hallways and doorways that are easy to navigate in a wheelchair. Bathrooms have high toilet seats, walk-in showers, non-slip floors, grab bars and five-foot turning radiuses. Homeowner association dues cover interior and exterior maintenance. Amenities provide places to exercise, socialize, and play.

“Families who have parents living in a place like that really feel that their family members are being well taken care of,” Yobs says. “They grow and they thrive in those environments.” What’s more, they typically have large community spaces, and that’s “a win-win,” Yobs says, making it convenient for adult children to visit and dine, grandchildren in tow.

The Villages at Nahor

Located just minutes from Lake Monticello in Fluvanna County, The Villages at Nahor is an active adult community with single family and attached homes well-suited to seniors. First floors contain master suites, sunrooms, bathrooms, and guest bedrooms, plus kitchens with custom cabinetry and eat-in bars. Each home comes with a large two-car, a paved driveway and landscaped and irrigated front and back yards. Unfinished spaces upstairs can accommodate two more bedrooms, a bathroom, and storage. The Village’s extensive grounds include sidewalks, a heated pool with a pool house, a fitness center with a quarter mile fitness tract, tennis and bocce courts, putting greens, a playground and Tot-Lot, community gardens, and a picnic pavilion with a fireplace.

Maintenance-free living at the Village means weekly lawn care, seasonal landscaping, snow removal, care for common areas, and trash removal. Residents are close to PGA golf courses, and shopping and dining facilities.

RoseWood Village at Wintergreen

RoseWood Village at Wintergreen in Nellysford bills itself as “a four-season luxury resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Its 16 villas sit next to the 27-hole Reese Jones Stoney Creek Golf Course. Three existing units are currently available for sale or for lease, and more lots are available for building on. The Village hopes to break ground on an assisted living complex later this year.

Rosewood is “a self-sustaining village within the Stoney Creek community,” says Development Director Shareef Tahboub. “It’s a place where folks can age in place, have care services available to them, but really get out and enjoy all Wintergreen has to offer with very little home maintenance. The idea was to create a retirement community within Stoney Creek that meets some very specific needs at Wintergreen and in Nelson County.” Villagers enjoy landscaped common areas, walking and hiking paths, and are provided with lawn care, snow and trash removal, and building maintenance.

University Village

Just down the road from the University of Virginia, University Village on Charlottesville’s Ivy Road in Charlottesville is a 94-unit condo community designed for independent living. Large glassed-in atriums on either side of each of the two village buildings offer great views of the city and countryside.

The two-level Village Club features a bocce court, game room, library and arts and crafts studio, plus public and private dining rooms, kitchen facilities, and an outdoor patio. Dinner is served five nights a week. The lower level of the Club includes a 75-foot swimming pool, whirlpool, fitness center, showers, and another patio.

University Village also offers underground parking, chauffeur car service, and four well-appointed overnight guest rooms for friends and family. Most Village residents own their homes. Owners help run the Village, electing its Board of Directors, which establishes policy and oversees staff management and operation of the facility.

Four Seasons at Charlottesville

Four Seasons at Charlottesville is  a 55+ active adult community off Route 33 in Ruckersville.  With scenic views of the Piedmont Mountains, it’s situated just ten minutes from Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park. While conveniently close to major roadways, this neighborhood is filled with landscaped streets and acres of natural space.

Four Seasons at Charlottesville provides a warm, friendly environment with outgoing people from all over the country. Many professionals, including retired professors and physicians, now call Four Seasons home.  Newcomers are warmly welcomed and soon discover there is always something fun happening at Four Seasons.

“One of the first things that struck me about Four Seasons was how friendly everyone was,” says a relatively new resident. “Everyone waves whether they know you or not. We had several neighbors come to our door to welcome us, even before we moved in. This truly is central Virginia’s best-kept secret. We’re so glad we made the move.”

The crown of this active adult community is the 21,000 square-foot clubhouse that offers an expansive list of amenities, including a library, lounge, learning center, or multi-purpose room for club meetings, fun activities, and classes. The ballroom hosts community events and there are game rooms for billiards and cards.

“Social evenings with the Ragged Ramblers, our resident band, is a fun-filled evening,” says Don, a four-year resident.

With a calendar filled with dozens of  activities, homeowners enjoy their socially and physically active lifestyles while establishing meaningful friendships based on common interests and hobbies.

If staying fit is a high priority, residents can work out independently in the state-of-the-art fitness center or join a class in the fitness studio. The indoor pool and spa round out the resort-style amenities. During the warmer months, homeowners enjoy taking a stroll on the walking and biking trails or stay fit by joining a hiking group.

Four Seasons  Phase I consists of 120  single-family homes, some backing to John Rucker Lake where wildlife abounds.  Prices range from the mid $200s to the mid $300s.  Home square footage ranges from 1,600 to over  4,000, depending on the model and a finished basement.

“There is something  for everyone here,” said one resident. “And quite frankly, it’s comforting to be living with members of your own generation with whom you have so much in common. Everyone looks out for everyone else, which is so rare today.  I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

The Lodge at Old Trail

The Lodge at Old Trail in Crozet is a Senior Living Community with Condos and Assisted Living and Memory Care Facilities. The Lodge at Old Trail sits at the heart of Old Trail Village, a planned community of over 400 families in Crozet, with houses, townhomes and apartments surrounding a village center. The Lodge itself is only a short walk from the Village Center in Old Trail Village, with shops, restaurants, healthcare providers and more.  It is also in walking distance of a community pool, community garden, fitness center, soccer field, golf course, and six miles of walking trails.

Multi-Generational Living

Many seniors want homes with age-in-place features, but in multi-generational communities. After almost 40 years in Atlanta, Kevin and Laura Hendrickson moved to Charlottesville in 2013 to be close – but not too close – to their daughter in D.C. “We wanted to be in a university type town,” Kevin says. “It was logical choice for us to look in Charlottesville.” The couple had “a long list of specific requirements,” including a master bedroom on the main floor, a two-car garage, and open architecture inside the house.”

What the Hendricksons found is a three-bedroom, three full bath home with universal design features in Redfields, a 275-acre community with a community pool, playground, lake, and walking trails, and many seniors like themselves. They like the way their neighborhood is built “in concentric circles, with a courtyard in the center, and developments around it.” They like the people too. “The residents in our courtyard area are primarily 55 and older,” Kevin says, “and then there is a smattering of younger folks and families. We love the area. We’re very happy with where we bought.”

By Ken Wilson