Looking for the perfect place to retire? How about a place with Blue Ridge Mountain beauty, college town sports and culture, and world-class health care? How about an area flush with golf courses, ski slopes and early American history sites, with wineries, breweries and an exciting restaurant scene – an area with a growing community of energetic seniors centered on a bustling and expanding Senior Center?
That’s right, “we have it all,” as Senior Real Estate Specialist Karen Kehoe puts it, adding “no pollution, fabulous housing and friendly people” to the list of reasons AARP, Kiplinger, Travel, Money, Black Enterprise, Golf Digest and Relocate America have all called the Charlottesville area one of country’s best places for senior living. “And it’s safe.”
Active Seniors, Active Senior Community
Seniors already make up 14% of the population in the Charlottesville area, and a University of Virginia study projects their numbers to more than double between 2005 and 2030. “New England, New York, New Jersey, Northern Virginia . . . retirees are coming from all over,” Kehoe, says, “and they’re coming with talents and skills and interests that enrich the community. They’re coming in at 50 and 55-years old, and they’re very active. They bring in capital, and they don’t tax your schools, and they volunteer.”
“Active” is the word, all right. In a place like this, who’s retiring? Yesterday’s “retirees” are today’s “active adults,” done with the working part of life, and rarin’ for the rest of it. Central Virginia’s small-town feel plus big city amenities make it “a great place to age,” says Senior Center Executive Director, Peter Thompson. “Charlottesville is attractive to older adults because is it’s a very engaged community. That means there are opportunities for paid employment, which a lot of older adults want and need, and there are a ton of opportunities for volunteer engagement. People in Charlottesville are also active and involved in the political process. You can have access to the decision makers in our community and that’s encouraged. It’s very deep-rooted in our culture to give back. That’s particularly attractive to older adults as they wind down careers.”
A hub of activity for over 8,000 people a year throughout the region, the Center has numerous programs, most of which are open to members and non-members alike, and many of which welcome senior wannabe’s and seniors-in-training alongside the genuine articles. Lifelong Learning classes cover everything from technology to philosophy, folk dancing to foreign languages, and fitness to investing. Travel Buddy Networking offers day trips, plus longer excursions across the U.S. and abroad. Recreational clubs go fishing and bowling and line dancing, watch movies, and play bridge, chess and co-ed poker. The Old Dominion Lecture series features historians and public officials, and the Center’s musical ensembles include the Barbershop Belles & Beaux, the Still Sharp Singers, the First and the Second Wind Bands, and the Flashbacks jazz ensemble.
“Being physically active, either at the Center, or out in the community with age peers and instructors who like working with older adults, is a huge part of our programming,” Thompson says. “We have a wide variety of walking and hiking groups; we have a Retread Softball Team; we have tai-chi and yoga. Later this year we’re launching a program called Matter of Balance which helps people minimize the risk of falls, and be more independent and healthy.”
The chronic disease self-management program is just one of a growing list of evidence-based programs proven effective by academic and clinical research, and is a taste of things to come when the Center breaks ground, perhaps as early as 2018, on a new 60,000 square feet facility, tripling its present size. The new building “will build in the key components of what research shows are the keys to helping seniors stay healthy and well,” Thompson says. “We will have much better physical wellness programs, and an acre of outdoor recreation and physical fitness space. We’ll have a gymnasium and track and fitness rooms and proper exercise rooms, significantly enhanced classroom and meeting space and a performing arts auditorium, and a bigger volunteer center to build our volunteer program which is critical to what we do.”
Seniors today are increasingly drawn to independent living communities, livelier alternatives to traditional retirement homes, but with many of the same amenities, including universal design features for the safety of active but not always agile occupants. Common universal design features include “zero threshold” (no steps) entries, 3-foot wide hallways and doorways, and bathrooms with high toilet seats, walk-in showers, non-slip floors, grab bars and a 5-foot turning radius. Pot fillers over stoves eliminate the need to carry heavy pots of waters from sink to stove. Doors with lever handles and lights with rocker switches require less hand strength.
Along with these practical architectural features, such developments advertise “maintenance free living,” in which all necessary work on a home’s exterior and grounds is paid for through home association dues. “Seniors are looking for one level houses that are bright and open, with very little yards,” Kehoe says. “It’s really important to them to have the exterior of the house and the yard taken care of.”
“The Courtyard Homes in Redfields in Charlottesville are extremely popular because of those amenities,” Kehoe says. ““A lot of these people are young – 50 to 55 – but they’re thinking of the future. A lot of them are into getting healthy. They’re thinking, ‘If I have a medical issue, I want to be close to the hospital, to shopping, to downtown.’ Redfields has walking trails and a swimming pool. It’s seven minutes away from the hospital, seven minutes away from the Downtown Mall, near restaurants, near the coming Wegman’s, near the interstate.” While many families and single adults make Redfields home, the 105 single detached homes in the Courtyard section, with their first floor master bedrooms, nine-foot high ceilings, large kitchens, and sunrooms, are especially appealing to older adults. Homeowners enjoy landscaping and lawn maintenance, snow removal, and exterior house maintenance.
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, and a perfect spot for parties.
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.
Village residents enjoy underground parking, chauffeur car service, and four well-appointed overnight guest rooms for friends and family. Most Villagers own their homes and participate in the management of the Village, electing a Board of Directors, which establishes policy and oversees the operation of the facility.
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 with Universal Design features and main level living designs well-suited for 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 just minutes away from Lake Monticello, 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.
Four Seasons at Charlottesville in Greene County
Four Seasons at Charlottesville is a gated community with a resort-like lifestyle for active adults 55 and up, retired or still working. Located 25 minutes from Charlottesville in Greene County, where it offers wonderful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the development’s 120 detached homes feature first floor master suites and two-car garages. The Four Seasons Clubhouse has an indoor pool and fitness center, plus a cyber café, card tables, billiards room, library, sports TV area and ballroom. Outdoor amenities include bocce and croquet lawns, tennis courts, a putting green, and walking trails.
The Lodge at Old Trail in Crozet
The Lodge at Old Trail in Crozet is a senior living community with both condos and assisted living and memory care facilities. The Lodge sits at the heart of Old Trail Village, a planned community of over 400 families just 12 miles from Charlottesville in Crozet, with houses, townhomes and apartments surrounding a village center. Residents enjoy full-service salon, well-equipped fitness room and underground garage parking. Also within a short walk from The Lodge is the Village Center, with shops, restaurants, healthcare providers and more. Within walking distance are a community pool, community garden, fitness center, soccer field, golf course, and 60 acres of parkland with six miles of walking trails.
The Lodge prides itself on supporting the local arts scene, and its walls display the paintings and photographs of many community members, as well as that of regional artists such as Isabelle Abbot, John Hulburt, Suzanne Tanner Chitwood, Helen Hilliard and Camilyn K. Leone.
As more and more Boomers reach their 60s, Kehoe says, “many from northern Virginia are moving here looking for a change.” As for her, she’s not going anywhere. “I can move anywhere that I want to, but Charlottesville is Camelot for retirees. It’s Camelot for anyone. It has everything. It constantly gets better and better and better.”
By Ken Wilson