Lessons Learned From My Stay At The Villages Florida

Lessons Learned From My Visit To The Villages Florida

I made a mistake of calling The Villages in Florida a small town, according to one of my social media friends.  He said “Obviously you have not been there!”  Well I took this under advisement and just returned from a weeks stay at Lake Sumter Landing in the heart of The Villages. He was right, The Villages is a large place with 110,000 residents and 60,000 golf carts, three town squares, probably 15+ recreational centers and much more.

I had been hearing for years how much residents loved living in The Villages and I have to agree they have an attractive and somewhat unique idea. So returning from my trip I began thinking of what makes The Villages so unique. What ideas could be learned so other 55+ communities and small towns could benefit from what The Villages is doing.

Here are two ideas that struck me as unique that The Villages is doing and that might be a good idea in other places too.

1. They simply call their senior centers “recreation centers“. I like that. Everyone knows many people don’t like the name “senior” so senior centers started called themselves “adult centers” and other such names.  They are really only recreation centers.  Why not call them 55+ Recreational Centers or whatever minimum age fits.

2. The Villages are open to anyone to visit, eat, shop and use. Their three town squares have all kinds of events like the Arts and Crafts show and the Classic Car show when I visited. Families and persons of all ages were enjoying the town squares. Now the “villages” as they call the residential communities do have a security gate but the rest of The Villages is wide open. I like that.

Lake Sumter Landing Arts and Crafts
Lake Sumter Landing Arts and Crafts

I think towns could benefit from idea 1 above and just call their senior center “55+ Recreation Center”. I also think 55+ communities and small towns could benefit from more of a collaboration in joining the 55+ Community or even several 55+ Communities around a rejuvenated town square with shopping, activities, entertainment, outdoor spaces and the like. It would benefit the town and the community, which really are one and the same.

I still think, even after my visit, The Villages have a small town feeling.

Even though in total they are quite large, the three town squares certainly gave me the feeling of a small town. People greeted, acknowledged and spoke with others like they do in a small town.  Like a small town, people were relaxed and not in a big rush. The recreation centers are close by to each residential community so you are likely to meet your neighbors there. Yes, I think I still consider The Villages a small town.

Robert and Mary Ann Fowler

 

Lake Sumter Landing
Lake Sumter Landing

Anticipating a Move to a Small Town

Anticipating a Move to a Small Town

After having lived in an urbanized suburb of Atlanta for 40 years, this is the year I will be moving out to a Del Webb community in a small town. Granted it is on outskirts of the metro area, about 15 minutes from a major mall and commercial district, but it will still be plenty different from my current location.

There are groceries stores, UPS store, some restaurants, liquor stores, banks and others around my new community. A biggie is a brand new 100 bed hospital at the entrance to my new community. That is actually closer than my current hospitals.

What is also closer is recreation amenities right in the community, plenty of sidewalks and trails for walking.  There are daily activities, a gym and indoor and outdoor pools at the clubhouse which is within walking distance from my new home.

Our current friends will be about 45 minutes to an hour from our new community so we can still stay in touch and meet for lunch.  At the new community there will be plenty of opportunities to meet new friends who will live in the same community and be available during the week, not just the weekends.

After a month or so at the new community I will have to do a post with my observations about how living in an active adult community in a small town is different from what I am used to.

We are thinking all the community offers will more than make up for any dislocations of living in a small town.  Part of what scares people moving from a metro area to a small town is the people – will they be accepting and what kinds of cultural changes will be faced. Most of that concern will be alleviated by moving to an active adult community with almost two thousand residents coming from all over the country and the world.

Of course my old friend the Internet will be with me. There is high speed Comcast cable and the cell phone reception is reportedly good for several carriers. Small towns these days have very good broadband and cell phone coverage

So this year will be an interesting one for us as we take life by the horns and transition to a new life in an active adult community. We have waited long enough and at age 67 and retired we look forward to making new friends and being active in our new community on a daily basis. We are avid Bocce players and they say we will fit right it. That is the first club we will sign up for, along with coin collectors club, day trippers, travel club and hiking club.  That will be a good start.

As far as the town, exploring the several nearby small towns, visiting the dairy, the winery and maybe the outlet mall up the road will be on the list. The Road Atlanta sports car track is nearby and a group from the community visits the track for several races which I will probably join them. Fort Yargo Park is nearby with over 1800 areas with a 260-acre lake that offers a large swimming beach, fishing and boat ramps.  Maybe it’s time to take up fishing again. I will keep you posted.  -Robert Fowler

Village at Deaton Creek

Best Small Town for Retirement in Florida

Best Small Town for Retirement in Florida

Do you want to retire to the Sunshine State, but want to skip the crowded streets, high housing prices, and worrisome crime rates of big cities like Miami and Jacksonville? Small town Florida living offers all of the benefits you seek – great climate, senior-friendly tax laws, proximity to beaches, great healthcare facilities – without the nuisances of urban retirement. Although the “best” place to retire is a very subjective question, one Florida small town really stands out: Bradenton.

Bradenton, Florida, self-styled “The Friendly City,” has a population hovering around 49,000. This means residents can find friendly, quiet neighborhoods and local businesses, while at the same time enjoying some of the perks of larger city living – shopping and dining, arts and entertainment, a good public transportation system, and excellent healthcare options. In fact, of the many small Florida cities we considered in our quest for the best, Bradenton had one of the highest “senior-friendly amenities per capita” ratings. With its proximity to an international airport (Sarasota-Bradenton Int’l Airport is just 8 miles from downtown Bradenton), this location also offers ease of travel to globetrotting retirees.

Situated on the western coastline of Florida between Sarasota and Tampa, with Tampa Bay on one side and the Manatee River on the other, Bradenton enjoys some of the state’s mildest weather (with an average temperature of 60), water views and beachfront living – and plenty of beach access and marinas for water-sports enthusiasts.

This small Florida city is renowned for its thriving art community, centered around the specially-zoned 36-acre Village Arts Center located in a reclaimed and revitalized area of town, where homes do double duty as galleries and studios. The town also attracts artists with the ArtCenter Manatee – an art education and appreciation center housing galleries, classrooms, an art library, and an artists’ market – as well as the South Florida Museum and Riverfront Theatre.

Bradenton is home to the Manatee Memorial Hospital and a number of other modern medical facilities. For more specialized healthcare needs, the nearby cities of St. Pete, Sarasota, Tampa, and Clearwater have plenty of top-of-the-line facilities and medical specialists.

There are a number of quality 55+ communities in and around Bradenton, and housing prices hover in the low to mid 130s. The newest residential areas are found in the eastern part of town, but some of the older neighborhoods have more of the kind of friendly diversity and appeal that many are looking for in a small-town retirement location.

The Villages Florida
Destin Florida
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Best Florida Places to Retire To   |  City of Bradenton

Best Florida Small Town: Bradenton Florida
Best Florida Small Town: Bradenton Florida

Best Small Towns to Live In or Retire To