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.
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