2020 update: This original post was from Mary Ann and I visiting Serenbe a few years ago. We loved that visit and took plenty of pictures. As an update the community really is special. Here is a recent article that will give you more reasons to like Serenbe. What Makes A Neighborhood Resilient?
Yesterday my wife Mary Ann and our neighbors Scott and Dawn set out to visit the HGTV Green House for this year. We drove from our Johns Creeks Georgia home down to the southside of Atlanta, then another 20 miles out in the countryside to the Serenbe Community. Here are some pictures and information about this wonderful community.
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 booked a weeks stay at Lake Sumter Landing in the heart of The Villages. He was right, The Villages is a large place with 120,000 residents and 60,000 golf carts, three town squares, probably 15+ recreational centers and much more. In fact, here in 2020 they are building another whole new section. The growth continues.
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 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.
Livability is what makes small towns a good place to live and to retire to.
Small Town Sense of Community
Many features makes up what we call livability, but for me it is a sense of community. Big cities and urbanized suburbs have much to offer, but they can’t hold a candle to small towns in offering a sense of community on a personal level. I could give many examples as I have experienced this first hand after moving from a big city urbanized suburbs to a Del Webb Community in a small town two years ago.
I loved living in the suburbs while I was working, but now that I am retired, I like my new small town community and feel a sense of pride in it. Here are reasons we live small town living.
My wife and I were discussing her mother’s dilemma. She is 88 years old and in a nursing center rehab program now for two months with her fate becoming increasingly clear; she will not be able to live by herself anymore. She fell in her home and couldn’t get up.
Only a little over a year ago she turned down a chance to move to a nice little independent living community when her name came up on the list. She said she was still not quite ready for that.
She had placed her name on the waiting list for this independent living community maybe 5 years ago. But each time her name came up she wasn’t ready. My wife and I couldn’t understand her decision not to move to a better place, where she could socialize more and be near help if she needed it. This last time in an interview meeting, the director of this community advised her not to wait too long – enjoy in while you are still able.
Now it appears she will be skipping the independent living stage, going straight to assisted living or to the nursing center. She didn’t want to move when she had a say so, but now it looks like she will be moving with no say so.
We see parallels in our own lives. When we sold a business five years ago we started looking around for places to retire. This process helped me to start Retirement Media which has turned out to be an enjoyable retirement job and I am still learning and exploring the options.
The time was not right for us. Where have we heard that before. Are we doing the same thing as my mother in law. Just not ready yet. It is not like we are giving anything up. To the contrary, this should improve our lifestyle. So why are we reluctant. It is really the real estate market or is it something else.
Last year when we told our neighbor of our plans to move to a 55+ community, she replied “so that’s where you are going to end up?”. Humm. Didn’t think of it that way. Or did we?
Even a change for the better is hard to make. You are giving up what you are familiar with for something new. Maybe now I can understand the mother in law’s reluctance a little better.
Before signing on the dotted line to purchase a retirement home baby boomers should consider the benefits of renting, especially in a down economy. For some seniors buying a retirement home may not be a good fit despite all the pundits that decree buying is the only way to go. So if you are considering buying or renting read on to discover why renting a retirement home may be your best option.
Reasons to Consider Renting Your Retirement Home:
1. Cannot Afford to Buy
What caused the housing market to crash in the first place were predatory lenders giving money to people who could not afford to pay their monthly mortgages. If you cannot afford to buy a home the fact of the matter is you should consider moving into one of the many 55+ rental apartments that are available.
If you are one of the seniors living on a fixed income it would behoove you to live below your means. Using too much of your income to go towards a house payment is a dangerous financial practice that will set you up for financial disaster.
2. Unsure of Where you Want to Live
Many seniors want to explore different areas of the country to see where they want to spend their retirement. There are several 55+ houses for rent in all areas of the country that seniors can live in temporarily.
3. Less Risk
The economy is in a shaky state so buying may put you at risk. Buying homes in a down economy may be good for young investors but not for seniors. Seniors should be looking for financial stability and ways to minimize risk. When you rent you put yourself in a much safer financial position thereby shielding yourself from potential risks associated with buying in an uncertain housing market.
4. Property Taxes
Some states have astronomical property tax rates that add hundreds to your monthly mortgage payment. When you rent you do not have to pay property tax and can use that money towards other expenses or savings.
Many 55+ rental apartments and homes in 55 communities offer great amenities such as yard and home maintenance, organized social programs, clubhouse, transportation, pool, fitness center, and even on site medical care. If you purchase a home these amenities are typically not available leaving you to your own devices to meet those needs.
6. Less Responsibility
Owning a home is a huge responsibility. You have to do yard work and take care of any home repairs or hire someone to do it for you. Renting a retirement home alleviates most of this responsibility leaving you with more time to enjoy your golden years rather than fretting about home maintenance.
7. Social Life
Research shows that seniors who are actively involved in social programs and have relationship with their peers are happier and healthier. Renting a retirement home in a community gives you instant access to people the same age who have the same interests.
If you are considering purchasing or renting we hope you look at the pros and cons of each and do a thorough analysis to figure out what is right for you. If you need expert help see a financial adviser who has experience in helping seniors and baby boomers.
North Carolina has some of the very best small towns to relocate to. Such a varied state is NC. You have the Western Mountains (blue ridge mountains) which are beautiful, the Beaches, the large metro areas and more.
We just visited Asheville NC and noticed many new retirement communities around the area. We took the Asheville Food Tour and enjoyed the eclectic downtown area as well.
Hendersonville NC is another area we visited and walked down their wonderful Main Street and visited the Visitors Center where they were very help. Lots of retirees moving to Hendersonville. But here is another town you may want to consider for NC.
Best Small Towns for Retirement in North Carolina
Charlotte Area – All around Charlotte metro area seems to be the place for Active Adult Communities: Trilogy Lake Norman up on the Nortwest side of Charlotte, Lennar at Imagery at Mount Holly, Tree Tops also by Lennar Homes on the Southside down by Sun City Lakes which is all resales by now, Cresswind Charlotte a 55+ community over on the East side next to the hospital, Carolina Orchards, a Del Webb Community down on the Southside at Fort Mill. These are the big five retirement communities near Charlotte NC.
Chapel Hill – If you are seeking the perfect small town retirement location, and are drawn to the moderate climate and Southern charm of North Carolina, the small city of Chapel Hill may be the place for you. Chapel Hill, located in North Carolina’s “Research Triangle” (home to three renowned universities, teaching hospitals, and one of the largest research parks in the nation), offers everything a retiree desires. Not only are there cultural activities, medical facilities, and other senior-friendly amenities galore, but the area’s four distinct seasons draw retirees from across the country.
Chapel Hill, situated in the hills of central North Carolina, enjoys close proximity to three thriving institutions of higher learning – the University of NC at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State, and Duke University. College towns in general are enriching and invigorating places to retire – with art, music, education, a wide variety of dining options, and a “young” atmosphere – and Chapel Hill offers these benefits threefold.
The proximity of the universities also means that stellar medical care is available only minutes away from downtown Chapel Hill. Both the University of North Carolina and Duke University have large, modern teaching hospitals, and the large number of seniors moving to the area have drawn even more world-class health facilities into the region.
As a popular retirement destination, the Chapel Hill area boasts a number of 55+ communities that offer resort retirement living, although the cost of housing here is higher than in many small town retirement locations. There are golf communities, mixed-generation neighborhoods with a senior-friendly focus, and assisted living facilities. Closer to downtown, retirement condominiums and apartments are also available. Active retirees can enjoy the vibrant cultural scene in and around the city, or pursue recreational activities among the nearby mountains and beaches, both just a couple of hours’ drive away. With many social activities and dining establishments in town, meeting other retirees and making new friends can be easier than in smaller or more rural settings.
If you are considering North Carolina as a retirement destination, this charming small city with a cosmopolitan atmosphere may appeal to you. You may want to look into the city of Chapel Hill proper, or one of the many 55+ communities nestled among surrounding towns such as Carrboro and Durham.