Town life was far from conventional and I experienced a lifestyle that many thought was awesome. However, there were factors that continued to fuel my desire to pack up and move.
Has the charm of small-town life faded or have we merely evolved beyond the appeal of such a sheltered existence?
Table of Contents
Reasons Why I Left
Leaving The Villages in Florida was not an easy decision. This was a place I had thought would be perfect for enjoying my golden years.
However my experiences were far from what I expected.
This is why I left:
- The demographic did not resonate with me.
- The community was strikingly non-diverse predominantly consisting of older white residents. (97.7% White)
- It was disheartening to see a lack of cultural opportunities and social activities suitable for people of my age.
- Emphasis on amenities like the gym whirlpool spa and banquet hall missed the mark for me.
- It was all about living lives of leisure while there was a manifest lack of engagement and empathy.
- It is now called the STD capital of the US.
The crime rate was alarming with a reported 25% increase in thefts.
As someone who values safety this became a major concern.
Amidst the growing popularity of The Villages standing as the fastest-growing metro area according to the 2020 U.S. Census I found myself feeling out of place.
Fostering a property in The Villages had its own share of difficulties.
The home felt more like high maintenance rather than a comfortable living space.
There were a plethora of issues from lack of job opportunities to restricted access to healthcare services which became problematic as time passed.
Last year especially with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the problems kept escalating. Despite the mutual support of the residents and the attempts of the community leaders to keep things in check it was difficult to ignore the mounting concerns.
Here is a brief list underlining some of those:
- Increasing crime rates
- Limited job opportunities
- Restricted healthcare access
- Lack of diversity and cultural learning
These issues heightened in 2021 prompting me to reconsider my decision of investing in property in The Villages ultimately leading to my move out of the Florida’s “friendliest hometown”.
The Villages, FL Alternatives (Retirement Living Options)
The Villages Florida offers residents an electric mix of pleasant lifestyle developments for older adults. Some popular 55+ residential options are quite compelling.
The lifestyle can include amenities like a gym health club banquet hall basketball and tennis courts and even a beach club.
But there are alternatives to The Villages. For instance, some other Florida 55+ communities include those developed by Del Webb and GL Homes.
1) On Top of the World In Ocala
This smaller community located about 30 minutes northwest of The Villages offers similar amenities.
2) Latitude Margaritaville in Daytona Beach
This is a new community estimated to house around 3000 homes.
3) The Villages of Citrus Hills
This master-planned community positioned about 45 minutes west of The Villages offers parallel amenities.
4) Lakewood Ranch
Ranked as the #2 best-selling community in the nation this region offers various housing options and even appeals to former Villagers.
Indeed falling out of love with The Villages doesn’t mean the end of opportunities for healthy organic foods and diverse leisure activities in community living options.
The Villages’ Success
The Villages a retirement community in Florida is the fastest-growing metro area in the US according to the 2020 U.S. Census.
The residential offerings span single-family homes condominiums and maintenance-free villas in a wide range of styles and price ranges.
Socially The Villages is a politically conservative stronghold and it is predominantly white attracting many older adults.
Nonetheless this societal make-up and its dominantly older population stirs concerns.
Some authorities like the Center for the Future of Aging call for more intergenerational living and diverse cities.
On the brighter side this retirement community has successfully shown the need for a deeper conversation about how we need to design develop and cater to the diverse needs of older adults.
Many newer retirement communities now offer various housing options intergenerational connections and programs that promote purpose.
They all take into account older adults’ preferences using The Villages as a case study.
Despite the challenges the accomplishments of The Villages certainly shed light on new ways to approach aging and retirement living.
While assessing Florida’s “friendliest hometown” it’s important to remember that the Center for the Future of Aging has concerns about places like The Villages.
As societal attitudes towards aging change it’s becoming clear that there’s merit in diverse living arrangements for older adults such as university-based retirement communities and intergenerational living.
This contributes to more than just an individual’s well-being. This shift in preferences is also changing the future of housing leading to more diverse ways of living.
For instance, Bridge Meadows in Portland Ore. fosters intergenerational living by combining affordable living arrangements for older adults in exchange for their supportive services to foster families.
Societal expectations often caste older adults as sidelines. However places like Lasell Village in Newton Mass. offer lifelong learning opportunities and an engaged avenue for older adults.
We need more community leaders and business innovators to design and develop models that cater to the diverse needs of older adults.
Diverse Living Models
When I previously resided in The Villages Florida a retirement community celebrated as Florida’s “friendliest hometown” I was intrigued by its numerous golf courses bustling town squares and variety of amenities tailored for the golden years.
But over time I began to crave a more diverse environment. The area despite its charm was predominantly white and politically conservative.
The uniformity marked by a lack of racial and cultural diversity started to feel stifling.
There was a noticeable lack of job opportunities which limited interactions with a younger lively workforce. I also felt the lack of robust healthcare services acutely.
The once idyllic paradise town began to lose its shine.
The rising crime rate was one of my primary concerns.
The alarming 25% rise in thefts in the past year was impossible to ignore.
However amidst all the concerns and challenges one aspect struck me sharply – the absence of intergenerational connections in The Villages’ lifestyle.
The age-restricted place started to feel isolating devoid of the heartwarming sounds of children the vibrancy of teens or the innovative spirit of the twenties and thirties generation.
I started longing for a more intergenerational diversified and vibrant living model.
I quit Florida’s “friendliest hometown” in 2021 and ventured out in search of diverse cities intergenerational living and creative minds.
Echoing the concerns of Paul Irving chairman of the Center for the Future of Aging associated with Milken Institute I felt that living options shouldn’t be segregated on the criteria of age. It fosters ageist attitudes in an already youth-focused America.
Various alternatives began to spark my interest.
University-based retirement communities presented a blend of education empathy and intergenerational interactions promoting a meaningful and engaged life.
Also co-housing arrangements assured mutual support and combined the joy of shared tasks and resources.
The success of The Villages was a testament to the demand for such unique living arrangements. Yet the growing need is to design and develop models like Agrihood and Bridge Meadows that cater to an all-inclusive multigenerational platform.
In conclusion leaving The Villages Florida was a personal choice. It paved the way for a diverse sociable and interactively engaged lifestyle fostering connections beyond age limits.