Life in this town was not like other places. Many people thought it was a great way to live. But, there were things that made me want to leave.
Did the fun of living in a small town go away, or did we just grow out of liking a life that is so protected?
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.
Especially with the onset of the 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, prompting me to reconsider my decision to invest in property in The Villages ultimately leading to my move out of 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.
Why Is ‘The Villages’ So Popular?
The residential offerings span single-family homes, condominiums and maintenance-free villas in a wide range of styles and price ranges.
Socially it is a politically conservative stronghold, and it is predominantly white, attracting many older adults.
Nonetheless, this societal makeup 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.
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 as time went on, I wanted to live in a place with more different kinds of people. The area was nice, but most people there were white and had the same political views.
It started to feel like there wasn’t enough variety in the people and cultures around me.
There weren’t many job opportunities, which meant I didn’t meet many young, energetic workers. I also noticed there weren’t enough good healthcare services.
The town that used to seem perfect began to look less wonderful.
I was really worried about the increase in crime.
The fact that thefts went up by 25% in just a year was something I couldn’t ignore.
But there was one big thing that really stood out to me – the lack of connections between people of different ages in The Villages.
The place was only for older people, and it started to feel lonely without the cheerful noise of kids, the energy of teenagers, or the new ideas from people in their twenties and thirties.
I started longing for a more intergenerational, diversified and vibrant living model.
I left The Villages in Florida in 2021 to find cities with people of all ages and creative people.
I agree with Paul Irving from the Center for the Future of Aging at the Milken Institute. He says we shouldn’t only live with people our own age. This can make people think older people aren’t as important, especially in a country that likes youth a lot.
I started to like different kinds of living places.
Retirement communities connected to universities offered learning, kindness, and a chance to be around people of all ages. This helps people live a meaningful and active life.
Also, living in co-housing means helping each other and sharing tasks and things.
The success of The Villages shows people like these special ways of living. But now, we need to make more places like Agrihood and Bridge Meadows that welcome people of all ages.
In the end, I chose to leave The Villages in Florida. This decision led me to a life with more variety, social interaction, and connections with people of all ages.