Master-planned communities attract active adults, activating economy for all

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Robert Kanjian
Robert Kanjian

Next time you see an active adult (or 55+) community resident driving a golf cart, think bigger. What they're actually driving is the state and local economy. 

Master-planned, active adult communities are about creating a dynamic and lively place to call home which, in turn, can boost an area's economic development. Thoughtfully designed communities get there by appealing to baby boomers with highly sought-after resort-style amenities, flexibility in home design and great opportunities for social interaction. Ultimately, when these communities thrive, so, too, do nearby restaurants, businesses and entire regions.

We need to ensure that we are communicating those benefits to prospective residents and their families as well as government and business officials.

There's no question that sunny states, such as Florida, are a major draw for baby boomers as they near or enter retirement. In fact, Florida attracts more 55- to 74-year-old retirees than any other state in the nation. Baby boomers are the generation that controls about 70% of the nation's disposable income, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that AARP finds that older workers and retirees remain Florida's biggest economic-generators. After all, that same AARP study went on to reveal that this demographic makes up 58% of total consumer spending, a key component to a healthy economy. 

For a long time, that baby boomer wealth was concentrated into a few tight, thriving Florida metro areas. But more recently, baby boomers have migrated to other locations across the state, thanks to the numerous master-planned, active adult communities that cater to the group's needs, wants and expectations, creating a dynamic place to call home.

Advance planning important

The perfect example is right in Kissimmee, the backdrop to Solivita, an award-winning active adult community. The surrounding area is thriving, because where baby boomers settle, all reap the benefits of their resources; you'll often find that improved medical, financial and transportation resources follow the influx of active adults.

As the builder of Solivita, AV Homes not only looked at creating a top-notch 55+ development to attract active adults today; we also recognized the area's growth potential more than a 20 years ago, and we planned for it.

A case in point: In recent months, we recently opened Poinciana Parkway, which connects to Solivita, a project that AV Homes began in the early 2000s before turning it over to the Osceola County Expressway Authority and Polk County. This parkway fills a big gap in regional transportation, and it will be a substantial time-saving option for residents living in the area, making the locale even more desirable. The economic effect is great, because the area now is a thoroughfare, allowing more access, which brings in greater residential and commercial development, in turn positively affecting economic development.

We're also seeing similar effects in the Port St. Lucie area, where one of our newer active adult communities, Vitalia at Tradition, is situated. The city was tapped in The Milken Institute's Best Performing Cities list in 2016 and 2015 as one of the biggest gainers in the country in terms of economic and employment growth. This was aided by an influx in retirees and an increase in tourism.

How to attract baby boomers

We know, therefore, that baby boomers are a positive force on the macro and micro economy. So how do we attract them to our areas?

As a builder of active adult communities, we focus on the needs and wants of this demographic when it comes to the homes and amenities that make it more than just another community and truly a vibrant lifestyle. After all, this segment of home buyers won't settle for anything less than resort-style amenities, flexibility in home design and great opportunities for social interaction.

Within Solivita, for example, more than 150,000 square feet is dedicated to amenities from pools, pickleball courts and spa and fitness centers. Vitalia at Tradition offers a heated pool for laps and lounging, pickleball and tennis courts, a lakeside pavilion and the country's largest synthetic turf green, with 18 holes of golf.

Amenities and activities that promote health and wellness plus socialization are key to winning the baby boomers over. 

Active adults also are looking for a true sense of community, with plenty of social clubs where they can bond with their neighbors. Clubhouses, such as Solivita's Riviera Spa and Fitness Center and Vitalia's Captiva Club, provide great shared spaces and places to meet. Active adults want to get involved with clubs that promote shared interests such as photography, book discussions, bowling outings, travel enthusiasts and more.  

In addition to the healthy and active lifestyle for residents, communities need to offer flexible home designs as well. Savvy home-seekers look for spacious, open and flexible floor plans that can adjust to their current and future needs.

Yes, it turns out that when done right, active adult master-planned communities not only create healthier residents but also make entire regions surrounding these developments economically healthier. As these well-designed 55+ communities build momentum and attract even more homeowners, they will continue to drive improvements in local areas that benefit all residents, regardless of age.

Robert Kanjian is director of sales for Scottsdale, AZ-based AV Homes, which operates communities for active adults in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.

McKnight's Senior Living welcomes guest columns on subjects of value to the industry. Please see our submission guidelines for more information.

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