With age comes wisdom. Examples of this classic cliché are everywhere. It’s even evident in our modern, industrial world: the passage of time has given us smarter automation, technology and design. So it’s only logical that today’s retiring baby boomer – who has enjoyed a lifetime of benefits from this modern world, by the way – has now gained wisdom through their life experiences to know what they want as they begin the next chapter of their lives. The trend of seniors looking for active opportunities continues, and Birchwood at Brambleton in Loudoun County has been designed for this new way of living.
The following article has been adapted from “Living Large” by Holly Leber Simmons, published in the September 2020 edition of Northern Virginia Magazine.
Remember when retirement meant a rocking chair and watching TV all day? Neither do these retirees. Today’s seniors are trading in spacious suburban homes for luxury condos and active retirement communities — and all the fun that comes with it.
Downsizing after retirement isn’t a new phenomenon. But for many seniors, finding a home where they can be just as active as people half their age is. With the senior population exploding (according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 10,000 people turn 65 in the United States every day) and seniors living longer, healthier lives, it makes sense they’d want to find a home or community that meets their active needs. Plus, a recent report from AARP notes that 87% of seniors want to stay in their own home or community after retirement—not move to a golf course in Florida.
“A lot of seniors aren’t looking for a place to slow down, they’re looking for a place to keep going,” says Matt Leighton, a realtor at Century 21 Redwood Realty. “No one wants to go to an old folks’ home or a retirement home.”
In some ways, older adults are looking for the same sorts of things Millennials and Gen Zers are looking for when buying a new home: plenty of convenience, walkable areas, social opportunities, the ability to easily meet a friend for coffee, take a yoga class or pick up a few things at the store without getting in the car and driving 20 minutes.
“Being close to everything is the biggest amenity,” Leighton says of his clients. “We can find the best building in the world, but if it’s (inconvenient) no one wants to live there. A lot of incredible residences are brutal to get to. Location and walkability is what seniors value.”
Many seniors are looking for an active lifestyle that also comes with a built-in community. That’s how Fred and Janice Tello, both in their 70s, felt when they moved into a two-level Van Metre townhouse at Birchwood at Brambleton in Loudoun County in March 2019. They’d been looking to downsize, to give up the yard work and to find like-minded friends. “We were looking for people who were in the same time frame as us and who would have a lot of the same interests,” says Fred. In fact, many builders are capitalizing on this trend. According to a 2019 survey from Builder Online, a construction industry publication, 44% of the companies on its Builder 100 list of the biggest residential developers in the U.S. were constructing active “adult communities” for seniors in 2019. That was up a whopping 40% from just 2018. “We wanted to create an atmosphere or lifestyle where buyers have similar interests or hobbies,” says Kim Adams, director of marketing for Birchwood at Brambleton. “We wanted to break the mold of what an active community looks like.”
Fred takes part in the popular bocce ball league, Janice plays board games, canasta and is in a book club, and they both enjoy walks around the lake, which they can see from their roof terrace. “She was so happy when we found something by the water,” Fred says of his wife. “We love sitting on our patio reading and taking in the view.” Fred has become an unofficial photographer of sorts for the community, capturing images of Birchwood’s natural beauty. They’ve been invited to (pre-pandemic) birthday parties and social gatherings in other residents’ homes. “It’s an active community of people our age who have similar interests and with whom we’ve been able to develop relationships,” says Janice. “It’s been so easy to meet people and develop friendships,” adds her husband. “That’s been a big plus.” The location is convenient, close to shopping and dining areas, and a short drive from their son, his wife and their three children in Falls Church. They also have a daughter who lives in California. “It’s a blessing to be here,” says Fred. “We absolutely love it.”
An important factor for some seniors is the built-in social opportunities that come along with living in a community or even some apartment buildings. “They want TGIF events, they want wine tastings and seasonal events, something to do,” Leighton says. “They’re uprooting their entire life and social circle, the social events these communities put on is a great way to do that.” Birchwood at Brambleton, where the Tellos live, features a 20,000-square-foot clubhouse that Adams calls the “gem of the community.” The clubhouse features an indoor and outdoor pool, a demonstration kitchen, an art studio and a health-and-wellness wing. Residents can take part in trivia nights and sports viewings, take exercise classes and play pickleball, and fish off the nearby pier. “We really have designed the community for a lot of activity so people can find some connection,” Adams says. “We want people to be able to enjoy life. We’ve tried to put as many things in place so they can meet new people and really enjoy the next phase of their lives. We’re glad we’ve been able to help people connect and meet new people.”