The No. 1 Trend in 55+ Amenity Design: Flexibility

Sue Ridgeway, Director of Marketing at Lita Dirks & Co.

Changing Demographics

The 55+ home buyer continues to be an influential home-buying segment. To be successful with this demographic, builders need to understand the 55+ buyer’s changing expectations with 55+ communities and their amenity spaces, and flexibility is the key. In fact, flexibility is probably the No. 1 trend we are seeing in 55+ amenity design.

Flexibility makes sense when considering the reality of today’s 55+ buyer. Today’s buyers are much different than the 55+ buyer from the past. The leading edge of the boomer buyer is younger, healthier, and not nearly as close to retirement (and slowing down) as in years past. We are living longer, healthier, and more active lives. To be successful in today’s fast-changing 55+ market, communities and amenities need to be flexible enough to adapt, morph and change.

Fifty-five years old used to be considered “old” or at least closer to retirement than other buying segments. Many envision a 55+ community and their residents differently today than just 10 years ago. Consider that the average age of the Rolling Stones is 75. They are the leading edge boomer. While conversely, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise who, at 56 and 57 years old respectively, could be your new 55+ buyers. Gone are the days of formal ballrooms and card tables; this demographic wants and expects more engaging features including flex space that can evolve.

Enduring Design Trends

Although COVID-19 has impacted the immediate wants and needs of 55+ buyers’ amenities, there are some underlying trends that we do not anticipate going away forever. For example, the desire to have group fitness class offerings within an amenity space may not be a top priority for a buyer right now. However, this is a feature 55+ buyers consistently say they want in an amenity space and will return to it when deemed safe. The following are some of the design trends we predict will continue to be important to buyers going forward.

Open Floor Plans and Movable Furniture

The trend for open floor plans allows for small intimate groups to create a niche to gather. If designed with movable furniture pieces, it is flexible enough to accommodate larger groups or events. Additionally, easily moveable furniture allows for quick transitions from large gathering space, to smaller more intimate table seating.

A perfect example of flexibility in action is this atrium area of a community amenity space in Northern Virginia. It was designed to be a flexible space to truly experience seamless indoor/outdoor living. What residents saw was the opportunity to easily transform
the space. At one point they even turned this area into a dance floor and hosted a swing dancing night at the clubhouse. Unfortunately, no photographic evidence of that night exists. However, you can see how easily the furniture can be moved to accommodate a myriad of activities.

Designing for Targeted Programming

Another important trend is designing for the space’s programming. Gone are the days of ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to amenity space. Not all 55+ communities’ buyers are going to have the same buyer profiles. We know that buyers in South Florida tend to want different amenities in their communities than 55+ buyers in the Rocky Mountain region. They may be of a similar age, but their wants and needs tend to be quite diverse. Not all amenity space programming, and ultimately the design, will be the same.

Once the builder understands the wants and needs of their specific buyer, the designer can go to work designing for that specific programming. It is truly understanding what the buyer wants, expects and needs, and designing accordingly that what will make the amenity successful (and ultimately that community).

Birchwood at Brambleton Art Studio

For example, in this community they knew the residents wanted arts and crafts classes, so a special art studio was designed. This same community also wanted to provide a teaching kitchen for residents so they could hold periodic cooking demonstrations, as it was listed as a “wish list feature” for buyers. It is important to note that this space is so flexible they also use it for parties, community dinners, as well as a community-wide CSA drop-off/pick-up location.

The dining room can quickly be transformed into a community beer tasting event.

In this Colorado community clubhouse, the residents’ described themselves as outdoorsy and active, and wanted a place where they could fix their bikes or tune their skis. This space offered a casual, fun, but functional workspace for the residents.

Although this amenity space was in an in-town community and its residents wanted more of a bar/lounge feel to their amenity space:


Designing to include fitness options has always been important in the 55+ amenity space. However, the types of fitness offerings buyers want has evolved. The range of activities for today’s 55+ buyer is diverse: from yoga and weight machines, to swimming and pickleball. The builder, program director and interior designer must understand how they can develop the community to provide and adapt to reflect the needs and demands of the new 55+ buyer.

Providing a focus-fitness design that all residents would enjoy means again being flexible. Flexible enough to include both cardio equipment, space for yoga-type activities, and perhaps most importantly a pool. Almost all buyers, across the board cited a desire for a pool within their community’s amenity space.

Birchwood at Brambleton Pickleball players

Outdoor Space

Incorporating the outdoor space in any amenity space design is key. And again, being flexible with that design to allow for small groups to gather or large community-wide events is imperative. Using flexible, movable furniture is important as is taking advantage of any natural views or special features.

For example, this clubhouse in Virginia is situated adjacent to a beautiful man-made lake. As a result, the entire design of the facility is all about showcasing the lake including taking advantage of upstairs and downstairs outdoor lounge areas.

In addition, if space allows, any thoughtful additional surprises you can design into your community will help differentiate you and add additional lifestyle value for your buyer to enjoy and of which to be proud.

For example, this development’s community gardens are a wonderful addition for the residents. Many residents truly enjoy the ability to be outdoors and just enjoy nature.

Knowing Your Buyer

The 55+ communities of today look almost nothing like the retirement communities of a few decades ago. Today’s boomer buyer is more likely to be out on the pickleball court or at a wine tasting than playing bridge or listening to classical music. Understanding the buyer and defining spaces that can be flexible and adjust with the ever-changing 55+ buyer is integral to good design, happy home buyers, and a successful selling season. Design that will encourage community residents to want to use and participate in these spaces. Design that will create a community of happy residents, which breeds success, profits and respect for the builder.

Sue Ridgeway, Director of Marketing at Lita Dirks & Co.

Sue brings years of diverse marketing experience in a myriad of industries to her role as Director of Marketing and Business Development at Lita Dirks & Co. She is responsible for developing and executing marketing strategies and campaigns in alignment with the company’s brand and overall objectives. She has established a track record of creating ways to increase the sales funnel, enhance online presence, and expand brand awareness of any company with which she is associated.

LD & Co. specializes in the interior design and merchandising of model homes, sales offices and community clubhouses for residential and commercial homebuilders and developers throughout the nation.

Sue is a member of NAHB, HBA of Denver, and PWB.

Birchwood Summer Developer Update

Birchwood Summer Developer Update

We have had an extraordinary year so far and are grateful with the continued sales in Birchwood and look forward to welcoming our new homeowners! Below is an update on our latest news in Birchwood, Brambleton and Loudoun County.

Housing Market Rebound / Builder Confidence Rallies to Pre-Pandemic Level in July

Birchwood Clubhouse Tours

Touch-Free Tours: Touch-Free Tours of our beautiful 20,000 square foot Clubhouse are now available. Book yours today by calling 703.722.2427 or emailing

Touch Free Tours at Birchwood

NEW 3D Virtual Clubhouse Tours: If you can’t make it in person, feel free to take a tour “virtually” of our beautiful Clubhouse here, from the comfort and safety of your home.

3D tour of Birchwood

Birchwood Commercial

We are pleased to share the architectural design for the first commercial/retail buildings that will be constructed along Loudoun County Parkway and Evergreen Mills Road. There will be 2 separate buildings connected by a walkway on the 2nd level. Miller Walker retail brokers are actively marketing this site that will be called Bram Quarter. As more details are made available, they will be shared with the community.  See information from the broker’s website here along with an article from a local source here.

Community Vision

The Developer’s vision for Birchwood has been to create a unique, refreshing 55+ neighborhood with a focus on healthy, stress-free living. Our desire is to break the mold of traditional 55+ communities with newly-designed home styles and on-trend amenities. A centrally located clubhouse serves as a social gathering hub for residents to engage in activities while connecting with new friends. Please view our brand new Vision Video here.

Community Vision in Birchwood

idealLIVING Virtual Shows

We hope to see you virtually at the The New Jersey Virtual Resort and Retirement Show on September 12th and 13th or at The Greater DC Virtual Resort and Retirement Show on September 26th and 27th. Register here today!

ideal living booth

Birchwood Events Are Back 

Birchwood residents have enjoyed a variety of events since July from outdoor concerts to His/Her events and workshops. Reimagine your Life at 55! 

Birchwood Events in 2020

Life Reimagined Video Series Debuts

Birchwood resident, Jim Phillips, has created an uplifting new video series for our residents. As a realtor, author and life strategist, Jim shares unique and positive messages on how to Reimagine Your Life At 55. To view the Life Reimagined Video Series, please click here.

We hope you’ll find his videos inspirational! Our residents are already responding positively: “Thanks for posting Jim’s video. I plan to be moving into my home in Birchwood in the Fall, (built by Miller and Smith) and it was reassuring to hear his positive message.  He sounds like a resident I would enjoy knowing. It makes me feel more comfortable about my decision to move from my home of 45 years and embark on my new adventure in Birchwood.” — Cindy Vough

Resident Testimonials

“Our house is from Winchester Homes, the Patuxent model. I love our kitchen and spend a lot of time there baking cookies, cakes, bagels, bread, and rolls.” — Michelle Van Duke

“I am in the Van Metre Villas Hudson Model. I love the great room and overlooking the lake. The next big project is to put in a stone facade on the fireplace.” — Linsey Pilkinton

Brambleton Town Center Update

Brambleton Town Center

Nearby Public Parks

In addition to the lovely natural landscaping and community trails in Birchwood, residents are fortunate to live minutes away from two new county parks: Beaverdam Reservoir & Hanson Regional Park.

Beaverdam Reservoir has recently reopened for waterfront hiking, fishing, kayaking and other non-motorized boating activities (enjoy a fun day on the water with rentals by Paddle Nova). Managed by Nova Parks, the park will be expanded by 2022 to include:

  • Reservoir Pavilion
  • Reservoir Shelters
  • Rental Boat Operation
  • Boardwalks
  • Boating Docks
  • Stream and Wetland Gardens
  • Reservoir Overlook

Photo: Don Bull

Future Hanson Regional Park Update:  This new 250-acre park is located just minutes west of Birchwood on Creighton Road.

“The Hal and Berni Hanson Regional Park project includes the design and construction of a new 257-acre regional park located on Evergreen Mills Road in Arcola, between the Brambleton and Willowsford communities.”

“Features of the park will include 17 lighted athletic fields, including two artificial turf fields and one cricket field; five ponds; the historic Lee-Hanson House; an event lodge and nature center; a skate plaza and disc golf course; a splash pad and playground with inclusive features and over 75 acres of passive recreational space. The park will be operated by the Loudoun County Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.”

“The project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2022.”

Hanson Regional Park

Schedule Your Touch-Free Clubhouse Tour

birchwood clubhouse main entranceWe’re excited to open our doors and welcome you in for a clean and fresh Touch-Free Tour of Birchwood’s spectacular clubhouse. Tours will be offered daily by appointment only.

To schedule an appointment, please email or call 703-721-4983. Virtual tours & videos are also available for all model homes and the Clubhouse.

birchwood demonstration kitchenbirchwood clubhouse gathering spaceClubhouse Indoor poolClubhouse Outdoor pool & balconyClubhouse Atrium

birchwood clubhouse sitting areaClubhouse indoor barIf you’re ready for a renewed lifestyle, check out Birchwood at Brambleton. Located in award-winning Brambleton, in the heart of Loudoun County, Virginia, Birchwood has become the best-selling active adult community around. Buyers have fallen in love with this new, walkable community where everything you want is at your fingertips including a 20,000 square foot clubhouse with indoor and outdoor pools, open spaces and trails, shopping and dining. Birchwood is within easy access to Dulles International Airport, the nation’s capital, the new Metro extension and dozens of wineries, breweries and historic sites. Choose from condominiums, bungalows, carriages and single-family homes with furnished models by nationally recognized homebuilders Tri Pointe Homes and Van Metre Homes. Priced from the low $400s to $700s.

Whether Shaken or Stirred, Here’s A Drink For A Healthier You!

Healthy, stress-free living is a desired way of life in Birchwood at Brambleton, which is why we’re constantly on the hunt for programs and resources that focus on one’s well-being: from the head to the toes and inside out! During a recent Facebook Live event, we invited famed nutritionist and registered dietician, Frances Largeman-Roth, into our kitchens (virtually, of course) to share a smoothie recipe that focuses on adding more fruits and veggies to our diets for optimal wellness.

This refreshing smoothie, the Turmeric Twist, can be found in Frances’ new book, Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen – available on Amazon in September! Located in the anti-inflammation chapter, this smoothie contains turmeric, hemp seeds, ginger and mango which are key ingredients in fighting inflammation. While short-term inflammation aids in the body’s healing process, too much inflammation is at the root of all major diseases, including heart disease and cancer. So pull out the blender, stock up on these ingredients, and show your cells some love!

Turmeric Twist
Makes 1 serving

  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • handful of ice
  • Honey, to taste (optional)

Blend, then serve in a tall glass.

If you’re ready for a renewed lifestyle, check out Birchwood at Brambleton. Located in award-winning Brambleton, in the heart of Loudoun County, Virginia, Birchwood has become the best-selling active adult community around. Buyers have fallen in love with this new, walkable community where everything you want is at your fingertips including a 20,000 square foot clubhouse with indoor and outdoor pools, open spaces and trails, shopping and dining. Birchwood is within easy access to Dulles International Airport, the nation’s capital, the new Metro extension and dozens of wineries, breweries and historic sites. Choose from condominiums, courtyard homes, villas, carriages and single-family homes with furnished models by nationally recognized homebuilders Miller & Smith, Van Metre Homes and Winchester Homes. Priced from the upper $300s to $600s.

People Are Talking About Birchwood, See What Resident Sandy Has To Say!

Clarke Family Birchwood at Brambleton

Birchwood at Brambleton is well beyond what Sandy and Chris envisioned for a 55 and older community when they relocated here from their townhome in Brambleton where they had lived for six years.

“We wanted a neighborhood with residents at similar points in their lives,” says Sandy, noting that their former home was located in an area with young families in a different stage of their lives.

Grandparents to three active young boys, ages 9, 5, and 1, Sandy and Chris are both still leading busy professional lives. Sandy, who commutes to Tysons and works part of the week from home, has been in the finance industry for 30 years. Chris is a teacher and enjoys his profession at a nearby Loudoun County high school.

Now in a Winchester Homes’ single-family-attached home, Sandy and Chris are enjoying being involved in the Resident Ambassador program where they are meeting new and prospective Birchwood residents. Sandy notes that some prospective residents have expressed hesitancy since they are not retired, but she and Chris have been able to talk about their situation and answer questions, putting them at ease.

Their lifestyle shows new residents that there are many facets to enjoying making a new home in Birchwood. “We have met some wonderful people here,” she adds.

Birchwood at Brambleton Residents Sandy and Chris Clarke

A serious runner, Sandy runs marathons and stays very active keeping physically fit and running about 30 miles a week. She has qualified for the Boston Marathon and is looking forward to this challenge.

“We love the community center, the potluck dinners, the gym, the pool and parties,” says Sandy who also enjoys taking their dog for outings on the path around the lake and heading out to the walking trails.

Trails in Birchwood at Brambleton

Besides entertaining her grandchildren with activities outside and at the community center, Sandy adds that her mother likes to visit from Pennsylvania and that she “fits right in” with their lifestyle in Birchwood.

“There’s no pressure here and you can be as involved in community activities as much as you want to be,” says Sandy.

“Birchwood is well beyond our expectations for an active 55 community,” Sandy says, noting that she and Chris moved here because of the house and found it a bonus to have all the amenities that they currently enjoy.

People are talking about Birchwood, read what resident Fred has to say!

Meet Fred S. Van Metre Birchwood Resident If you see Fred at the Birchwood clubhouse, you might ask if he’s seen Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, or Martin Sheen lately.

Fred and his wife, Catherine, live at “The Townes” built by Van Metre in Birchwood, that is when he’s not on a movie or commercial set somewhere between Baltimore and Richmond. As a longtime extra, Fred occasionally rubs elbows with Hollywood’s elite. But he’ll tell you that they are “just people after all.”

Moving to Loudoun County from Springfield after 30 years, Fred and Catherine are now enjoying first floor living after selecting Birchwood and moving in last fall to their two-level townhome. “The Townes” offer residents low maintenance living within close proximity to amenities and retail. Featuring a wide range of floor plans, these models feature three-and-four bedroom options, as well as patios and balconies.

van metre townes collection

“A lot of things led us here,” Fred says, noting that their new home and community in Birchwood met everything on their list including the location, quality of the homes and the neighborhood. Probably tops on that checklist is the fact that their daughter and her family, including grandchildren ages 1, 6 and 8, live in Brambleton. Frequent babysitting is something the couple enjoys when they are not traveling, working on their new home, or when Fred is “on location.”

Birchwood Residents Cookie Decorating with Grandkids

Catherine, a special education teacher, is now partly retired, but still working as a consultant. Working to create positive environments within schools, she can be found traveling to various cities where she trains teachers and administrators. Fred retired 10 years ago after 36 years working at the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Highway Administration, finding the time for his extra roles when he could break away from the office. “Retirement fills up your day,” he says with a laugh. “There are so many things to do and it frees you up to do spur of the moment things…your day is easily filled.”

Fred is used to short notice as a call to take an extras part from the Screen Actors Guild never provides much time to make a decision to accept the role. He has enjoyed the work for years and doesn’t mind the long hours involved. “Sometimes it’s a 16-hour day for two minutes of film time,” he adds.

Shwaery couple Birchwood at Brambleton residents

A new member of the Birchwood Resident Ambassador program, Fred says he won’t have any problems introducing new residents to the community and its focal point community center. “The staff is very helpful and friendly and all the amenities at the center are very high end,” he says, “they have really thought of everything.” As an example, he points to the multiple ports for charging cell phones and the top grade utensils and party ware in the center’s demonstration kitchen.

He’s a frequent visitor to the center, as the grandchildren love the pool, the art room and fishing at the lake. “They think it’s a resort,” he adds with a laugh.

Birchwood 55+ Luxury Clubhouse

6 Considerations for 55-Plus Home Design

One of our builders, Miller & Smith, had a blog that was recently features in Professional Builder Magazine.  Miller & Smith’s VP of Marketing, Kim Ambrose, details 6 considerations for 55+ home design and talks about what makes Birchwood at Brambleton an ideal location for 55+ Living in the mid-atlantic region. Take a look below at and see for yourself what Boomers are looking for in a home design.

6 Considerations for 55-Plus Home Design

By Kim Ambrose| Posted by Professional Builder Magazine | September 13, 2019
Birchwood_club_house_at_ Miller_7_Smith_Brambleton_community

Boomers are redefining aging by trading in early-bird specials for fine dining, cafeterias for locally sourced coffee shops, and “senior housing” for “active lifestyle.” So can redesigning the physical environment for seniors redefine aging itself? Here are six considerations for 55-plus home design:

1. Similarities with Other Life Stages

Boomers value much of the same amenities and features as Generation X, Generation Y, and Millennials, such as open concept floor plans with great rooms and large kitchens, light and natural luxury hardwood or vinyl plank flooring, quartz counters, and other luxury finishes. While first floor owner suites are in high demand for the Baby Boomer buyer, Millennials are also gravitating to ranch-style homes as well.

2. Beyond Four Walls

Although home style, design and layout are important, a life outside the house plays a bigger role in Baby Boomer’s new-home purchase decisions. In a recent survey, the AARP and the New York Times found that, when it comes to aging, respondents 55 and older looked most forward to having free time for family, friends and activities they enjoy. Their biggest fear was losing independence. All of which suggests a desire to stay connected to their current community. As a result, homebuilders and developers are paying equal attention to both physical amenities and the creation of social amenities.

For example, Birchwood at Brambleton, a 55-plus community in Ashburn, Virginia, recently opened the clubhouse which includes both an indoor and outdoor pool, a demonstration and catering kitchen, indoor and outdoor bars, game rooms, a wellness center, several arts & crafts rooms and multiuse space for parties, entertaining and special events. Creating a space to foster social interaction is key as the Boomer buyer craves connection with soft programming essentials such as clubs and activities.

3. Unretirement

According to Pew Research, the majority of Baby Boomers are still in the labor force, and the oldest among them are staying in the labor force at the highest annual rate. However, they blur the lines between traditional work and official retirement. As Boomers think about what they want to do next, many are turning to entrepreneurship. In fact, 25% of all business are started by people 55 to 64 years old. The older entrepreneurs are turning their passion into a business out of their home or a shared workspace. As a result, 55-plus home designs now include thought nooks or craft spaces, built-in desks and office spaces, or access to a clubhouse with a designated multiuse space.

4. Words Matter

Boomers are not motivated by the fear of aging. Instead, they’re attracted to a lifestyle change focused on wellness, health and community. Developers and home builders are taking note and reimagining the aging process by turning away from stigmatic and stereotypical branding, features and home trends. Gone are the days when marketers branded community with terms such as “senior housing” or “retirement living.” Even the term “active adult” is on its way out and considered a bit taboo. We’re now seeing the rise of “resort-style living” and “active lifestyle homes” used across age-restricted communities.

5. Special Degree of Staging

What is the biggest challenge for designing a 55-plus home? 
Coupling the latest design trends with subtle aging-in-place features and marrying modern touches with tried-and-true traditional elements for the nuanced Boomer consumer. While single-level living is popular for 55-plus, builders are taking it a step further by adding elevators to multi-level homes. The aging-in-place feature allows homebuyers to stay put longer when mobility challenges set in. Additional features for 55-plus homes also include: deep toe kicks under cabinets to reduce bending, raised ovens, dishwashers, vanities and toilets, lever handles for faucets and doors vs. traditional knobs, and zero step living for home entrances, showers and garages.

In terms of aesthetic, cool-toned grays and silver accents are on their way out as homebuyers gravitate to warmer neutrals and metallic finishes. Overall, we’re seeing a Boomer preference for modern traditional home design rather than the contemporary style. For example, while the minimalist white and gray palette is still popular among younger demographics, the older generation is shifting preferences to greige and brushed bronze.

6. Sub-Neighborhoods over Snowbirds

In the mid-Atlantic markets, we’re seeing 55-plus homeowners stay local rather than migrating to the major retirement hubs in Florida or Arizona. In the case of Birchwood, which is a sub-neighborhood of the master-planned Brambleton community, many of the homebuyers had family near the Ashburn area or even within the market rate neighborhoods of Brambleton. Providing a strong amenity package, a walkable community with access to nature, shopping, and soft social programming was key for these Boomer buyers.


Spectacular New Clubhouse at Birchwood is Now Open

birchwood clubhouse at brambleton 55+ living ashburn vaOne visit to Birchwood at Brambleton will convince you: this is a community you can call home! Beautiful award-winning homes, great location, active folks like you. But if that’s not enough to make you move, maybe our beautiful new clubhouse will.

We think you’ll agree that it may be the most spectacular community clubhouse around and it’s now open to tour on your next visit.

birchwood demonstration kitchen

Indoor and outdoor pools, yoga studio, demonstration/catering kitchen, arts and crafts studio, game rooms, indoor and outdoor bars all architecturally perfected in this 20,000 square foot “residents only” retreat.

Director of Marketing for Birchwood at Brambleton, Kim Adams, says this about the spectacular new community amenity, “The clubhouse with the backdrop of the lake is the gem of the community. There are so many indoor and outdoor conversational areas for residents to enjoy – Also worth noting is the indoor pool, theater room and golf simulator room.”

birchwood clubhouse outdoor pool and terrace Clubs and social events have already started taking place among the early residents, friendships are forming, pot luck dinners, trips to wineries and plays and much more. A community charrette was held where owners were invited to share with the developer the types of clubs and organizations that would be interested in and this list has just about something for everyone including travel, wine tasting, cards, art classes to outdoor adventure!

View a virtual tour of Birchwood’s one-of-a-kind clubhouse here: 

Take a look, then decide for yourself—Are You Old Enough? We hope to see you soon.

Birchwood at Brambleton Information Center (main floor of the clubhouse located at 42840 Beaver Crossing Square, Brambleton, VA 20148) is open daily from 11am – 5pm. Call 703-722-2427 to speak with one of our marketing representatives.

birchwood clubhouse exterior

For some in 55-plus communities, townhouses with elevators meet all their needs

Why a 4-level Private Elevator Townhome works for Birchwood resident, Janet Lynd! 🌿

Source: Washington Post Real Estate By Michele Lerner (May 30 at 6:30 AM)

Janet Lynd walks to her four-story townhouse at the Lifts at Birchwood at Brambleton in Ashburn, Va. The 55-and-older community offers elevators in the units. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

James and Svitlana Harden, residents at the Crest of Alexandria community for people 55 and older, knew someday they would need to leave behind their multilevel townhouse in Alexandria, Va., for single-level living where they could age-in-place without worrying about climbing stairs. The couple never expected to move a half-mile and into another townhouse.

“After I retired from the Treasury Department, we wanted to move to a 55-plus community for the social life,” James says. “But when we looked at some of the developments along I-66, we knew the traffic would be too rough and we would be less likely to walk to places.”

The Hardens found a compromise that meets all their needs: a townhouse with an elevator in an active-adult community within walking distance of a grocery store, a gym, restaurants and a coffee shop.

The Crest of Alexandria has townhouses from Craftmark Homes and Van Metre with elevators, as well as single-family houses from Van Metre with first-floor master suites and condominiums from the Christopher Cos.

Townhouses with elevators are also available at Walhaven at Kingstowne in Alexandria from Miller & Smith and at Birchwood at Brambleton in Ashburn from Van Metre.

“I love having an elevator, even though I mostly just put my groceries in it and meet it on my kitchen level,” said Lynd, seen here in the elevator. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Townhouses, although relatively rare in most active-adult communities, are appearing more frequently in the mix of housing for older adults in the Washington region.

Craftmark Homes plans to build more townhouses with elevators in 55-plus communities in Virginia and Maryland because they have been so successful at the Crest, says Lori Windsor, sales manager for Craftmark Homes at the Crest of Alexandria.

“Townhouses with elevators may be a significant part of the mix of housing in some markets, but it’s not a widespread trend,” says Paul Emrath, vice president for survey and housing policy research at the National Association of Home Builders. “There’s a small share of people who want age-restricted townhouses with elevators nationally, but it’s an important niche in some areas.”

Townhouses tend to be found in 55-plus developments in high-cost areas where land is scarce and there’s a tendency to build vertically for all types of communities, not just age-restricted ones.

Emrath says most older people remain in the neighborhoods near where they have lived, such as the Hardens. If they’re used to townhouses, they’re more likely to be open to one in an active-adult development.

Janet Lynd, a resident at the Lifts at Birchwood at Brambleton in Ashburn, Va., wasn’t looking for a townhouse when she found her four-story one.

“I wanted an active-adult community, especially a new one that wasn’t already established, for the social life,” Lynd says. “I love having an elevator, even though I mostly just put my groceries in it and meet it on my kitchen level.”

The primary benefit of an elevator is that homeowners can age-in-place without worrying about their future agility.

“Our home buyers may not need or want ‘no-stair’ living in their mid-50s when they originally purchase in an active-adult community, but as they age and mobility becomes a factor, the elevator is a ‘future-proof’ feature that alleviates a move to another home,” says Kim Ambrose, vice president of marketing at Miller & Smith.

Lynd was also grateful for the elevator when she injured her knee and used the elevator for a few weeks until she recovered. Her 2,100-square-foot townhouse has a lower-level media room where her sons can watch football when they visit, a kitchen and living area on the second floor, and two more levels with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

The addition of an elevator typically costs $20,000 to $25,000, says Mike Sandkuhler, vice president of building operations at Van Metre.

The cost is a prime reason they are less common in areas with lower housing costs.

“If an elevator costs $20,000 or so, that looks a lot different on a $700,000 home versus a $200,000 home,” Emrath says.

At the Crest of Alexandria, the townhouses are priced from $674,990 to $699,990 from Van Metre and from $699,900 from Craftmark Homes. At Walhaven at Kingstowne, the townhouses from Miller & Smith are priced from $601,990 to $646,990. At Birchwood at Brambleton, the prices for the townhouses are $454,000 to $494,000. All include an elevator as a standard feature.

“The challenge of building a townhouse with an elevator is accessibility,” Sandkuhler says. “The elevator provides accessibility inside the house, but you also have to make sure that the front entrance and the garage entrance are flat, with no steps leading into the unit. That means you need flat ground, too.”

Townhouses with elevators tend to be larger than many condos or one-story, single-family houses in active-adult communities.

“You need extra space to accommodate the elevator and yet still have enough closets and large enough rooms,” Sandkuhler says.

Janet Lynd stands on the balcony of her home. “I wanted an active-adult community, especially a new one that wasn’t already established, for the social life,” Lynd says. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

The Harden’s townhouse has more than 3,000 square feet.

In the Washington area, land is limited and expensive. Townhouses give you more bang for the buck because you can fit more of them on the available land, Sandkuhler says.

“Three-level elevator townhouses definitely allow for a higher density neighborhood than a villa-style home,” Ambrose says. “It also allows for more open space around the homes which the homeowner association maintains, whereas a villa-style home has more land located on the individual’s homesite.”

Lynd was looking for a home where she wouldn’t have to do yardwork or any outdoor maintenance. While most active-adult communities provide lawn care and snow removal, sometimes homeowners need to maintain the landscaping in their yard.

Townhouses make it possible to build more active-adult communities in neighborhoods close to the city.

“Most of our buyers have kids who live in D.C., Arlington or Alexandria, and they want to be near them so that every visit doesn’t have to be an event,” Windsor says. “If they live in Ashburn or farther away, they would have to drive at night and drive in a lot of traffic just to meet for dinner.”

Many of the buyers at Miller & Smith’s Walhaven neighborhood in Kingstowne are already residents of the surrounding neighborhoods.

“They want a lower maintenance lifestyle but don’t want to leave their friends and family,” Ambrose says.

Higher-density construction also makes it easier for residents to live within walking distance of amenities surrounding their communities.

“In our surveys, older buyers tell us they like to be near retail, so clustering houses and townhouses can get you closer to shops, services and restaurants,” Emrath says.

A townhouse doesn’t appeal to every buyer. Although she has a mudroom, a coat closet and plenty of closet space in her bedrooms, Lynd misses having a basement and an attic for storage.

One other drawback for some buyers is that the living spaces are spread over three or four levels rather than just one, Ambrose says.

But some buyers like that aspect so they have space for grandchildren to play or watch a movie while the adults gather on another level.

“A townhouse maximizes your living space,” Windsor says. “For retirees, it’s great to have separate space, too. They can use the extra bedrooms as offices or as a place where one person can read while someone watches TV in another room.”

Some of the buyers at the Crest of Alexandria moved from condos in other communities into a townhouse, Windsor says, because they didn’t like living in an apartment with neighbors on all sides.

Most of all, Windsor says, buyers like the idea of the elevator, which functions as a “bell boy” for their luggage and groceries.

“Seventy percent of our buyers travel often, so it’s great to have the ability to pack and then send the luggage down to the garage and not carry it on the stairs,” Windsor says.

Plus, there’s the cool factor when you tell your friends and family you have a private elevator, once an amenity reserved only for the ultrawealthy.

Community Update Spring 2019

Community Update | Spring 2019

As we wait for the chilly air to adjust to the calendar, development and building activity continues at a rapid rate at the area’s best selling active adult community, Birchwood at Brambleton.

Clubhouse Updates

The new 20,000 square foot stone and hardiplank clubhouse is progressing nicely and the construction crews are busy completing the trails and pier around Lake Birchwood.

Sure to be the heart and soul of the community, the clubhouse will wow you with its wraparound porches, chef’s demonstration kitchen, yoga studio, arts & crafts room and indoor and outdoor pools, not to mention the great views over the lake. It’s slated to open later this summer.

Birchwood at Brambleton Clubhouse Construction progress

The Flats Opening soon

You won’t want to miss this! Van Metre’s highly-anticipated single-family model at Birchwood is almost complete, and you’re invited to join them on Saturday, March 23rd from 12-3 PM to enjoy light refreshments while you get an exclusive sneak peek before they open. RSVP to Grace Strother, Sales Manager, at or call 571-340-1150.

Van Metre’s one-level, low maintenance living Flats condominium models are expected to open early April. Choose from a variety of floorplans ranging from 1,000 – 2,000 square feet with up to 3 bedrooms and additional outdoor living spaces.

Van Metre's The Flats
Miller & Smith Crescendo planWinchester Homes Miller & Smith has a unique and limited opportunity for basement homesites on select Crescendo plans in their Encore collection. Contact Catherine Taylor for details at 703-327-0427.

Winchester Homes is taking the stress out of shopping for a new home with their Lock In. Rest Easy interest rate program. Lock in at today’s low rate, or get an even lower rate if rates drop—sounds like a win-win situation! Contact Mary Dixon to learn more at 703-939-1263.


In a hurry & can’t wait?
Check out our builders’ Immediate Delivery homes.
Start enjoying the active adult lifestyle in a low-maintenance home and walkable community sooner in one of our builders’ move-in ready homes.


New Community Manager

We’d like to introduce Rosemarie Linder to you as the new Community Manager for the Birchwood Community Association at Brambleton. Rosemarie brings a wealth of experience in sales, operations, and customer service, and looks forward to partnering with the residents and Board of Directors to foster a positive, vibrant, and successful community. Rosemarie was most recently the Director of Administration and Services for the Brambleton Community Association.

Rosemarie Linder, New Community Manager

Did you Know?
Virginia has one of the lowest real estate rates in the country and we’re the 3rd lowest on the eastern seaboard. Low taxes and spectacular amenities make Birchwood at Brambleton the perfect place to call home!



Plan Your visit
Our pop-up information center and builders’ models are open daily, 11am – 5pm. New for spring 2019, we are considering offering guided bus tours of Birchwood. If interested, please e-mail