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Forever Young Information

Canada's Adult Lifestyle Publication

Adult Lifestyle Communities: Get fit for retirement

By Ellen Ashton-Haiste
October 29, 2013 - 15 comments

Many boomers hitting retirement are determined to stay fit and active and communities are responding to that demand

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As the boomer population increasingly explores active adult lifestyle communities, seeking an ideal location for retirement living, the emphasis is skewing to the “active” descriptor.

While the clubhouse/recreation centre is the heart of most of these communities, and pools and exercise facilities long a staple offering, more and more are meeting the demands of residents with upgraded fitness resources.

Shuffleboard and lawn bowling are still a presence but now often complimented by tennis and bocce courts as well as networks of outdoor trails to encourage walking and biking. And exercise rooms are becoming actual gyms, adding state-of-the-art equipment from elliptical trainers, stair climbers, stationary exercise bikes and rowing machines to medicine balls and weights.

Ontario’s oldest and largest lifestyle community, Sandycove Acres near Lake Simcoe just south of Barrie, has updated and doubled the size of its original recreation centre, built 40 years ago and now one of three. The addition includes a full gym with new exercise equipment and shower rooms.

“People are much more aware of health and wellbeing today so this is a good focus for an aging community,” says Heather Rice, marketing spokesperson for the community’s founder, Rice Development. “The exercise facility we had was quite small and starting to be a bit out of date. So we’re replacing all the equipment.”

At Edgewater Estates, a newer community outside Kingston, exercise equipment – like stair climbers, ellipticals and sit-up benches – has been placed throughout its waterfront park, enabling residents to get fit while being refreshed by lakeside breezes.

“It’s part of the package, the idea we’re trying to sell, that whole lifestyle for the active retiree,” says developer John Hinton. “It’s an active retiree community and we wanted to reinforce that with these items, as well as with the walking trails and the marina. It’s a nice package.”

This generation is the healthiest and most fit ever as they reach this stage of life and they’re determined to keep that momentum going. According to the 2009 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) – Healthy Aging, 44 per cent of older adults perceived their health to be excellent or very good and another 37 per cent reported taking action to improve their health, the majority (more than 70 per cent) by increasing their levels of physical activity.

It’s definitely a trend, says Kristen VanBerkel, fitness director at RiverBend golf community in London.
“I am noticing that,” she says. “I think people are realizing that they need to stay active. I think they’re realizing that they can’t just pick up a golf club at the beginning of golf season and head out on the course without doing something the rest of the year.”

RiverBend offers a full-service fitness centre, with cardio equipment, a gym with weights, medicine and stability balls and more.

“It’s not your full-size gym, not comparable to a health club, but it’s larger than you would find in an apartment building or hotel,” VanBerkel says. And the advantage is people feel comfortable being with their peers, in the same age group.

Yoga classes for women and stretching-for-golf classes for men are popular, she says, adding that the lines there are beginning to blur.

“Women, traditionally, have done the stretching and men, traditionally, done the strength and there’s a trend to see that changing. Women are getting into the strength (training) and men are getting into stretching and flexibility programs.”

It seems to be working. VanBerkel has noticed, this season, more people getting off golf carts and walking the course.

And this year, for the first time, she was able to continue an advanced strength class and an aquafit class throughout the summer. “Usually I lose them to the golf course in the summertime, so that was great,” she says.

Aquafit classes, followed by treadmill workouts, are the most popular fitness activities at the Nottawasaga Resort’s sports and leisure dome, which serves the adult lifestyle communities of Briar Hill and Green Briar at Alliston.

The country’s first adult lifestyle community incorporated into a genuine resort setting features 45 regulation holes of golf – unique in Ontario – plus the 70,000-square-foot sports dome with a tropical themed pool and 100-foot waterslide, fitness centre, indoor mini golf, three indoor tennis courts, squash and racquetball courts and spa services.

Although the resort is open to the public, residents of the lifestyle communities make up 60 per cent of the membership, says membership coordinator Kelley Cameron.

And the younger boomers – in their 40s and 50s – moving into Briar Hill, where homes are still available, find that a popular option, says community spokesperson Bonnie Bates. “These younger people are more inclined to participate in the classes and gym facilities.”

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