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Sunday December 17 2017
The Evolution of Retirement Communities

Thomas Lloyd

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What is a Retirement Community?
Perhaps by the most objective terms, a retirement community is a place where a group of retirees live near to each other; on the other hand, some people might say it's an area where a number of homes or condos are available which are ideal for retirement. More and more, by the standards of today's retirees, these definitions are not enough in themselves.

While these points are very important, and play central roles in the choice of properties, retirees are looking for something more; the idea that is most central to what they are looking for is "Community." Besides just living near other retirees, there should be places ideal for socializing. Besides having activities ideal for retirees, there should be groups or organizations that help plan outings. There need to be games of bridge or bocce in the evening, as well as day trips and longer excursions to historic sites, interesting cities and nearby attractions. The neighbourhood itself should be conducive to both an active retirement and a sense of "community" – the sense of belonging to a group of people who connect with each other.

What is retirement in Mexico?
Several locations in Mexico have been a favourite retirement choice for almost half a century, and others have quickly found their way to the top within the past decade or two. When we read descriptions of these retirement locations their focus is ideal properties, ideal activities, and the size of the community of retired expats. These are all very important points, but the most central issue is how these all tie together, a point which is often just barely mentioned.

In an informal interview, one retiree mentioned that she knew of retirement communities where the lifestyle was that of a real community – games of pool and cards, group outing. For her, this point was strong enough to make her accept or reject a retirement community.

On one hand, promoters of retirement in Mexico tend to place a small amount of emphasis on this aspect; on the other hand, in addition to just drawing more attention to this aspect, which really has come to exist on its own in several places, some developers have actually taken the next step and have begun to design developments that are conducive to a community retirement lifestyle.

The idea is that through community layout, green spaces, activity areas, and services to facilitate group and individual activities outside of the development, a sense of neighbourly interaction can actually be made easier. Most retirees will probably agree that these aspect can help make the difference between a group of houses in a nice place, and a "community."

Retirement in the Riviera Maya
The Riviera Maya, stretching along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, from Puerto Morelos, past Playa del Carmen to Tulum, has a very large number of retirees from the United States and Canada. Local newspapers have stated that there are about 12,000 Americans in total, and a large number of these are retired. In Cancun alone (which is just past the north end of this strip), John Rotaeche, a real estate agent who has been living in Cancun full time for 16 years, estimates that there are about 10,000 American and Canadian retirees.

Communities ideal for retirement – mostly general communities, which happen to have a large number of services and activities which retirees are looking for – can be found in many places along the Riviera Maya. The many amenities of each of these places, and of the high-quality development along the way could be listed, filling a few pages. Even better than this, would be a much shorter list, with some specific examples of how retires have found their sense of community in these places.

Developments Planned for "Community" Lifestyle
The newest trend among developments, just beginning to sprout, is moving towards promoting the sense of community in retirement by providing the activities and the space available for community activities, for sitting and chatting with the neighbours, and just for enjoying relaxation.

In some of these new projects, not only do retirees enjoy large amounts of space, but they also have a large selection of property styles and sizes to choose from, allowing them to choose according to their needs. The properties themselves are of high-quality construction, spacious and competitively priced, in addition to offering low condominium fees.

While the properties themselves are of high-quality, what distinguishes them the most is the space in which they are located. Interwoven among these properties, retirees will enjoy the following features such as the following:

• Swimming pools
• Golf practice greens
• Clubhouses and gym
• Complete reception area, concierge services, and friendly faces to welcome you home
• Children's playground (for visits from the grandkids)
• Plenty of green space

The focus of these features is that of neighbourly setting, where retirees and other residents get to know each other, spend time together as well as be active for a healthy lifestyle. Besides planned resort events, the space can be used in any number of ways, ranging from games of Bocce, to badminton or barbeque get-togethers.

Enjoying the Riviera Maya to its Fullest
But the focus is not only inward on what retirees can do inside these communities; Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya offer a huge range of different types of activities and events, including golf, live jazz concerts on the beach, Mayan pyramids, nearby colonial cities and much more. Again, an exhaustive list could be made here to fill a few pages, but this is not the point. The point is, how does a retired couple and the group of friends they've been getting to know find out when, where, how long, how much, and which ones are the best for them?

To answer this question, communities are offering concierge services, helping to plan trips and find information necessary to help make them great experiences. Tour companies also work with the community, offering trips and outings specific for the residents. Front door baggage delivery service from (and to) the car, tour bus, community transportation or taxi makes arriving home, and setting out easy and comfortable.

Another possible concept is the transportation system to and from the beach, downtown, and any other locations within Playa del Carmen, eliminating the need for car ownership, looking for parking spots, or waiting for taxis and haggling over prices. Whether directly on the beach or not, retirees will be enjoying their relaxing walks through the soft sand in the evening breeze easily enough through these kinds of services.

This leads to the concept of car free communities. Parking areas within gated entrances allow for those who do choose to own a car to leave their vehicle parked with complete peace of mind. While inside all residents will enjoy using all community spaces freely, never worrying about checking for traffic.

Two Examples on the Riviera Maya
One example of a resort which has moved in this direction is the Grand Bahia Principe Akumal. This full resort community includes just about all services, allowing retirees to relax and enjoy life.
The amenities include:

• Location directly on the beach
• Stores
• Sports bars and Restaurants (with ocean view)
• Pools with swim-up bars, Jacuzzis
• Medical service and drug store
• Gym
• Amphitheatre with shows
• Tennis courts and sports fields
• Activity and meeting centers
• Exclusive clubs

The central concept of Bahia, "Active Life," is made communal through the ideas reflected in the slogan "Be Bahia," promoting the sense of belonging to a community.

"We see retirees here, not only participating activities," says Guadalupe Duran, Sales Manager for Bran Bahia in Akumal, "but also building an experience for life."

Perhaps the community stands out as being most innovative in this new concept is La Escondida, from Bleu Development. This eco-friendly boutique-hotel is located directly in Playa del Carmen. One little surprise; it is not on the beachfront! But this is no mistake. The developers have chosen its location specifically because of the space available to offer residents. It is still not far from the beach – a 10 minute drive.

"We tend to pay more attention to amenities and value added services than other residential developments in the region" explains David Pepper, CEO of Bleu Development. This "not only significantly reduces the amount of money you spend on activities, but it also allows you to spend more quality time with family and friends doing what you want to do."

Amenities include:

• Over 140,000 square feet of development
• 28% construction space
• 72% - green areas, pools, activity areas, etc.
• 50 properties, including single family homes, duplexes, penthouses and apartment
• New mall within walking distance, with an English movie theatre, and several large stores

Do you have to be retired to enjoy all of this? No.

"La Escondida was specifically designed to accommodate all age groups including families who wish to enjoy the lifestyle," points out David Pepper. "You do not have to be retired to enjoy the lifestyle we all dream of having one day."

Conclusion – New Trend in Retirement Communities
Instead of spending retirement time, finding out where the other expat retirees hang out, or calling around to plan trips, in the new kind of retirement communities these items will be taken care of; retirees will be able to spend their time with friends they know where to find, in a space designed for them, on trips planned for them. This is the change that is just beginning taking place in retirement on the Riviera Maya.


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