Living in The Villages is not just about finding a home, but also finding a lifestyle that suits people in many different ways.
The Villages has come a long way from the mobile home park that once was Orange Blossom Gardens. Developer Harold Schwartz originally envisioned a place where people had access to everything they needed while using a golf cart. As a result, every village has easy access to retail stores, doctor’s offices, golf courses, and restaurants. Many residents also enjoy being a part of the more than 2,700 clubs available for any interest. And let’s not forget the almost 100 miles of golf cart paths.
Style asked a variety of residents, “What are the best things about living in The Villages?”
Access and adventure
When Doris Vail retired from the U.S. Navy, she needed a place that didn’t require her to drive a car due to macular degeneration, an eye disease. The Villages fit that need perfectly. She can get around wherever she needs to go in her golf cart. Added to that, Doris is an adventurous person and has no problem finding great activities to do in her community.
“I love playing golf. I play as much as possible, and that’s one of the reasons I came to The Villages,” Doris says. “I also enjoy bowling and have bowled in the Senior Games. This year, I won myself a gold medal.”
Doris says she also appreciates the entertainment and liveliness of the town squares. “I mostly go to Lake Sumter Landing, but I also enjoy going to Brownwood and Spanish Springs as much as possible. I really enjoy the live music.”
Her club activities include being a member of the Tri-County Women Veterans, Navy Bainbridge Women, which consists of women assigned to the ship, Bainbridge, and three women’s golf groups.
“I also like to travel, and it’s easy to get in and out of The Villages,” Doris says. “It’s just a great place to live, and I would love to do more, like play pickleball and volleyball, but I know my limitations.”
A new you
For Barbara Fisier, The Villages offers a golden opportunity to achieve personal growth.
“The first thing that comes to mind when you think of The Villages is that you can reinvent yourself,” says Barbara, a resident of the Village of Amelia. “Whether you’re 60 or 80, you can become a belly dancer, a clown, or join a band. The opportunities are tremendous. There’s no pressure, just possibilities.”
Barbara says she and husband Charlie came to The Villages with two cars, but quickly became a one-car, one-golf-cart family. “We trade off when one of us needs the vehicle,” she says. “He plays golf weekly, so he needs the golf cart a lot.”
The one negative Barbara sees is the growth of The Villages, but at the same time she understands the lure for more residents. Still, it can get crowded. “I understand why they do it, and it’s a wonderful lifestyle that everyone wants, but I’m happiest just to stay on my side of The Villages, especially during season. But anywhere you live, there are going to be things you don’t care for, and the plusses well outweigh the minuses here.”
In addition to being a clown as part of The Villages Clown Alley #179, Barbara is also a member of the American Association of University Women and works on the organization’s fundraisers for scholarships. She belongs to a book club and plays bridge and mah-jongg.
“The good thing is we have our family down here now,” Barbara says. “We have three daughters, three granddaughters, and three great-grandchildren.”
People who need people
Bob and Linda Stehman moved to The Villages in 2008 and haven’t looked back. Not only do they enjoy all The Villages has to offer, their grown children love visiting their parents’ Village of Bonita home, too.
“We like that there are people from all over the world living here,” Bob says. “We can always find someone to get together with and learn about them and where they lived.”
Linda agrees, loving that she can walk across the street to meet with friends rather than calling across town and setting a time when they can get together. “We play a lot of trivia, cards, and games. I used to do Zumba Gold, but now we do more with our friends, and we travel with them, too.”
The Stehmans especially enjoy how close The Villages is to other points of interest. “We’re not that far away from Tampa, Orlando, or the beaches. We also love being so close to Universal and the other parks,” Bob says.
Bob was involved in a theater group when the couple lived in Pennsylvania and is very happy to continue with the theater groups in The Villages. “Right now, I’m director of ‘Nuncrackers,’ and it’s a lot of fun.”
“Nuncrackers: The Christmas Musical” is part of the “Nunsense” series of shows. Bob is especially excited because they’ll be using some children from the charter school in The Villages for this holiday production.
Linda enjoys helping people renovate their homes. In Pennsylvania, she worked in marketing at a large retirement community and brought that knowledge of construction with her. “She has helped several people because she knows which walls can come down to give them a more open look,” Bob says.
But overall, it’s the convenience that appeals to the Stehmans the most. “It’s just so easy to get together with friends, and that’s what we love to do,” Linda says.
“Our children love coming here,” Bob adds. “Our son and his wife spent their honeymoon in our house because we were out of town. They have friends in their 70s, and they come here for every vacation. Our daughter comes every chance she can.”
No place like home
Karen Nehrenz and her late husband moved 25 years ago to the Village of Mira Mesa and into the seventh house built on Chula Vista. Now she lives in the Village of Rio Grande and says she wouldn’t live anywhere but The Villages.
“It’s such a good place. You’re able to meet people and be as active physically and socially as you want to be,” Karen says.
For 18 years, Karen was a member of the Bell Chords, who were barbershop quartet-style singers. “We had a wonderful run while it lasted, but we decided we wanted to do other things.”
One of her favorite things to do is work with the club known as Busy Hands, Happy Hearts. She is currently president of the group that provides knitted and crocheted items to about 45 different facilities.
“We provide items to hospitals, emergency rooms, for new babies at Leesburg hospital and Marion hospital,” she says. “We do all the nursing homes, providing afghans for residents.”
Karen says she and her late husband enjoyed all the amenities The Villages offer. “If you want entertainment, you can go to the squares or go to the Sharon or the Savannah Center. They have all kinds of activities at the recreation centers, and they’re all so nice.”
Since she is somewhat physically limited now, Karen relies on the help of the chairs provided for access to pools. Once she’s in the water, she is able to do water walking, which is her favorite exercise.
“All of my friends live here now,” she says. “Those in Ohio, where I formerly lived, are acquaintances. Some friends I’ve known since I lived on Chula Vista. We keep in touch via email.”
Living in the same retirement community for 25 years means she proudly says, “This is home now.”