Baby-boomers were the generation determined to change the world. That generation continues to want to improve the world through volunteer and part-time work, according to new research from Vitalia Homes, a division of AV Homes, a national leader in real estate development.
Vitalia, part of an experienced home-building company but a relative newcomer to the active-adult scene, recognizes that over-55 communities have changed during the past 60 years. The company was talking about some of those changes in an exhibit March 2 and 3 at the Ideal Living Resort and Retirement Expo in Bridgewater.
"When active-adult communities were introduced, they featured more sedentary activities and places like crafts studios," said Ken Plonski, senior vice president of communications of AV Homes, Vitalia's parent company. "But those moving into active-adult communities today are technologically savvy, still working or looking for new jobs, and still striving for the ideals they pursued in the 60s and 70s. Those changes are as new as Vitalia itself."
Plonski said company officials continually conduct research among baby-boomers. He said they aren’t surprised at many of the findings, such as the desire for a variety of activities and amenities; smaller, energy-efficient homes; and demands for a vital and active lifestyle.
"What surprised us was the almost strident desire to remain a vital part of the community as workers and volunteers," said Plonski. "Today's over-55 residents aren't just active adults, they remain activist-adults"
According to Kraig Carmickle who manages the lifestyle offerings at Solivita, a Vitalia community near Orlando, Fla., community outreach is possibly the resident’s No. 1 activity.
“We have hundreds of residents who volunteer in schools, at food banks, homeless shelters and dozens of other community organizations,” he said. “The residents want to give back to their community and this is just one of their outlets.”
Carmickle also noted that in recent years, there’s been a growing interest in part-time employment as a means of staying engaged or earning extra dollars to enjoy retirement pursuits.
“We’re very close to establishing a community job bank to help those interested in employment identify local opportunities,” he said. “Local employers, such as Disney and Universal Studios, are always looking for experienced and dependable workers, and these are two attributes that the 55+ generation can deliver.”
Pat and Gene Schmid are perfect examples. The former Edison, N.J., residents moved to Solivita in 2005. They purchased their home the first time they visited the community.
“We chose Solivita because it fits our lifestyle,” said Pat. “There are active people like us living here. Most people work and everyone is very social and friendly.”
Pat, who is looking for a job, volunteers for the American Cancer Society, something she started doing in New Jersey. She plans events and sells ID card holders to the residents.
“They are popular in the community because they are made of hard plastic, keep the IDs safe and support a great cause,” she said.
Her husband, Gene, also works. He sells golf carts. He also organizes golf outings.
“We love to work,” said Pat. “When you’re working, you have a schedule to follow. When we’re working, we get more accomplished. We want to stay vibrant and being active is a good way to do that.”
The Vitalia brand was introduced last year, but its parent, AV Homes, is a publicly held corporation with decades of experience building communities and homes.
"Our goal is to provide beautiful homes and communities that are warm, inviting and full of activities that allow new friendships to be made," said Plonski. "But we're also determined to help our residents to pursue jobs or volunteer activities if they want. It fits our idea that residents should be able to 'discover, explore and experience.'"
Plonski said that about 20 to 25 percent of the nation’s 78 million baby-boomers are looking for a new home and new location when they retire. With the housing market starting to recover, many are looking for a home that reflects their new lifestyle. In fact, 40 percent of the housing starts last year were for people 55 years old or better.
"We want to be certain we know exactly who we are building homes for," said Plonski. "We continue to develop research, review what comes in from the rest of the industry and strive to create communities that celebrate all the qualities that make life special for our community members, all of whom share a passion for active-adult living in everything they do."
In 2012, Vitalia active-adult communities earned more building awards than any other company in the National Association of Home Builder's 50+ Housing Awards Competition. The brand has communities in Florida and Arizona and is expanding across the Sunbelt. Its parent company, AV Homes, was formed in 1933. Today, the publicly held company is engaged in homebuilding, land development and other real estate operations, particularly in Florida and Arizona. In addition to its communities for those better than age 55, it builds homes for people of all ages in Central Florida and Phoenix through its Joseph Carl Homes brand. More information about Vitalia Homes is available at www.vitaliahomes.com or by calling (877-335-1543). Information about AV Homes is available at www.avhomesinc.com.