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Retirement communities

By Ken Pierick

Many begin dreaming of these days in their 50s and early 60s: the time when they can retire and roam the world. Those days are already here for millions of people living in retirement communities — in both warm and cold climates — from which they launch their adventures.

The Villages, located in central Florida, is a gated, master-planned, age-restricted retirement community of 75,000. People retire there for the easy living.

“They don’t need to go anywhere. Everything’s at their fingertips —entertainment, shopping, golfing, activities, clubs and lifestyle — all within a golf cart ride or walking distance,” said Carmen Pomales, district travel manager at AAA South.

Nonetheless, Pomales says Villagers are rarin’ to go. “They love cruising because of everything ships offer. They’re like all-inclusive resorts, just like the community they’re living in.”

Pomales says the destination doesn’t matter; basically, it’s the ship. Many older adults demand the best accommodations — not inside cabins, but balconies, verandas or ocean views. “They’re good consumers. They love the extras that are afforded,” she said.

Signed, sealed and delivered
Villagers want their trip features packaged, from the time they leave home until they return. Residents also appreciate having so many ports within a motorcoach ride, like Port Canaveral, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Miami.

The Villages also has several travel clubs. Ernie Rawlings is president of one of them. “We take two four-night cruises per year to the Eastern and Western Caribbean and take monthly trips to dinner theaters in Clearwater and Hudson, Fla.,” he said.

Rawlings has been with his club for 25 years. He and his wife do it “to see people enjoy themselves and have fun, fun, fun.”

It’s no surprise that folks living in Sun City, Ariz., where summer temperatures average over 100 degrees, want cool vacations: cool as in cooler climates.

“Most want to go to Alaska,” said AAA Arizona travel agent Barbara Fuller, “or on European river cruises. They want out of the Arizona heat.”

Sun City, a retirement community that sprouted in the 1960s, draws older adults from everywhere. “Snowbirds” also enjoy wintering in its dry, mild temperatures. Some are as young as 50; others, as old as 90.

“They’re still big travelers, and 80 percent cruise,” said Fuller. “They like everything included so they only have to pack once. Many have trouble walking or need oxygen. The cruise ships will accommodate them.”

Arizonians who cruise love the food and their days at sea. Some prefer to remain onboard. “I’ve had people book 21-day trips and never get off the ship. They love the sea life,” Fuller remarked. “Others favor the shore excursions.”

Apparently, the uncertain economy isn’t a hindrance for Sun City retirees on the go. “Many in the newer retirement communities are very well off,” said Fuller. “Some request big suites with butler service. The more they cruise, the more amenities they get, like free laundry or dry cleaning service.”