The Villages is the World’s Largest (and Best?) Active Adult Retirement Community in the World.
Before we learn the advantages and disadvantages of the Villages in Florida, lets make sure we’re talking about the right place…
Where are The Villages located in Florida?
The Villages are located in central Florida about 30 miles south of Ocala and about an hour northwest of Orlando.
There are over 100,000 residents that live in the self contained community filled with golf courses, along with more goods and services than you’d find in a regular city of that size.
That’s a good thing too, because it’s kind of stuck out in the middle of rural no-where.
Which Airport is Closest to The Villages?
The closest major airport is in Orlando, about an hours drive away. There are flights to and from just about anywhere in the world.
Must You be a Certain Age to Own in The Villages?
The Villages in Florida is an age 55 and older community. Although originally designed for retired seniors, there are now some newer “separate” villages that allow families.
Is “The Villages” a Good Place to Retire?
Trying to decide if The Villages would be a great place to retire or not, can be difficult.
Part of the reason is that any retirement community you try to use the internet to do research on, you’re likely to find nothing but mostly positive articles in the first few pages of search engine results created by those with a financial interest in the communities, or in promoting them.
There are plenty of critics of The Villages, mainly former residents, but they are usually older folks without websites and are limited to posting comments to articles in forums. Those negative comments can be flagged and removed by an small army of those motivated by a financial interest to keep things positive. So I’ll touch on some of the positives and negatives here.
The Villages in Florida is Unique
There are no shortage of 55 and older retirement communities in the US today, especially in Florida. What is so unique about The Villages is what you’ll find inside that you won’t find elsewhere: Almost every type of restaurant, shopping, and service such as doctors, dentist and more. Unlike other retirement communities, you may never have to leave the safety of this gated community because what ever you want or need is located right in the community.
The Villages covers over 30 square miles which is over 20,000 acres. There are over 500 holes of golf to play, and over 100 miles of cart paths. The paths aren’t just for golfing, because travel by golf cart is a main mode of transportation in the sprawling private community. You can drive them to the store or pub. It’s said you could easily live in The Villages without using a car.
The community is like a Disney World for people 55 and older. “Old” is subjective and can be misleading, I often hear my 77 year old mother say “but they’re old” and I’m thinking, at 77 you’re not? Anyway the average age of residents is said to be 60 for women and 62 for men.
Pros and Cons of Retiring to The Villages Florida
“The Villages in Florida” Big Advantage – Pro
One of the main reasons (but by far not the only) people who move to Florida, end up moving back to their home state, is they miss their family and friends back home. People moving to Florida picture themselves enjoying life going to the beach, golfing and dining and meeting new friends in the sunshine state. It’s not much fun golfing by yourself. Unfortunately, the reality for too many new residents is that they’ll find it far more difficult to meet new people than they anticipated.
Life in those manicured suburbs can be lonely with people hiding indoors from the heat, humidity and sun 9 months a year. It’s hard to meet the neighbors when they just push the button in their car to open and close the garage door and drive in and out, and never use the front door. Many people hire companies to take care of the lawn, spraying for weeds and bugs, etc., so it’s hard to meet them because they’re almost never outside of their home.
I remember selling a beautiful home to a retired couple in a golf course community. They had been living in a mobile home full-time for about 2 years that they originally had used as a vacation home before they retired. They said they felt a little cramped in the trailer and were looking forward to living in a real home again. Well, within 6 months after moving into their new home in the suburbs, they called me, saying they wanted to sell it and move back to the mobile home community. Why?
Because that’s where all of the friends they ever made in Florida were. In that mobile home community, the “homes” were close together and people waked everywhere, so it was easy to meet people because they were outside a lot. The community center always had pot luck dinners, bingo, shuffleboard tournaments or something going on. They were always busy doing something with friends, and they loved it. In their new home in the suburbs, they just sat in the house watching daytime TV.
That’s the big advantage of The Villages. You just buy or rent there and it’s impossible not to meet people, make new friends and find something to do you enjoy. There are “town pubs”, softball games and other fun sporting events and clubs for almost every interest imaginable to join. In the Villages, you just move in and almost instantly gain a social life and become part of the active community.
That’s not easy to do in Florida’s mostly transient cities and towns. Many retirement communities have a pool and community center but they’re often empty. Recent health studies have shown that being isolated often leads to depression, and it also increases your chances of premature death.
The Villages Florida Pros/Advantages
- You don’t have to leave the community (and it’s “safety”) to go grocery shopping, dine out, go to the doctor, etc. like you have to do in almost all other retirement communities. The Villages is a “city” of 100,000+ people with all of the goods and services you’ll need located within its borders. There is no other 55+ retirement community anywhere in the world that come close to providing this.
- The Villages has more of those goods, services and other amenities per capita than most places in Florida. This means you’ll have a better variety of places to shop, dine, be entertained, etc. than most cities and towns in Florida. Most retirement communities in Florida have none of this, you have to get in the car and drive, too often to some city far away that has crime rates far higher than where your home is located.
- The crime rates in The Villages is lower. Florida’s overall crime rate is higher than most other states. The Villages is far safer than the national average and most Florida cities and towns.
- You’ll be safer from hurricanes in Florida than most places in Florida. The Villages is located near the center of Florida away from the coasts where most of the damage from hurricanes usually is incurred. The Florida Move Guide says that hurricanes usually weaken after they move inland and they’re no longer fueled by the warm/hot water off the coast during Florida’s annual 6 month hurricane season.
“The Villages in Florida” Disadvantages or Cons
For some people, there’s a high price to pay in privacy and freedom, in return for an instant social life that can attained in The Villages. Please note that you may or may not be negatively affected by any of the “issues” below, and you’re likely to find the same thing in every other retirement community, not just in Florida but in all states.
- How will you handle not seeing or interacting with young or middle aged people 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?
- How will you like living in a “city” where the developer makes all the rules that you must live by, without having a vote like you would in a real town?
- Will being told what you can and can not do with your own property bother you?
- The cost to purchase a home in The Villages Florida is considerably higher* than in most other places in the state.
- The cost of utilities is higher than Florida’s and the national average*.
- If healthcare quality is important to you, check the ratings of local hospitals. Ocala Regional Medical Center is rated below average by Medicare, at only 2 stars out of 5. Florida Hospital Ocala is also has just a 2 star rating. The Villages Regional Hospital gets just 1 star from Medicare. This was as of the time this article was written. You can check current ratings here.
- Sinkholes (or are they just “depressions”?) have open up in the Villages. This has some quite concerned, since it happened while they are still recovering bodies (95 found dead as of this writing) from the condo collapse that happened in Surfside Florida July 2021.
So will the possible disadvantages of living in The Villages Florida be a problem for you, or will you be too busy enjoying life in this community to notice? These are just some of the questions you must ask yourself when considering The Villages or almost any other retirement community.
Former residents have complained that they felt like they were living in a artificial bubble filled with nothing but old people or that the rules were too strict for them. If you buy in a private community, it can be challenging to sell your now “used” home if the developer has brand new homes, and he makes all the rules. How will you sell your “used” home for roughly the same price he has brand new homes for? Remember, they make the rules and may not even allow you to put a for sale sign in the yard (too many for sale signs would spook potential new buyers, why is everybody selling?) The truth is, you can sell anything in Florida, even if it’s overpriced, during good economic times. During recessions, buyers are nowhere to be found in Florida and prices drop like a boulder.
So, is the villages right for you?
Here’s a “pro” promo video that presents The Villages Florida is a very positive light.
Living in The Villages has negatives, like Florida. Here’s a video of just another “con” to be aware of.
PLEASE NOTE: The Villages in Florida Is Qualified to Be On Our Best 55+ Active Retirement Communities in Florida List Because of Low Crime Rates and Other High Quality of Life Scores, Compared to Most Places in Florida.
The bottom line? If you are considering moving to an active adult community in Florida, The Villages is a place you should visit. Many people use The Villages as the Florida retirement community to judge all the others.
- If you are planning to retire to Florida and are considering a 55+ adult community to live there full-time, I would suggest visiting The Villages. Use it as a place to compare all other communities to.
- Visit during the winter months such as January to see it at its most active time (crowded?) of year when all of the “snowbirds” are in the state.
- Visit during the summer when there are no snowbirds and more of the people that are there stay inside with the AC, to see what the place is like most of the year. August would be ideal for this.
- I also suggest you visit all of the other retirement communities you’re considering during these times also, all within a short period of time to make comparing them easier. Good luck!
* Source: Home price and utilities cost information derived from the Council for Community and Economic Research and may be higher or lower when you read this article.
Ron Stack “That Best Places Guy”
- Want to be certain if moving to Florida is right for you or your family? You’ll know after reading the Florida Move Guide.