By Brad Pritchard of Empty Nest
When Gregg and Lynn Pilson decided to relocate to an adult lifestyle community, the last question on their minds was whether they were too young to fit in. About five years ago, the couple moved to Briar Hill, located just east of Alliston, Ont. At the time, the couple was past their mid-40’s and were looking for a place for Gregg’s recently widowed mother to live.
The married couple of 25 years had been living in the nearby community of Loretto where they raised their three kids. They admit they had never heard of Briar Hill, nor had they ever considered living a in a similar type of community.
“We never came here before,” Lynn admitted in a recent interview. “We’re from the area and we never knew it existed.”
It turned out that the community didn’t appeal to Gregg’s mom, but for the Pilsons, after learning of the amenities and maintenance-free living offered at Briar Hill, it was a done deal. Soon after, they told their kids it was time to move out, and the rest is history.
The couple said they initially had concerns about fitting into a neighbourhood with varied demographics, but not at Briar Hill.
“We worried about how we would fit into a new neighbourhood with younger families,” Gregg said. “But to downsize and go to a normal subdivision, that just didn’t appeal to us. We knew that we were getting here.”
The couple has since settled into their community, where they estimate the age of most of their neighbours ranges from 60 and up- so 10 or so years older than them. Gregg is 48, Lynn 53. (The kids are all adults now and have moved out.) Gregg continues working full-time at the nearby Honda plant, while Lynn works part-time as a graphic designer and at her family’s sod farm.
While some people may have trouble relating to someone 20 or 30 years their elder, the Pilsons say this is where they belong. “It’s great, we love living here,” Gregg admits. “We have fantastic neighbours.”
“We fit in just fine,” Lynn added. The community has embraced the Pilsons and whenever their age comes into question, a few laughs are sure to follow.
“Our neighbours, they always bug my husband and tell him to get back to work because they need their pension cheques,” Lynn quipped.
When you ask the couple why they have managed it fit in so well, despite being considered young, it all comes down to one simple factor. “It’s the lifestyle we love. We know everyone in this community and we are all like-minded and we hold the same values. I think 95 percent of the phase plays golf, which helps too.” Gregg said.
According to Erik Peters, the manager of marketing and community relations for Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities, which has 17 adult communities across Ontario, cases like the Pilson’s remain uncommon.
“Generally speaking, the age range of residents moving into the communities is 55 to 68,” he said. “We do have some examples where you’ll have people coming in their early 40’s shopping for their parents. They will come through and do the initial homework on it and take it back, then subsequently come in. But ultimately it’s the parents who come in.
“If you get someone is their early 40’s, they might like the situation itself, but they look at the demographics and ask themselves if they want to be moving in with people in their fifties and sixties.”
Peter said while some people may be looking to downsize to their golden years and relocate where they don’t have to worry about taking care of their home, ultimately that’s not what motivates people to make the move.
“They are really buying a lifestyle in these communities,” he says, adding that the actual definition of retirement continues to evolve.
He said communities like Briar Hill offer a non-traditional concept of retirement, which is, “You get your gold watch, venture down south and play golf the sun five times a week.”
“It’s often the lifestyle, the community, or the surrounding area that they are embracing,” Peters said.
The Pilsons admit that golf was one of the huge selling points of their community. Residents of Briar Hill have 45 holes of golf at their disposal. “In the summer, we are right here on the golf courses and we’re out there and all our neighbours are golfers too. Again, it’s the lifestyle,” Gregg said.
Lynn never golfed before moving to Briar Hill, but now you can’t keep her off the fairways. “Now we don’t have to come home from work and cut grass, and do all that other stuff. We just come home and golf,” Lynn said.
Peters said “large active social networks “are key in adult lifestyle communities. “You tend to find individuals who are seeking out likeminded people who hold the same set of values and interests,” he said.
Since moving to Briar Hill, the couple admits that for the first time in their adult life, they feel as if they are part of a real community.
Perhaps this is why one can understand the couple when they say, “Age doesn’t matter.” They said everyone looks out for each other and that there is a tangible sense of belonging where they live.