Today we continue my review of The Villages, Florida. If you missed part 1, you can find it here.
This post will focus on evaluating The Villages in two new ways.
First, I’ll do a review based on my list of five retirement categories everyone needs to address to have a great retirement.
Then I’ll share some results from top Google search articles I found — posts that shared their pros and cons of The Villages — and give you my thoughts on them.
Let’s get started…
The Villages Rated on My Five Crucial Retirement Categories
You can see my list of the five categories retirees need to address to have a great retirement in Huge List of Awesome Retirement Activities. But to save you some time in looking, here they are:
- Health and Fitness — Getting and keeping your body in good and healthy shape.
- Fun — Entertainment and enjoyment and relaxing.
- Work and Work-Like Activities — Work itself or activities that resemble work in form and function.
- Social Interaction — Regular connection with others.
- Mental Stimulation — Keeping our minds engaged and sharp.
Let’s look at these individually and see how The Villages ranks…
Health and Fitness
Overall, The Villages is good on this category simply because they provide so many options to get out and get moving.
There’s pickleball, golf, tennis, swimming, Zumba, and on and on.
There are clubs for cycling, teams for softball, and groups for everything from running to cornhole.
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of activities that can help people get and stay healthy and fit.
The Villages and “active lifestyle” are synonymous, so they have to rate highly in this category.
That said, it could be better. For pure (more traditional) workout/exercise facilities (like you’d find at a gym), The Villages are pretty weak (which is why I paid to join an outside gym).
As I said in my last post, this is a HUGE missed opportunity as The Villages has the chance to be a world leader in healthy aging, fitness, and wellness. But for some reason they have decided to offer “average” workout facilities AND make you pay an extra fee for them (they are not included in your monthly activity fees) which makes this a double whammy no-no.
Overall I would still give them an 8 out of 10 for the sheer number of great activities they offer to keep people moving. But if they had top-notch exercise facilities they could raise that to a 10.
Having fun is a relative term — what is fun for one guy is a pain for another.
An example: dancing. Many people love it. I’m not a fan as I have two left feet. Haha.
Luckily, The Villages has enough options that everyone can find multiple ways to have fun. And if you don’t find any given activity fun, it’s easy to avoid it simply by not participating
Want some examples of the options? If I was to list even a meaningful sub-section of them, this post would be 10 pages long!
So let me point you in the right direction so you can see all the options yourself.
First is this post titled The Villages Clubs and Activities. It lists many different clubs by type of club including:
- Art & Writing Clubs
- Craft Clubs
- Book Clubs
- Hobbies and Interests
- Music & Theatre Clubs
- Sports & Exercise Clubs
Next, here’s a PDF of the “Resident Lifestyle Clubs” in The Villages — all 192 pages of them!
Yes, that is correct — 192 pages of clubs, locations, leaders, and contact info so you can easily find something you like and talk to the person in charge to see what it’s like before you try it. I personally used this list and texted several people about their pickleball groups before I visited them.
If for some reason you don’t see a club you like (which I find highly doubtful), you can certainly create your own. Underwater Dungeons and Dragons club for the win!!!!!
And finally, here’s an article on clubs from The Villages itself.
And these are just the clubs. What about live music? What about eating out? What about the sports? What about nearby great activities in Florida? What about special events like the Senior Games or the Strawberry Festival? What about movies and shows?
The list goes on and on! If you can’t find a ton of ways to have fun in The Villages, you might as well hang it up as there’s no hope for you. Hahaha.
FYI, there are two other ways to find out about all the activities going on at The Villages:
- There’s an app for The Villages that let’s you search all the officially scheduled activities. We used this almost every day to search for “Zumba” — so we could find classes for my dad.
- Every Thursday they publish a recreation guide that details what’s going on at every rec center — inside and out — for the next week. We picked one up every week (they are free at all the rec centers) and my dad used it quite frequently (we preferred the app but he was more old-school and liked the paper). 😉
Overall I give The Villages a 10 out of 10 in this category.
Work and Work-Like Activities
This is less of an issue than I thought it was when I went down there as it seems a good percentage of The Villages residents still work. Problem solved. Hahahaha.
I found this out one night when I was walking by an entrance to a nearby village around 5:30 pm. There were cars coming in there in droves…like they were coming back from work. So I started asking people I met (mostly those playing pickleball) if they still worked and a surprising number did.
But what about those who have retired from careers and want take part in some work or volunteer activities?
I would say that The Villages has as many or more opportunities to do either of these as any other place.
For volunteering, there are the host of usual candidates — churches, non-profits, etc. Some places to look:
- Here’s an article titled Thousands of Villagers volunteer in a Big Way if you want to see a bit of what’s going on already.
- Here’s a list of volunteer opportunities.
- And here’s a search for local volunteer activities.
- There are also volunteer options in Sumter County schools.
For work, there are the standard jobs every other city has but The Villages itself also regularly has tons of openings. If you’re interested in seeing what they have available, check out their careers page.
My dad has actually thought about getting a part-time job with The Villages simply to get out and about for 10 hours a week or so. Plus it may give him the chance to meet some ladies. 😉
We saw many residents working all over The Villages, especially at the rec centers and sales offices.
FWIW, they have some pretty good benefits too including:
- Medical, Dental, and Vision Health Plans
- Paid Time Off for Full-Time Positions
- 401k with Employer Matching
- Eligibility at The Villages Charter School
- Career Development & Education Programs
- Exclusive Local Discounts
Of course if you have a side hustle, you’re set. This is yet another reason (in addition to income and fun) for taking a side hustle into retirement.
Overall, I would say that The Villages is better than average on this measure, so I’ll give them a 7 out of 10.
As I said in part 1 of this series, if you are active in clubs, sports, and/or any other events/activities that The Villages puts on, you will have social interaction. It happens naturally as you are thrust together with others who have the same interests you do.
Not only that, but your social interaction will be around a shared cause or interest which is likely to find you a friend here or there at least (if not many friends).
I made several friends playing pickleball, a couple of whom we got together with outside of the game.
Just think of this: people come from all over the U.S. to a new place. They leave their old friends behind. They are searching for what to do, how to get around, etc. as they get settled and have fun. They want to make new friends. And there are THOUSANDS of these people. It’s almost the perfect melting pot for creating social interaction.
As a result, people are pretty friendly in The Villages. For example, almost every time we went to the pool, we struck up a conversation with someone new (or saw old friends we had chatted with previously). We compared notes, talked about home, and shared “secrets” to this or that (we found the Russell Stover store from a pool chat!)
The same thing happens around pickleball, Zumba (for my dad), listening to music on the squares, and any number of events. It happens naturally and easily.
Of course you have to get out there and do something — if you simply sit at home all the time you throw all of that potential away.
But because social interaction is virtually built into The Villages, I would give it an 8 out of 10.
This one is like the social aspect — it’s there and it’s easy, but you have to seek it out for yourself.
This could mean getting mental stimulation from a job, a volunteer gig, a club (book club, chess club, history club, and so on), or even some sort of hobby on your own (like reading — I especially liked to sit on the lanai reading while drinking a cup of coffee and watching Zeus on the prowl for salamanders! I finished seven books this way while we were in Florida — just in my “down” time!)
Of course many articles will say that having a social network is a form of mental stimulation, so if you have friends and chat/go out with them, mental stimulation kind of comes along with that for free.
Overall, The Villages scores high on this as well. I’m giving them a 7 out of 10 on this one.
If you’ve been keeping score, you’ll see that my ratings add up to 40 or an average of 8. Pretty good IMO for a tough grader like me.
This feels about right to me. It indicates that there’s a TON of amazing things going on in The Villages but also leaves room for improvement. It’s close to the same score I would give Colorado Springs overall (on general livability — CS would not score as high on the scale of these five retirement categories).
Overall, it’s going to be very, very difficult to beat The Villages on these five categories that make for a great retirement. Certainly no other retirement community we’ve read about or seen (like Latitude Margaritaville or Lakewood Ranch) even come close.
Google’s Top Articles on The Villages
Finally, I Googled around and selected the top ranking results for articles on what people liked and didn’t like about The Villages. I thought I should address these to make any review complete.
We begin with 21 Pros and Cons of Living in The Villages, Florida.
Their list, starting with the pros…
2. Cost of Living in the Villages, Florida
3. Recreational Amenities
4. Golf Courses
5. Arts and Culture
6. Plenty of Shops, Restaurants, and Services
7. Developer Reputation
8. Activity Level
9. Socialization Opportunities
10. Clean and Maintained Community
11. You Don’t Need a Car
12. Proximity to the Beach
13. Proximity to Other Florida Attractions
14. Aging Services
15. Low Crime Rates
So…pretty much what I’ve said, though a few require some commentary:
- I’m not sure about the developer’s reputation, but it’s good to see the people building the common areas and personal homes get a thumbs up from an outside source.
- “Clean” is not even close to how The Villages feels. Imagine Disney World-clean and that’s a better viewpoint. And new too — things look fabulous. One example: Recently it was reported that the windmill and decorative water tower in Brownwood Square need to be replaced as they are rotting. I thought, “That’s strange that they need to be replaced so soon.” (I assumed the area was less than a year old — it looked so new). But from the article I linked to here: “Both structures are about a decade old.” Amazing! Things there literally look like they were just built — not constructed 10 years ago. Same goes for Lake Sumter Square but it’s even older!!!!
- I would argue a bit with the “you don’t need a car” line. You don’t need one to go short distances or if you’re willing to spend an hour in a golf cart (try going from the southern villages to Spanish Springs and you’ll see it’s no short distance in a golf cart but MUCH faster in a car). In addition, many of the larger stores and restaurants are packed together in the north (north of highway 466 along U.S. 27/441) and you need a car to get all your stuff and get it home safely. A half gallon of ice cream is not going to survive a 45-minute cart ride from Sam’s up north even to the middle of The Villages.
- I can tell you that The Villages feels very safe. It’s nice to see that the feeling is backed up with actual data on low crime rates.
Now let’s list the cons in this article…
2. Lack of Diversity
3. Lack of Civic Power
6. Corporate Vibes
I’ve addressed many of these, but let me just comment more on a few…
In the “lack of civic power” in this post it says:
Developers own virtually everything in The Villages. So, as some residents put it, you have a corporate suggestion box instead of a ballot box. Residents can certainly voice their opinions if they want to see change, but the developers have the final say, and you can’t vote them out.
So, if you disagree with a policy or plan, life in The Villages can become frustrating fast. That’s not to say residents have zero say. After all, the developers want to keep residents happy, so they continue to sell new property, but if you find yourself disagreeing, the lack of civic power can feel disheartening.
This is true. They have rules and they enforce the rules. This is bad if you want to do something “unique” to the outside of your home or your yard (they even have an on-going case about a couple putting a small white cross in their yard — FYI, the article I linked to appears to say the controversy is over, but I saw little white crosses in several yards in our village alone), but generally I see it as an advantage as it keeps your neighbor from parking his 40-foot RV outside in your street.
Here’s what the article has to say about sinkholes in The Villages:
Lately, The Villages have reported several confirmed sinkholes. Though the community claims these are natural and unavoidable, that may not be entirely true. Some scientists believe that over-irrigation of the many golf courses within the community contributes to the problem.
That said, sinkholes are a growing issue in Florida and many other areas of the U.S. Unfortunately, repairs are costly, and sinkholes themselves are obviously dangerous. This is an issue the developers are aware of and are acting on as quickly as they can.
This is like rolling the dice and I’m not sure it can be avoided in Florida. Are there any 100% safe areas in Florida where there are no sinkholes? Probably, but there are probably way more areas where they could occur.
Personally, I think the greatest risk is to live on/around a golf course. Since I don’t play golf and don’t want to live on a course (for which you’ll pay an extra $200k+ for the lot BTW), this isn’t an issue for me.
In addition, sinkholes don’t seem to be that much of a problem in central Florida. According to Newsweek:
Sinkholes are particularly common in the Florida counties of Pasco, Hernando and Hillsborough—known collectively as the state’s “Sinkhole Alley.”
Hillsborough County contains Tampa and the surrounding area almost as far east as Lakeland. Pasco County is just north of Tampa. Hernando County is just north of Pasco County.
So take that information for what it’s worth.
Hahaha. It does have corporate vibes. LOL.
Here’s what the post says on this item:
Fans and critics both refer to The Villages as “Disney World for Seniors,” and depending on how you feel about Disney, this is both a pro and a con. For some, the safe, clean community, full of amenities, is exactly what they want. For others, it feels too corporate and almost fake.
One critic described it as having “Stepford Wives” type vibes, and others point out that it feels a bit like living on a film set, as though you’re separated from the real world.
Of course, there’s a reason Disney World has so many avid fans. There’s a certain magic within its gates. The Villages feature the same sort of feel, and many residents can’t get enough of it.
I would agree that it does feel a bit different than the “real world”. But so does Disney, every resort I’ve ever been to, and even the gym I belong to (it’s pretty swanky). Is that really a con? I would list that as a pro. The “real world” is not that great IMO.
I don’t think it goes as far as being like the Stepford Wives and I certainly wasn’t asked to drink any Kool-Aid while there. Plus, I don’t mind corporate vibes if it’s a corporation I like and can agree with — and The Villages fits that bill.
BTW, on the ultimate question of whether or not The Villages is a good place to live, the post says the following:
When you weigh out the pros and cons of living in The Villages, Florida, it seems that the pros win out. The Villages in Florida are a great place to live if you’re 55+.
Inside The Villages, you’ll find everything you need to thrive. There are endless shops, restaurants, and entertainment facilities. There are plenty of green spaces, and everything is well-maintained. Plus, and perhaps most importantly, The Villages fosters community.
You can join a competitive sports league, meet your neighbors at the local pub, or join one of the many resident-led social clubs. Whether you like golf, tennis, or making macrame, there’s a community for you to participate in, which is vital as you age.
That said, no place is perfect, and The Villages does have its cons. If you’re seeking the diversity of a major metropolitan area or can’t stand humidity and bugs, The Villages might not be your ideal retirement locale.
In the end, we think The Villages in Florida has a lot to offer and is a good place for most to retire. Whether or not it’s right for you is a matter of personal opinion. Only you can determine the best place for your retirement.
This is a great summary that aligns closely with my point of view.
Next is an article titled Advantages and Disadvantages of Living in The Villages, Florida.
It lists the “positives of living in The Villages” as follows:
- Housing Prices
- Local Amenities
- Reputation (developers)
- Activity Level
- Neighborhood Characteristics
- Safety and Cleanliness
- Public Transportation
- Proximity to Beaches
- Supportive Community
This list is looking pretty familiar. The only new addition is “public transportation” which is something I had zero need for…but am glad it’s a positive. 😉
Now, here are the negatives:
- Heat and Humidity
- Lack of Diversity
- Private Ownership (little civic power)
- Reputation (from mainstream media)
- Political Issues (mostly conservative)
Let’s address a couple of these we haven’t covered yet…
As for reputation, here’s what the article says:
Certain tabloid newspapers have focused attention on what they portray as the seedier side of The Villages. The UK’s Daily Mail, for instance, wrote that with ten women for every man, a black market trade in Viagra and cheap alcohol exists. Some say there is a thriving swingers scene as well.
First of all, “tabloid.” If you’re going to get your information from tabloid newspapers and make your life decisions based on those, good luck.
Second, we have already seen that crime rates are lower in The Villages than other places. And I’ve also said that you will find some seedier activity in The Villages like you would in any city its size.
Third, “some say.” Really? Is this any sort of journalism we can trust? If our standard is “some say”, then “some say” the world is flat. “Some say” the world will end in 1950…no, that’s 1965…no, that’s 1983…no, that’s 1999…and so on. “Some say” cigarettes don’t cause cancer. See where I’m going? This is weak, weak writing/reporting and, I think, is just an effort to come up with a negative so the list doesn’t look too short (because they couldn’t think of anything else).
As for politics, I generally avoid them and didn’t have a hard time doing so in The Villages. I didn’t have one political discussion while there.
That said, there were a handful of homes within our village (and I assume in others as well) flying “Blue Lives Matter”, “Let’s Go Brandon”, and “Trump 2024” flags. I also saw similar signs on golf carts. At the local gas station as gas prices soared I saw my first “I did that” sticker posted on a pump (you’ve probably seen these covered in the news). I may have seen one or two pro-Biden signs, but can’t be sure.
So take that information and process it as you will. I have lived in Republican cities that were within Democratic states for much of my adult life and have never had issues one way or the other. But YMMV.
And I just have to include what they said about bugs:
Regardless of where in the state you live, there are lots of bugs in Florida, and many of them are quite large.
Hahahaha. Lots of bugs and they are “quite large!!!!!!!”
And finally, we have Pros and Cons of The Villages Florida.
Here are their pros:
- 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 has more of those goods, services and other amenities per capita than most places in Florida.
- The crime rates in The Villages is lower.
- You’ll be safer from hurricanes in Florida than most places in Florida.
Ok, we’ve seen these before.
Now on to the cons, some of which they phrase as questions:
- 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.
- Sinkholes (or are they just “depressions”?) have open up in the Villages.
Not much new here either.
FWIW, they end their post with the following conclusions:
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.
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.
At this point I think we’ve seen enough third-party posts to see a pattern. And I’ve addressed the pros and cons they each mention that I hadn’t covered. Now you can make your decision on what you think about The Villages or continue your research. The next step is up to you!
That said, if you’re really interested in exploring The Villages, a great post to read is 50 Things to Think About Before Moving to The Villages.
Our Plans for The Villages
So, what do we think of The Villages and what are our future plans regarding it?
As I write this our plans are a bit up in the air but I can say the following:
- We have a generally good opinion of The Villages as you can probably tell from our review. We liked our time there, my dad now lives there, and my wife’s family either lives nearby (she has a brother in Vero Beach) or visits every winter. So there’s a lot to like about it for us.
- We are investigating renting a place next winter. We may do it or we may not (if we don’t, we’d opt for a couple “bigger” vacations instead — like one to Hawaii and one to the Caribbean). I’ll probably know something within the next month or so and let you know our plans as part of my next retirement update in August (those of you in the forums will find out much sooner).
- As for ever moving there, that’s up in the air now too, but at least it’s up for consideration. Our kids live in Colorado and many of the new places in The Villages are not to our liking (too close to the turnpike), but if either or both of those changed, we would certainly consider moving there full time — especially my wife who can handle the heat far better than I can!
Those are all my thoughts on The Villages for now. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.