After living in both Edmonton and Vancouver for years, Denise Tembellini and her husband had established dear friendships in both cities. When it came time to choose a retirement spot, climate and amenities were just some of their considerations. So, too, was having a social network.
The couple loved the idea of Okanagan living, but they knew few people in the region. That all changed when in 2015 they moved to Predator Ridge. Tambellini has met new friends on the golf course and biking trails, in the gym and restaurants. “You don’t know what community is until you come here,” Tambellini says. “All it takes is one trip to the fitness centre… Everybody’s so welcoming.”
Tambellini started a painting group, and one for beginner golfers cheekily called Nine, Wine and Dine. “The first season we had about 12 women; the next year we had 100. The sense of community here is very, very special and very rare,” she says.
Among the biggest fears about moving to a new place are losing existing social fabric and having trouble establishing new friendships. In response, many planned communities offer activities, excursions, gatherings and other ways for residents to develop the social connections that are vital to a healthy, happy lifestyle.
Predator Ridge, for instance, boasts more than 1,000 programmed events a year for homeowners, from bocce ball and hiking groups to winery dinners and theatre outings. Bear Mountain Resort, Fairwinds and Crowne Isle Resort & Golf Community are just a few other B.C. developments that are building social structure as meticulously as landscaping and floor plans.
“To pick up and relocate is a big decision,” says Brad Pelletier, senior vice president, Okanagan, Wesbild, the company behild Predator Ridge. “In a community like this, the last thing someone buys is the house. It’s about what an active and enriched life they can have with like-minded people.” He cites the community’s parks and trails, golf and fitness facilities, plus culinary and cultural events as “the forum for people to interact.”
Realtor Julia Abraham has found community at Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria, where she lives with her husband and three children. Having recreational opportunities like golf, tennis and mountain biking in their backyard was important to the whole family, but what has struck her has been the way friendships have formed so effortlessly. Whether it’s taking in Friday-night wine flights or live music, or popping in for coffee at the on-site Mountain Market, she has found social opportunities all around her.
“I have met many great friends,” Abraham says. “There are so many events that provide endless opportunity for participation, events when the community really comes together. I feel the combination of an active and amenity-rich community creates a really welcoming neighbourhood.”
By Gail Johnson