Augusta-area retirement communities grow with senior population

When Charlie and Pat Moye decided the time was right to downsize from their 3,500-square-foot home in West Lake and enjoy the benefits of retirement, they didn’t move far to set up their new life.


In March 2012, the Moyes packed up their belongings and settled into a new 2,100-square-foot duplex cottage in Brandon Wilde.

The Evans retirement community spans more than 100 acres and ranges from apartment-style residences and private cottages to assisted-living centers.

“What we’ve really enjoyed is we’ve met a lot of people in Brandon Wilde who we might not have met otherwise,” said Charlie Moye, 77. “People from the area as well as a lot of people from outside the area.”

The couple represent a growing demographic, and companies providing housing options for the 55-and-older crowd are finding it advantageous to build or enhance facilities across the area.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 estimates, the population of residents 65 and older has increased since 2000 from 8 percent to 11 percent in Columbia County, 10.8 percent to 11.8 percent in Richmond County and 12.8 percent to 16.5 percent in Aiken County.

Pat and Perry O’Rourk moved into the Wymberly retirement neighborhood in Martinez – twice.

The couple first moved into the manufactured home community in 1997 when they married. They moved out four years later, but in March the O’Rourks were ready to call Wymberly home again.

Pat O’Rourk, 75, said the development grew while they were away, but the congenial atmosphere stayed the same.

“We would never move out of Augusta unless it was a family emergency or something,” said O’Rourk, who is from New Jersey. “I love the South. People are just so nice, and they say hello and God bless.”

The O’Rourks also prefer sunshine to snow shoveling and like the low cost of living.

Southern draw

While Florida and Arizona continue to be perennial favorites for retirees, the Southeast has grown in popularity, said Annette Fuller, the managing editor of Where to Retire magazine.

“We’re now re-assessing and doing more than ever in the Southeastern area because that has become a trend,” Fuller said.

The featured neighborhood in the magazine’s November/December issue will be Evans’ Riverwood Plantation – with a focus on the retiree-friendly Amberly section. Where to Retire also named Aiken’s Woodside Plantation, which blends older and younger residents, one of the country’s 50 best master-planned communities in 2013.

In addition to a warm climate, inexpensive living and friendly neighbors, Fuller said the medical community, Thurmond Lake and golfing options are big draws for the Augusta area. Georgia also has favorable income taxes for seniors 65 and older, she said.

William Harrison, a real estate lecturer at the University of South Carolina, said studies have shown retirees unsatisfied with a Florida lifestyle are leaving the Sunshine State and migrating to other coastal areas and places situated near lakes. Quality medical care and lake proximity are paramount in retirees’ relocation decisions, he said.

The Moyes didn’t consider moving into a retirement community until they visited a friend’s cottage at Brandon Wilde.

A few months later they signed a contract on their two-bedroom home in The Preserve.

Now that the Moyes have been in their duplex for 1 ½ years, they’ve realized the myriad social outlets outside their front door.

Charlie Moye likes his yoga/Pilates workout classes inside Brandon Wilde’s fitness center, while his wife enjoys the morning glories she’s planted in a community garden.

Currently in the works at Brandon Wilde is an updated gym and indoor pool.

The O’Rourks enjoy social gatherings at Wymberly. The 215-home neighborhood, which offers a pool, clubhouse and par-3 golf course, is reserved for residents who are at least 55 years old.

“There’s always something going on every night, whether it be Bible study or card games or darts,” Pat O’Rourk said. “They have something going on all the time, so you’re not just sitting.”

Coming soon

The area’s newest residential retirement accommodations in the works are 136 upscale apartments at Marshall Square in Evans.

Nebraska-based Resort Lifestyle Communities is investing between $25 million and $30 million in the three-story building, its 12th such facility that caters to adults 55 and older.

“They’re expensive buildings,” said Matt Moude, the company’s chief financial officer and general counsel. “You’ve got to get it right.”

When looking at the Augusta market, Moude said he saw a lack of supply to meet demand and a need for more affordable options.

The surrounding area, he said, is also rich in health care providers, restaurants and public services.

“We have a number of our residents that will have pets,” Moude said. “There’s a walking park there. The library is close by. Subjectively, it’s a beautiful area. It’s growing.”

Plans for the development also include a 150-seat theater, valet parking, enclosed garages, a salon and a gym.

While rent prices haven’t been set, the company tends to come in at the middle of the market, Moude said.

Construction should begin in early October and be complete by October 2014.

About 20 percent of the units have been reserved, Moude said.

Another senior project, a 65,000-square-foot, two-story assisted-living facility, is nearing completion on Evans to Locks Road.

Stephen Strominger, who directs Aiken County’s Planning and Development department, predicts that the upward trend in retirement communities will continue as the economy bounces back.

A few projects in Aiken County, a 55-plus gated section in Trolley Run Station and a nursing care home off Hitchcock Parkway, were placed on hold in late 2007 because of the recession, Strominger said.

“I think a lot of these will come back once the economy picks back up and stays steady,” he said.

Strominger is awaiting building permits for a 12-house assisted health care campus on Trolley Line Road in Graniteville. Each facility would provide around-the-clock nursing care and an extra room for spousal living accommodations, Strominger said.

As for Charlie Moye, the retiree said he can’t see himself living anywhere other than his cottage in Brandon Wilde.

“We have no plans to relocate from here,” Moye said. “We’ve made a long-term investment.”

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