In Hamilton, developers are redesigning a 55-plus community for active living, giving it a vacation-like look and feel

The redesign of The Village at St. Elizabeth Mills, a retirement community in Hamilton, is one Canadian answer to an international trend to make retirement living seamless and fun.

By 2020, this 114-acre site along the Niagara Escarpment in Southern Ontario will look like a small European village, complete with alfresco dining along the streets and a weekend farmer’s market.

Its youthful, active vibe is captured by the slogan on the retirement community’s website: “Once you’re over the hill, you start to pick up speed.”

The point of this $800-million redevelopment is to infuse the property with an entertainment feel. To that end, Zest Communities, the developers of St. Elizabeth, enlisted the help of Forrec Ltd., a Canadian company known for its amusement park developments that include Canada’s Wonderland, Germany’s Legoland and Universal Studios Florida, to help give the retirement community an energetic appeal.

“The over-55 consumer is demanding this entertainment lifestyle,” says Eric O’Rourke, Forrec’s director of resorts. “They want something that moves away from the ‘in a rocking chair, waiting out their golden years in a small one-bedroom apartment’ style [of aging]. They want to program their life as if they were on vacation.”

Forrec’s design bolsters its concept as a theme park for active aging: Residents will be offered access to the health club, complete with indoor pool, spa and dance studio; a choice of five restaurants in the town square; an array of classes and activities, from golf to yoga, and an outdoor entertainment hub which would include staging for weekly entertainment.

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