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America's Snowbirds are Getting Younger and More Active

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February 28, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

A generational change is underway in the nation’s snowbird population.

You can hear it in the music that’s being played at RV parks and resorts across the Sunbelt.

Sounds of the “Big Bands” are increasingly being replaced by the sounds of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Foreigner.

And while Sunbelt RV resorts still have plenty of bridge tables, today’s health conscious snowbirds are more likely to engaged in water aerobics or water volleyball, playing tennis or bocce ball or riding their bicycles or hiking on nature trails, according to a news release from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), the Denver-based trade association that represents the outdoor hospitality industry.

“The Baby Boomers have arrived,” said Paul Bambei, ARVC president and CEO. “And RV parks and resorts are responding by providing a greater variety of activities and entertainment. Some have even established health and wellness centers.”

Art Martin, activities director for the Fountain of Youth Spa and RV Resort in Niland, Calif., has seen the generational change unfold before his own eyes. “When I took over as activities director 15 years ago,” he said, “we had 20 activities a week. Now we have 86 activities a week.”

This winter, Golden Village Palms RV Resort in Hemet, Calif. is offering more than 200 different activities, plus a greater variety of activities and entertainment than most small towns, including dances, dinner shows and every flavor of musical entertainment, from country western bands to Mariachi and Flamenco and visiting bands that pay tribute to groups ranging from the Rat Pack to the Eagles.

“We are getting a lot of new RVers because of the concerts and events,” said resort manager Michael Carle. “They definitely want to be active.”

So far this winter, Golden Village Palms has filled its 300-seat ballroom with bands that have paid tribute not only to The Rat Pack, but to the Beatles and the Eagles. On March 19, The Four Tops Revue will perform “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch,” “Baby I need your lovin,” “I’ll Be There” and many other songs that thrilled audiences worldwide.

Other special events have included an authentic Brazilian carnival event with food, music, dancing and a drawing to win free roundtrip airfare to Brazil from Copa Airlines. A car show and beer tasting event is scheduled for March 3; jazz, with cognac tasting on March 4 and a fiesta dinner show on March 9, with beer and tequila tasting, salsa dance lessons as well as a diverse lineup of performers including Mariachi musicians and Flamenco dancers.

The entertainment isn’t limited to nighttime, either, since the Golden Village Palms offers more than 200 different classes, including woodcarving, stained glass and cooking. Many of the classes are exercise oriented.

“Just today,” Carle said, “we have sand volleyball, water volleyball, water aerobics, Zumba, meditation, Tai Chi and low impact aerobics. We’re trying to offer fun ways for people to stay limber and stay healthy.”

Some RV resorts are also offering onsite spa and wellness center services.

Water aerobics at the Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course in Borrego Springs, Calif.

Consider the Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course in Borrego Springs, Calif. Three winters ago, the resort opened a wellness center led by Anna Morris, a holistic health practitioner and expert in Ayurvedic massage who trained with Deepak Chopra and Dr. Vasant Lad, two of the nation’s premier experts in holistic health medicine. Morris is joined by Amy Baay, a licensed massage practitioner, and Betty Patterson, a licensed acupuncturist who also does herbal medicine and teaches classes in Qi Gong, an energy building exercise with slow body movements.

The Fountain of Youth Spa also has massage therapists, who complement the resort’s therapeutic exercise classes in water aerobics, Tai Chi and Yoga. Jolene Wade, the park’s managing partner, said these amenities are not only attracting snowbirds, but adults in their 30s and 40s who need a little “limbering up.”

Wade also offers onsite beauty stylists as a way to increase the resort’s appeal to snowbirds as well as working professionals from nearby coastal metropolitan areas who could benefit from a little pampering.

In Tucson, Ariz., park operator George O’Leary has hired a new activities director for each of his Rincon Country RV Resorts. He has also expanded his parks’ offering of activities, including classes and professional live entertainment, such as comedy shows, celebrity impersonators and musical entertainment. Classes include arts and crafts, woodcarving, pottery and ceramics as well as lapidary and silversmithing. The resorts also offer periodic seminars on health related topics as well as potlucks, wine tastings, dances and other social events.

Florida Parks Active

The new indoor pool and wellness center at Sun N Fun RV Resort in Sarasota, Fla.

Across the country, The Great Outdoors RV Resort in Titusville, Fla. also has an acupuncturist and massage therapist on site, as well as a beauty salon, all of which complement the park’s classes in Zumba, Yoga and Pilates.

Judy Willeke, who co-owns TGO Realty, which sells and rents sites at the resort, said the resort’s acupuncturist and massage therapist previously had their own offices in the Titusville area, but demand for their services was so strong they both found it worthwhile to move their practices on to the resort. One of the park’s residents is also a retired nutritionist, who now performs house calls to help the park’s guests keep in health.

The growth in activities and entertainment is helping many RV resorts to increase their occupancies this winter season.

Tim Deputy, general manager of Sun N Fun RV Resort in Sarasota, said his business is way up from last year’s figures, with a 20 percent increase in RV site rentals and a 27 percent increase in park model rentals. He said the park is “fully booked” for February and March.

He attributed the increase in part to the resort’s new indoor pool and wellness center, which was completed in time for the winter season. “It’s just insane,” Deputy said. “I’ve never seen so many people working out in the resort.”

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