We select the best places for Masters athletes to live, to stay in shape and to stay competitive - well past retirement By Dan Rabin

If you're reading this magazine, you're an active adult. Probably a very active adult. Retirement is in sight - or perhaps you've already crossed that bridge - and you're thinking of relocating. Living near neighborhood schools with an easy commute to the office may have been important in the past, but at this point in your life you're more interested in access to workout facilities, a lap pool or running and biking trails. If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. In a 2005 baby boomer survey commissioned by Pulte Homes (parent company of active adult community developer Del Webb), almost half of those surveyed said they planned to purchase a new home when they retire. Many also cited the importance of maintaining a physically active lifestyle in their retirement years. "We've evolved over the years," explains Caryn Klebba, a spokesperson for Pulte Homes. "The average homeowner in a Del Webb community in 1960 was certainly different than the homeowners today. They're much more active now. Lifestyle directors are programming for physical fitness activities, whether it's aerobics, or hiking or running."

In years past, the well-traveled road to a lifestyle of leisure often led to the fair skies of Florida, Arizona or California. The Sun Belt remains a popular retreat, but other destinations are appearing on the retirement radar. Of those who plan to relocate, many will choose to remain close to their relations, according to Pulte's research. Nearly half of the respondents to the baby boomer survey said they want their retirement home to be no more than three hours away from family. Developers have taken notice. Master-planned communities targeting the expanding population of 55 and older are springing up near metropolitan areas such as Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, Detroit, Denver and Seattle. A growing number of those willing to move greater distances are choosing locations not traditionally associated with retirement living. Resort communities in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere are seeing an influx of older adults.

Once considered tourist destinations or second home locations, towns like Durango, Colo., and Park City, Utah, are attracting recreation- minded retirees drawn to the outstanding offerings of outdoor activity. Whether staying near familiar environs, or venturing to more distant locales, an increasing number of boomers on the move are favoring master-planned developments over conventional communities. These were once called "retirement communities," but "active adult communities" has become the preferred term, as it more accurately depicts the lifestyle of its residents.

In 1960, Del Webb opened the first Sun City near Phoenix. The age-restricted development offered retirees resort-like amenities including a golf course and recreation center. An innovative concept at the time, its success triggered a wave of similar developments. Today's retirees are a different breed than their predecessors, however. They're retiring earlier, and are healthier and more physically active than the previous generation. They view their post-career years not as a time to slow down, but as an opportunity to devote more time to personal interests. For many, this includes a healthy dose of athletic endeavors. Developers of active adult communities have adapted accordingly, providing an amazing array of fitness facilities to entice a lucrative market of potential homebuyers. Recreation centers with workout facilities and swimming pools are commonplace. Golf was more popular with the parents of recent retirees, but it remains a draw for many folks, especially where it can be played year-round. Immaculate courses are often part of the master-planned landscape. Some developments have their own softball leagues and sponsor competitive teams in a variety of sports.

Sun City West, built two decades after the first Sun City opened a few miles away, has spent $70 million on recreational amenities. Four activity centers - including the largest in the state - contain racquetball courts, bowling lanes, ballrooms and indoor tracks. Golfers can choose from nine courses. The 50,000 residents of The Villages, an active adult community near Orlando, Fla., have access to a mind-boggling selection of athletic activities. There are numerous neighborhood recreation centers, miles of paved multi use trails, 60 dedicated pickleball courts (an offshoot of tennis), a softball complex and more than two dozen golf courses.

Even what may be considered more traditional over- 55 developments, such as Willow Valley Retirement Communities in Lancaster, Pa., are angling to attract active older adults. Willow Valley was a sponsor of the National Senior Games, which were held in June in Pittsburgh. The communities' Web site boasts a "world-class fitness and aquatics center." Similarly, Mather Lifeways, a not-for-profit organization based in Evanston, Ill., states that it is dedicated to helping Americans find "ways to age well." The group's main endeavor has been operating traditional retirement communities on Chicago's North Shore. Now, Mather Lifeways is building Splendido, a retirement community in Tucson, Ariz., that features a pool and fitness facility in an effort to attract active adults.

Bellingham, Washington
"The best of all worlds" might describe the setting of the Pacific Northwest community of Bellingham, Wash. Sitting on the shores of Puget Sound, 90 minutes north of Seattle and an hour south of Vancouver, B.C., Bellingham is close to cities, shoreline, forests, lakes and mountains, providing an extraordinary variety of urban amenities and recreational opportunities. The nearby San Juan Islands are among the country's premier sea kayaking destinations. Sailing, hiking, bicycling, golf, snowboarding and skiing all have a devoted following. To the east looms Mount Baker, used by mountaineers to train for ascents of Alaska's Mount McKinley. Beyond the snow-capped peak sits North Cascades National Park, often referred to as the North American Alps. The shops and restaurants of Bellingham's brick-and-cobble historic district are a popular draw. On the nearby waterfront, ships leave on whale-watching trips and ferries depart for the San Juans, Canada and Alaska.

Bend, Oregon Forget the notion that the entire Northwest is perpetually cool and rainy. The central Oregon city of Bend sits in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, on the dry east side. With Portland's soggy skies 160 miles to the northwest, Bend basks in 300 days of sunshine annually. Once a lumber-intensive outpost, Bend has been a town in transition since the closing of the sawmills over the past few decades.Today, the expanding community of 65,000 attracts outdoor enthusiasts who come to hike, bike, camp, fish, ski, golf, rock-climb and raft in the nearby mountains, forests, streams and high desert. The Northwest's premier ski area, Mt. Bachelor, is only 20 miles away. Climbers from around the world defy gravity at nearby Smith Rocks State Park, while the resorts of Black Butte Ranch, Eagle Crest and Sunriver are top-notch golf retreats.

SunRiver St. George, Utah Nestled in Southwest Utah's dramatic red rock country, on the outskirts of St. George, the master-planned community of SunRiver St. George is a picturesque playground for active adults. The 600-home development includes a golf course, tennis courts and recreation center with a swimming pool, fitness facilities, dance studio, library and computer terminals. St. George hosts the annual Huntsman World Senior Games and is about two hours from Las Vegas. Warm, dry weather and dependable sunshine provide year-round access to 10 golf courses and a 35-mile network of paved biking/walking trails. In the surrounding environs, outdoor recreation and spectacular scenery are served up in copious quantities with world-class hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing in close proximity. There is easy access to spectacular getaways including the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef National Parks.

Sun City West, Arizona "This country isn't fit for raising anything but lizards," a rancher once said of the desert outside Phoenix. Developer Del Webb had a different perspective, and the area is now home to tens of thousands of active adults 55 and older. Modeled after the original Sun City, which opened in 1960, Sun City West sprang to life about two decades later at a location formally called Lizard Acres and is now the site of 16,000 homes. Athletic activities abound at Sun City West, which is about 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix. Four recreation centers contain workout rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, bowling lanes, racquet/handball courts, ballrooms, tennis courts and softball facilities. In addition, nine golf courses are among the $70 million worth of recreation facilities that have been developed in the master-planned community.

Sun City Huntley, Illinois As the first Sun City built in the Midwest, Sun City Huntley is intended to appeal to the growing population of individuals 55 and older who are attracted to the active adult community lifestyle but don't want to move far from family, friends or work. The development, located an hour from downtown Chicago, will eventually contain about 5,700 homes on the 2,200-acre site. Like the Sun Belt communities after which it was modeled, Sun City Huntley is rich in resources for the physically active. The property gained attention from the golfing community for its five-star public course. There are outdoor facilities for softball, tennis and sand volleyball. In two recreation centers, residents can walk or jog on an indoor track, swim in indoor or outdoor pools and work out in a state-of-the-art fitness center.

Boulder, Colorado It's been suggested that Boulder marches to the beat of a different drummer. More accurately, this progressive, fitness-obsessed city runs, hikes, bikes, climbs and plays to its own rhythm. The city's sensibilities are perhaps best exemplified by the fact that following occasional winter snowstorms, bike paths are plowed but residential streets are not. Situated at the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills, the home to the University of Colorado offers its 100,000 residents an outstanding diversity of arts, entertainment, nationally acclaimed restaurants and outdoorsy activities for both hard-core athletes and weekend warriors. With a supportive community, dependable year-round sunshine and an extensive network of open space trails, it's not surprising that numerous world-class athletes have come to Boulder to live or train. Denver is a close-but-not-too-close 30-minute drive, and the resorts of Winter Park, Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail are all within 100 miles.

Madison, Wisconsin Known as the Berkeley of the Midwest, Madison, Wis., is proud of its cultural diversity, progressive attitudes and year-round outdoor recreation possibilities. The town balances all of this with its appealing beer-and-bratwurst sensibilities. Situated on the shores of four scenic lakes, Madison contains over 200 parks and has been cited as one of the country's top walking, biking and paddling communities. The locals are devoted outdoor aficionados. Not surprisingly, water and ice sports - including boating, swimming, water skiing, ice sailing, ice skating, and ice fishing - are popular. Cross-country ski trails proliferate in parks close to town. Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin. The school's 40,000 students represent a cultural cross-section. Madisonians are fanatic sports fans, earning the city the reputation as one of the country's top college sports towns.

Asheville, North Carolina Those who venture to the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina may be surprised to find one of the South's most vibrant cities nestled in those hills. Asheville resides within the half-million acre Pisgah National Forest. The Appalachian Trail is nearby, as is Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the United States east of the Mississippi River. The scenic 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway passes through town. With postcard-perfect views and a comfortable year-round climate, Asheville exudes a laid-back attitude where individuals of divergent lifestyles have found a niche. The area's natural beauty and geographic diversity have attracted scores of outdoor adventurers who hike, bike, climb and camp in the East's highest mountains, and raft and fish in nearby streams. Asheville's revitalized downtown has scores of galleries and outdoor cafes and contains the highest concentration of Art Deco architecture outside of Miami.

Portland, Maine In the invigorating salt-laced air of coastal New England, Portland, Maine, attracts those with a taste for sand and sea. Sitting on a peninsula in island-studded Casco Bay, Portland's outdoor offerings include sailing, sea kayaking, swimming, surfing and strolling the sandy beaches of southern Maine. Throughout the city, an expanding network of multi use paved and dirt pathways lead walkers, joggers and bikers along the scenic shoreline and through wooded parks. Climbers and skiers head inland to the nearby White Mountains. The modestly sized state capital of 66,000 offers an impressive array of big-city diversions. Portland boasts a thriving arts scene, working waterfront and one of the country's most successful revitalized warehouse districts. Old Port's narrow cobbled streets are lined with Victorian brick buildings, shops, brewpubs and scores of restaurants.

The Villages, Florida "Life at The Villages is like being on a permanent vacation," claim the promoters of this massive, master-planned, active adult Florida community about 55 miles northwest of Orlando and Disney World - which is what the grandchildren will care about. With a bigger-is-better philosophy toward development, The Villages is home to 50,000 residents in 27,000 homes on 25,000 acres spanning three counties. The master-planned metropolis operates its own radio and television stations and publishes its own newspaper. For many residents, athletics are a major component of daily life. Neighborhood recreation centers contain pools and workout facilities and offer a variety of exercise classes. There is a softball complex, miles of multi use trails, 60 pickleball courts, bowling alleys and even polo fields. Golfers can choose from over two dozen courses.