story: Tom Kubala photos: Ron Vandevander
“There is no better place for a single person to live than The Villages,” according to Pinky O’Neil, president of The Villages Singles Club. “With approximately 15,000 singles in The Villages and 11 clubs devoted to singles, there are ample opportunities for singles to meet others, develop friendships, and enjoy life.”
The goals of many of the singles clubs are to make singles feel comfortable as single persons, to help each other out as needed, and to form networks. Networking is an important part of their lives as they reach out to others for information on services, doctors, household repairs, and entertainment. Clubs also tend to create extended families.
The activities of some of the groups are unique and special. One such club is The Singles CARES Club. CARES stands for Conversations and Recreational Enjoyment Suggestions. The club’s goal is to have everyone live a full life. They are encouraged to keep a positive attitude while discussing topics that help members get more fun out of every day on their own terms, with enjoyable activities in the area. This is done in small-group table settings as members participate in discussions led by facilitators. Trish Blair, team leader of the group, is a very enthusiastic advocate of the many opportunities to volunteer locally.
“Guest speakers have dropped by the meetings to give brief descriptions of their needs, such as the food pantries, the trainer for therapy dogs, and the leaders of the meals-on-wheels program for animals, to name a few,” says Trish. After the meetings, dinners at local restaurants are a big part of the gatherings.
Katherine Moscatello knows the importance of networking.
“It is great living in The Villages,” says Katherine. “I became single again two years ago, and people have embraced me. It is nice to be with other people who have similar interests. The CARES Club provided me with information on how to help others, as well as details about the Lifelong Learning College.”
Another singles club focuses on cards and board games. Members can learn new games in a friendly and supportive atmosphere, and everyone brings snacks to share. Club leader Tom Doll said, “The club has a core group; we have about 20 singles at each meeting. It is very informal and lots of fun. Some of the more popular games are Mexican Train Dominoes and Jokers.”
Some clubs restrict membership such as the club for widows and widowers. “The club does not accept divorced individuals, and is not set up as a support group,” says Diane Cadd. “The goal is to make friends with those who share common interests.”
The Jewish Singles Club’s purpose is to socialize and make friends. Entertainment is provided at meetings, and day trips in Central Florida are part of the activities.
The Singles Boomers South Club is only open to residents who live south of County Road 466A, and were born between 1946 and 1964. Similarly, the Singles Baby Boomers Club has the same birthdate requirements for membership, but members may reside anywhere in The Villages.
It is apparent many single baby boomers in The Villages are right in line with a 2010 study. According to the Del Webb Baby Boomers Survey, boomers have found a way to increase longevity, combat aging, and most importantly, feeling younger. The study found Boomers engaged in a variety of activities keep their minds sharp, their bodies strong, and their social lives robust, according to Deborah Blake, national marketing director for Del Webb. Details revealed both younger and older baby boomers found their own secrets of the fountain of youth—exercise regularly, hit the books, volunteer, continue working, and get a hobby.
Dancing is important for many Villagers, and there is a club devoted to ballroom dance. Joyce Brinson teaches dance patterns twice a month. Brinson is certified in American-style ballroom with the Dance Educators of America and is an adjudicator for the National Dance Council of America.
“A partner is not required, although many members find dance partners in the club,” Joyce says. “Members attend other dances in the area as a group for practice and to socialize.”
The Villages Singles Club has a dance party meetings twice per month. Block party dances take place at town squares each month for members, and the Sumter Singles Club recently had a sock-hop.
Don Haydu enjoys several clubs. “I attend 4-6 dances a week. It is a main form of entertainment for me,” Don says. “I specialize in East Coast Swing and provide dancing lessons at many events. As a single person in The Villages, I have many choices to participate with others.”
Leo Goulden leads the newest club in The Villages, The Sunny Singles, and dancing is a big part of the group along with meeting new singles, socializing, and having a good time. “One goal of the club is to provide a nice dance atmosphere for single folks, and raise a little money for charity along the way,” says Leo. Music is provided, and the club doesn’t emphasize any particular dance.
However, there is a second goal of this club—social activities for those disabled in some way.
“Instead of staying home with few friends, being isolated, and feeling lonely, members bring some sunshine into the lives of those with disabilities,” Leo says. “The club’s activities are completely free of charge, and open to all disabled residents of The Villages and their caregivers. Club members are actively inviting them to participate.”
Four of the 11 singles clubs have well-designed websites to keep members informed and serve as recruiting tools. They include the activities, meeting schedules, contact information, an application form, and special events. Two clubs have detailed by-laws, one has job descriptions for officers, and one has a newsletter for members. There’s even a club offering a workshop each month to help members with the sometime-challenging world of dating again by learning the “new rules” of dating in a small-group setting.
Not all single people belong to clubs. Dee Anderson participated for about a year. “I love living in The Villages,” she says. “I have many friends and good neighbors, but club meetings with 150 people didn’t make it conducive to getting to know new people. Many other activities in The Villages are difficult for some singles to fit in because the events are geared toward couples and married people.”
Tom DeYoung joined a singles club but never attended a meeting.
“I keep active playing volleyball and pickleball,” he says, “I also play poker once a week. I am alone a lot, and that’s OK. I’m not obligated to anyone.”
Dining together plays a prominent role in the groups. Whether they go out to breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, enjoy snacks, or bringing a covered dish, socializing over a delicious meal is important. Various restaurants in The Villages are venues for formal and informal meetings. Free refreshments are provided at some of the dances, but members bring their own drinks.
Educational activities are important with guest speakers covering current topics. Everyone wants to learn new things, whether it is dance steps, meteorology, golf, or bowling, and they enjoy being entertained. Vocalists and musicians perform on a regular basis.
Travel interest many singles too. One club arranges casino cruises, as well as a seven-day cruise in the western Caribbean. Overnight trips to various Florida locations are also popular. Some clubs have day trips—a day at the races, touring a local town, or a kayak adventure.
With 12 championship courses, and 36 executive courses in The Villages, golf is center-stage for numerous clubs. The American Singles Golf Club Association, one of the oldest groups, meets monthly, and the schedule includes executive golf, priority golf, nine-and-dine golf, and 18-hole golf. There is even a Himalayan putting contest for members. The two single boomers clubs and the Sumter Singles club also golf activities.
Members of the singles groups also enjoy participating in the other sports-related activities. There are bocce, shuffleboard, and pickleball teams as well as groups who walk together. There’s also bowling, billiards, biking, fishing, hiking, softball, snorkeling, and water volleyball.
“There are so many venues that support the life styles of singles,” says Phyliss Heusted. “It shows we are really not alone. Making new friendships through club activities and dancing helps with building and networking.”
Along with the social elements of a club, there’s the connection to people who can help when needed. One club has a “Chicken Soup Program” designed to help members who have sudden or significant medical issues. They help one another during hospital stays, while in rehab, and after the return home. “Living in The Villages is a dream come true. It is a pleasure,” says Bob Palmer. “I play golf three to four times per week, I go dancing three to four times a week, and I play bocce. We treat each other in our club like family, and help one another when the need arises.”
Villagers are a charitable community, and singles are no exception. Their works include food for the children residing in the Ocala Forest, funds for Toys for Tots, and financial gifts to service clubs, to name a few.
Any holiday or special event is the perfect time for a party, and many special events are frequently planned. With the sheer numbers of groups, event, and networking opportunities available, The Villages is a great place to live as a single