It’s no surprise that different generations seek out different things when it comes to where they choose to live. Those at or approaching retirement age may gravitate to active-adult communities that allow them to remain physically fit, connect with other adults, and engage in fun community events. Younger adults and those with small children may prioritize things like accessibility and proximity to resources such as schools, stores, and public parks.
But studies show that age-friendly communities (with accommodations and features that can be used and enjoyed by a variety of generations) often make for happier, healthier residents of all ages. Luckily, many planned communities are actively being built with design choices—including walkable paths and weekly farmers markets—that benefit both older and younger generations alike.
Brambleton is one of those communities. Situated in Ashburn, Va.—in eastern Loudoun County just west of Reston and east of Leesburg and a short drive from Washington, D.C.—Brambleton boasts amenities that have attracted citizens of all ages since it was created in 2000. Through features like the bustling Town Center hub, more than 250 acres of common green space, top-level schools, and no shortage of programs and activities, the community aims to provide residents with myriad opportunities to thrive and connect—whether they want to live in a 55-plus community, or in a neighborhood where you can walk to schools, parks, and the town center.
No shortage of ways to stay active
Brambleton residents—who proudly call themselves Brambletonians—are first and foremost drawn to the community’s amenities, including the many opportunities it offers its residents to stay active. There’s access to a plethora of indoor and outdoor gym equipment; fishing in the nearby Beaverdam Reservoir; jumping into one of many refreshing community pools; teeing up at the 18-hole public Brambleton golf course and driving range; or getting in a quick game at the volleyball or tennis courts, which are all accessible via spacious bike paths (including a designated area for kids to learn how to ride).
This is especially true in Birchwood, a 55-plus community located next to Brambleton that offers amenities and spaces exclusive to residents of the Birchwood neighborhood, like a bike share, a popular clubhouse, live music, swimming pools, and more. (And it’s easy on the eyes: In 2019, the Birchwood community took home the gold award in the Best Landscape and Curb Appeal category at the National Association of Home Builders’ Best of 55-plus Housing Awards).
Birchwood Community Association coordinates activities for its residents, such as concerts, art classes, book clubs, and culinary demonstrations. Classic game lovers can even enjoy regular bunco and trivia nights in the clubhouse, and residents often coordinate group excursions to local wineries, horse farms, and museums as well.
The ability to have such an active lifestyle is one of the many aspects that drew Fred and Cathy Shwaery to the Birchwood community in particular. “You can buy a townhouse anywhere,” said Fred, “but the clubhouse, the fishing pier, the lake, the walking trails, and the shopping center being built here, it’s hard to get that.”
The couple moved to Birchwood in August 2019 and have since fully immersed themselves in the community (as an added bonus, their daughter’s family also lives within biking distance of them in Brambleton). It’s not uncommon to find Fred getting in a quick game of pool in the clubhouse before dinner, or for the couple to join other residents to watch the sunset over the lake. Cathy even joined a group of neighbors who run a resident-coordinated food bank that has, so far, donated more than 1,000 pounds of food to local organizations in need. “It highlights the spirit of the community,” she said.
Everything you need, away from it all
Jess and Josh Singh represent another key type of Brambletonian: the young family. The Singhs weren’t planning on a move, but all that changed in the summer of 2019 when they discovered Brambleton’s customizable, one-of-a-kind townhomes. Upon visiting the area, Josh said that it was “the small-town vibe in a bigger community” that initially drew them in.
But being able to create the four-story home of their dreams with a spectacular outdoor space in the downtown Knutson neighborhood was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. “I loved the thought of being able to come into a design studio and just play,” said Jess. “Building a house from the ground up is an experience that I never thought I would have, so we were incredibly grateful.”
The Singhs also appreciate having access to more rural recreation options, like waterfall hikes, without being in the midst of the hustle and bustle that often comes with living in a bigger city. “The traffic isn’t as bad, and the environment is more relaxed out here,” said Jess.
And with a new baby, the young family appreciates the convenience of having everything from grocery stores and restaurants to doctors’ offices and parks just outside their home. The couple said they’re particularly big fans of their neighborhood Blue Ridge Grill, Sweet Frog, and Good Dog Rocky pet store.
Having those accessible common amenities, such as the Town Center, is a great way for Birchwood residents to interact with the younger Brambleton set when they so choose. While it’s also important and natural for people to want to spend time with those in their same age group, “older adults who are engaged with younger generations report being more optimistic, more physically active, they feel more purpose, and they’re more stimulated.” That’s according to Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, a national organization that advocates for connecting generations and engaging people of all ages.
Friends and neighbors
Butts explained that there are a lot of benefits to creating communities that accommodate those at different stages of life. “They really are the communities of the future,” she said.
Butts added that one of the great things about communities like Brambleton is that they offer a wide variety of activities and common spaces that multiple age groups can enjoy, promoting healthy lifestyles and encouraging connections across generations young and old.
A key draw to Brambleton is that it allows its residents to spend time with people their own age, while also interacting with different generations throughout the community. These kinds of interactions are beneficial for older adults and younger families alike, as 92 percent of Americans believe that engaging in activities with other generations can help reduce loneliness. “When you’re with people of other generations, you can talk about current events, what it’s like to grow up now, what it’s like as you’re growing older—you can have very engaging and stimulating conversations,” Butts said. “It’s helpful for older adults to know that they are continuing to engage and support a younger generation.”
While the pandemic may have residents more homebound than usual for the time being, Brambleton continues to thrive. The community is moving forward with plans for new developments, restaurants, and updated attractions that will be available once life can return to normal, including another retail center called Bram Quarter. Until then, “we don’t have to go far to get to a grocery store, or to get to anything that we need,” said Cathy. “Everything is really right here for us.”