Amenities in the island town are widely varied, organization says.
Longboaters have known it for a long time, but now it’s semi-official: Longboat Key offers one of the best senior social scenes in Florida.
A study by SmartAsset, a financial and technology company, ranked Longboat Key the sixth best in Florida, behind Naples, Sun City Center, Venice, Plantation and The Villages in terms of recreational and social factors. The population of the Key is 62.7% seniors, but that doesn't necessarily translate into full-time retirement.
“In the summer you get the place to yourself in a way,” said Longboat resident Mike Purdum. “There’s still tons of activity and even more in season. Sometimes you get to the end of season and it’s like, whew, now we get to relax a bit.”
The study considers the access to recreational amenities, medical facilities and other factors. And while the island scored low on the availability of doctors offices, that's changing.
The Paradise Center will have specialized doctors on hand in the new year with their new center, under construction and development on Bay Isles Road. There will be a full medical clinic in the building, like a shared suite with a rotating cast of specialists, including a primary care doctor three days a week, a dermatologist on Fridays and a hearing specialist, said director Suzy Brenner.
“We know that these specialities are the most important out here,” said Brenner. “We’re also working on having a lab for blood draws, so people don’t have to go to labs on the mainland to get basic blood tests done.”
On the recreational and social side, the survey ranked high availability of such organizations as condo associations, the Paradise Center, the Longboat Key Education Center, yacht clubs and marinas, tennis and golf, community-service groups and environmental organizations.
“One of the biggest issues for seniors across the country is isolation and loneliness,” said Brenner. “People that spend too much time alone who don’t want to, it causes mental and physical illness. It can add to cognitive decline.”
Brenner works to provide fun and enjoyable activities that encourage the senior population to stay active, including workout and yoga classes, volunteer opportunities, art classes and discussions among attendees.
“Many people who come here are trying to re-establish their life and friends,” said Purdum. “People are not trying to hide. There’s a community here.”
Some, like the Purdums, take full advantage of Sarasota’s arts and culture scene, especially the theater. Recently, the Purdums were getting ready to meet a group of friends to go to the mainland for lunch and an art exhibit.
“It’s always nice coming home,” Purdum said.
And retirement isn't the only option.
Sidney and Troy Turner picked Longboat Key as their local paradise while still deep in their careers. Their house on GMD backs up to a quiet stretch of beach when they want to unwind from the busy schedule they keep on the Key. They moved to Longboat after living in California, where the taxes were terrible and it was just “crazy,” Sidney said. For context, the lower (when compared to the national average) tax burden on retirees in Longboat Key was another factor in the town’s high ranking.
“We’ve never lived in a community where so many people volunteer,” said Sidney. “To be around like-minded people is nice.”
Sidney works with the Rotary Club, programming events to give back to the community and is sometimes shocked by how generous the residents are.
“The residents here really care,” said Sidney. “We would way rather be in a community with strong opinions than an apathetic community.”
There are the basics here, paired with a population that makes it feel more like a small town than a touristy beach town, said Brenner.
“The bank is here, there’s a grocery store. You can do everything you want,” said Purdum. “There’s not really anything I’d change.”