Cladmag4 2017

Page 60

WELLNESS

LIVING WELL A backlash against suburban sprawl, an interest in healthier living and plenty of land have fuelled a growing demand for wellness communities in the US. Jane Kitchen investigates

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round the world, wellness communities are on the rise, with real estate firms, investors and the public seeing the benefits of creating and living in areas dedicated to health. Perhaps nowhere are there quite as many in development – and in existence – as in the US. A combination of entrepreneurial spirit, an abundance of land, an unhealthy population, and a failing healthcare system have all contributed to this burgeoning industry.

The anti-sprawl The US is a massive country, with a network of roads and parking lots rather than rails and trails. As populations have migrated to cities, a race for housing development has meant that countryside and farmland is fast disappearing. Many of the first American wellness communities sprang from a need to protect cherished land. “It’s important to remember that the US has been the epicentre of terrible car-dependent suburban

If you look at the amount of money we spend on healthcare in the US, and the amount of disease, we have you’ll understand why a lot of folks are starting to look for alternatives Steve Nygren, Founder, Serenbe

sprawl for the past 75-plus years, and especially in the past 20 to 30 years,” says Katherine Johnston, senior research fellow at the Global Wellness Institute. “This includes poorly designed, unwalkable suburbs and exurbs; insanely long commutes on congested highways; big-box stores and strip malls; cheap, low-quality, or cookie-cutter housing construction; and poor zoning policies. “As people in America have started to recognise how unhealthy this kind of development is for both people and planet, there’s a growing impetus to try to build things that are better, and to experiment with new types of building.”

Finding healthy connections With more than two in three adults in the US overweight or obese, finding new ways to be healthy is a top priority for many Americans. “We’re pretty sick in America,” says Steve Nygren, founder of Serenbe, a wellness community just outside Atlanta, Georgia. “If you look at the amount of money we spend on healthcare in the US, and the amount of disease we have – most of which is preventable – you’ll understand why a lot of folks are starting to look for alternatives.” There’s also a growing awareness of the benefits of intergenerational living, while the American senior living communities leave much to be desired. Couple this with an ageing and financially flush baby boomer population, and it’s no wonder that the demand for wellness communities is growing dramatically.

A new kind of lifestyle

Wellness communities are designed to encourage physical activity

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Finding connections – whether it’s through community activities, spending time in nature or intergenerational living – is something wellness communities aim to nourish. And that’s becoming more appealing to developers. “The golf course no longer constitutes a lifestyle,” says Brooke Warrick, president of market research firm American Lives. “As the world gets crazier – especially in the US lately – the idea of the sanctuary home and the sanctuary community becomes more important.”

CLAD mag 2017 ISSUE 4


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