Buena Vida: Everyone's Retirement Should Feel This Good
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A look at a week in the life of Buena Vida Estates residents Linda and Don Lees paints a picture of just how good retirement living can be.
Each day brings new opportunities for the Lees and their neighbors at this unique Continuing Care Retirement Community in West Melbourne to enjoy life to the fullest. The couple were already familiar with the Buena Vida lifestyle when they moved to the main campus for a few months while awaiting the completion of their newly constructed cottage home.
“My mother lived at Buena Vida for 10 years,” Don said. “She first moved to independent living, but later needed assisted and memory care before she passed away in 1998. We chose Buena Vida because of her experience. We didn’t want our kids to have to worry about us and take care of us. Here, we feel very secure.”
The feeling of security begins with the opportunity to focus on fun rather than routine chores.
“We pay our monthly fee and don’t have to worry about paying all the bills we had as homeowners,” Linda said.
Their two-bedroom home at The Cottages is one of 24 well-crafted units surrounded by trees, walking paths and a lake — a tranquil environment teeming with birds, turtles and koi created by master landscape architect Susan Hall Landscape Architecture. Click here to read a feature on Susan, who is responsible for the outdoor design of some of the county’s most impressive residences.
From this well-appointed home base, the Lees plan their robust schedule of activities.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Linda heads to work out with fitness instructor Joann Puglia. Weekly line dancing also keeps Linda on her toes.
“Our exercise classes work the body and the mind, and are also fun,” Puglia said.
Don, who is still rehabilitating from a heart attack, prefers exercising solo, so he opts to use the state-of-the-art training equipment in the spacious exercise room on Buena Vida’s main campus or to do laps in the pools on the main campus and at The Cottages.
“The main campus has exercise equipment that rivals Health First’s,” Don said.
The Lees haven’t tried it yet, but a pickleball court also awaits, as does bocce, shuffleboard and billiards.
On cool nights, they may gather around the firepit for conversation and grill burgers at the outdoor grill.
When it is time for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the Lees have plenty of choices. Buena Vida residents can opt for a variety of meal plans that include all meals or a selection. The couple often cook at home or dine with friends at the Buena Vida pub.
“You can go in any time to get a pub meal,” Don said. “The Pub has quite a menu, from salads to sandwiches.”
Should they wish a more formal dining experience, they can head to the elegant restaurant, where a chef-curated menu awaits them. Buena Vida executive chef John Delaney and his culinary team creates most courses and components from scratch. The menu aims to be plant-forward and sustainable, and residents are offered a daily choice of beef, chicken or fish for protein, plus two veggies and starches and an assortment of fresh fruits. Plant-based protein such as black bean burgers adds alternatives. Desserts include sugar-free options.
All menus must meet the approval of nutritionist Diane Hall, who strictly follows USDA dietary guidelines that provide a balanced, healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meats.
When the Lees are not in the mood for cooking or a sit-down restaurant dinner, they just ask for takeout.
“We have the option to pick up dinner and bring it home,” Don explained.
On Wednesday afternoons, the Lees head to the community center at The Cottages for social time with neighbors. The camaraderie may include card games and plenty of conversation. The Cottages’ community center also is available for special events like family reunions.
“Our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids love it here,” Linda said.
Should the family wish to visit for an extended period (up to 30 days), they can stay with the Lees or reserve one of two hotel rooms the facility makes available to guests.
You can often find the Lees on “Main Street,” as the hub of activities is known. The Pub is there, as is the General Store, the hair salon and the activity room.
“It’s one room after another of activities,” Linda said, noting that the library is one of their favorite spots.“We even have a librarian, and if you want a particular book, she will get it for you from the public library.”
Because faith plays an important role in the Lees’ life, Linda enjoys the weekly prayer meetings. Don joins her at the chapel, also on Main Street, for Sunday vesper services led by different guest pastors. On Tuesdays, it is time for Bible studies, led by Reverend Elmer Floyd.
The chapel, which includes an organ and a piano, was built through the Buena Vida Foundation, of which Don is a board member. The Foundation, which meets regularly, also helps residents who may be experiencing financial difficulties and provides scholarships for employees and their children.
In the early evenings, the Lees migrate to the sunroom, where a grand piano, purchased by the Foundation, often attracts a crowd for impromptu concerts.
“Buena Vida is focused on maintaining our residents’ wellbeing,” activities director Steve Caiati said. “Our Lifelong Wellness program promotes physical, mental, intellectual wellness through the aging process.”
The Lees are still comfortable driving, but they know that if the time arrives when they hesitate to get behind the wheel, Buena Vida’s well-equipped van will be there to take them to appointments, to shopping and even to special events like theater and dining out.
Medical Peace of Mind
Outstanding medical care, overseen by nursing director Glenda Mazza and medical director Dr. Geetha Priyanka, is another reason the Lees selected Buena Vida for their home. When they both came down with COVID-19, they realized how wise a choice they had made.
“We really love the nursing care,” Linda said. “The nurse came to visit us every day.”
Although the Lees have their own primary provider, they could opt for Buena Vida’s. The facility also offers visits from dermatologists, audiologists, psychologists, massage therapists, and podiatrists.
“Our residents have the convenience of seeing their doctors without having to drive to the doctor’s office,” said Dr. Priyanka. “At Buena Vida Estates, we want to ensure our residents have the best medical care when they need it.”
Nursing care is available 24/7.
“Our nurses communicate to the medical professionals and provide valuable insight as to the patients’ daily activities and overall health status,” said nursing director Glenda Mazza. “Medical staff agree that having this valuable insight and the consistent follow-up improves the patients’ overall health.”
Because they are out and about so much, the Lees don’t own a dog, but they could add a canine to the family, since Buena Vida provides a fenced dog park.
Executive director Karin Lautenschlager notes that Buena Vida is more than a comfortable, safe place in which to live. It is a lifestyle.
“Our philosophy is built on choices, making it easy for residents to live the good life,” she said.
Linda Lees couldn’t agree more.
“We never had second thoughts about moving here,” she said. “It’s perfect for our new adventures.”
Buena Vida Estates
2129 West New Haven Ave.
West Melbourne, FL 32904
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