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Don's report archive

by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

Quality Of Life And Residential Wellness: What To Look For In Master-Planned Communities

Thursday March 17, 2005

Wake up to find out
that you are the eyes of the world
but the heart has its beaches
its homeland and thoughts of its own.
Wake now, discover that you
are the song that the morning brings
but the heart has its seasons
its evenings and songs of its own.

Eyes of the World by Robert Hunter (and the Grateful Dead)

Community Wellness

Think of a resort-like suburban setting with a mix of homes, linear parks, community gardens and a smattering of commercial, work, and educational facilities that evoke a sense of identity. Does the planned community you imagined elicit a host of such attractive images? Many do, but clearly some are more attractive to wellness seekers than others. What makes a remarkable planned community, a special cut above the rest? I think the difference is, in good measure, a conscious orientation to quality of life, both in the planning and the realization of such a vision over time. Here and there, a few planned communities connect the needs of modern life to serene, inspirational possibilities of nature--and in a variety of ways offer a setting conducive to healthful living. When these ingredients are intermixed and nurtured, wellness goals can soar beyond personal ambitions to even loftier images of peace and transformation amid cultural diversity and sustainable development, reinforcing best possibilities for all who settle there. 

Then the question becomes: Can degrees of places be identified, communicated and assessed? I believe so--this essay suggests a few tentative images to help you ponder your feelings about residential wellness and quality of life, particularly in master-planned communities.

At least 50 million Americans live in master-planned communities governed by 260,000 autonomous owner associations. (Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, the American Housing Survey and IRS Statistics of Income Reports.) Owner groups function as governing agents and management bodies, businesses and shapers of community life. In addition to traditional functions (maintaining austerity measures and insuring compliance with and conformity to regulations, for examples) many contemporary associations in master-planned settings have adopted some "higher" purposes. These include advancing harmony and wellness lifestyles. The latter involves supporting conditions physical and otherwise that promote enjoyable, high quality, vibrant lifestyles.

How might a prospective buyer assess the extent to which a master planned community successfully celebrates quality of life values? The following short self-assessment quiz offers a few indicators to look for to gain a sense of how well a master-planned area delivers on the wellness promise. The quiz is designed to assess the place--and how well it evokes positive feelings. It is inspired by ideas about the best history of settlements, whether they be cities, hamlets, villages, camps, caves, cairns or other forms of human habitations. 

Well Community Questionnaire

  1. Do you feel secure walking or biking along attractive, clearly marked public and private spaces, such as trails, bike lanes or streets with little traffic?

  2. Can you allow your children or grandchildren to play outside without direct supervision, confident in the relative safety of the neighborhood?

  3. Are there design elements that render the community easily identifiable and represent a source of pride, such as an historic structure, public squares, activity centers, a notable piece of art, a waterside gathering area or other recognizable symbols of place? Or, can one take a certain delight in gardens, planned and unexpected, natural and artfully orchestrated? 

  4. Does the neighborhood help you to stay in the moment, that is, derive pleasure by experiencing a degree of peace and happiness from your surroundings? 

  5. Does the environment offer a sense of community (for example, people really get to know one another, feel as if they belong and care for each other in times of need) while serving as a theater of sorts for spontaneous encounters and challenges?

  6. Do those who live here communicate about and otherwise share images, visions or hopes for future enhancements of the community as it evolves over time (a reflection of pride in being invested in the neighborhood)? 

  7. Do most folks in the area seem to have a positive outlook? Specifically, would you say they appear to enjoy their work, celebrate their accomplishments, manifest a "we can do it" attitude and bring out the best in each other? 

  8. Do you believe there is harmony in the landscape (open space, vegetation, water management, for instance) in that resources are conserved with the long-term health and happiness of the community in mind? 

  9. Would you agree that those who design and build in your community manifest a "green" or ecological orientation, one that conserves resources, respects the environment and minimizes adverse impacts on the land, before, during, and after new construction.

  10. Does it seem that the center of activities embraces daily life education, in one form or another. Education is much more than that occurring in formal settings; nature itself is often considered the setting for the best of lessons. 

Even a few affirmative responses to such questions bode well for a community. Recognition that these kinds of questions address desired states might also contribute to their realization. 

All the best. Always look on the bright side of life.

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: applied wellness

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