It starts with a walking club.
Then day trips to downtown Charleston.
And then a book club whose first read is — appropriately — Tom Brokaw's "Boom: Voices of the Sixties, Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today."
Activity is slowly picking up in a new Berkeley County subdivision that's geared specifically toward older, freshly retired buyers. The neighborhood's first residents began trickling into the 1,000-home Del Webb of Charleston just after Thanksgiving, and as they dig their belongings out of cardboard boxes, many say they're excited for what could become a thriving hub of active seniors.
"I think that this kind of community will keep you younger," said Carol Robb, who is 66 and proudly the community's first resident. "I want to stay young, and I think that's what the people here want to do as well."
Only about 25 residents have closed on their homes, but online message boards set up for their future neighbors are buzzing with conversations about upcoming events. The posters talk about socializing at oyster roasts, trips to foreign countries, weekly trivia nights — common activities that seniors want to pursue after retirement.
"I don't consider myself to be a senior citizen," began Steve Schilit, 60, who recently moved from central New Jersey.
"But you are, dear," interrupted his 59-year-old wife, Ellyn.
Another resident, 61-year-old Paulette Elmore, wants to learn a language — maybe French.
"That's something I've always wanted to do," said the former Fayetteville, N.C., resident, who recently moved to the local Del Webb development with her husband and sheltie dog, Pixie.
At most Del Webb communities, such as the sprawling 10,000-home Sun City subdivision near Hilton Head Island, these activities take place in an amenities center that serves as a hub. But the spot that builders have reserved for Del Webb of Charleston's center is still an open field.
The 20,000-square-foot facility likely won't open until early 2009. Plans call for indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness center, gourmet kitchen, tennis courts and a bocce ball court. It also will have a venue for pickleball, which is a less strenuous form of tennis played on a smaller court.
The lifestyle and the planned activities, in addition to the real estate, aren't cheap. But they're not financially unattainable either, residents said.
Home prices range between $169,990 for the smallest 1,100-square-foot model and $371,990 for about 2,600 square feet of space. That's in addition to a monthly homeowners fee of about $200.
Two other conventional subdivisions under construction in Cane Bay feature, in general, lower prices.
For example, in Sanctuary Cove, which is being built by First Coast Homes, the largest residences measure about 3,000 square feet and sell for about $225,000. And a 1,350-square-foot home in Centex Corp.'s Old Rice Retreat can be had for about $26,000 less than a residence of comparable size in Del Webb.
The homes at Del Webb are designed for older buyers, some with limited budgets, some with limited mobility. The 11 floor plans are based on single-story designs, and the exterior siding is vinyl, which requires an occasional pressure wash rather than a costly paint job every five or 10 years.
Many residents select homes that are smaller than their current space, allowing them to downsize and "simplify" their lifestyle, said Stacy Bruder, Del Webb's director of sales and marketing at Cane Bay.
"It probably isn't the house I'd design for myself, but it's a very nice house," said Robb.
The Berkeley County subdivision brings the total of Del Webb communities across the country to about 100. The brand is owned by Michigan-based Pulte Homes.
Company officials built the earliest Del Webb communities in places such as Arizona, Las Vegas and Florida, but they slowly are popping up throughout the Southeast. Such communities are open in Charlotte, Raleigh, Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn.
Federal guidelines allow Del Webb to restrict its buyers to people who are 55 and older. They also can designate 7 percent of homes to purchasers who are between 50 and 54.
The community limits visiting times for those under age 19, and younger kids likely won't be allowed to use the amenities center during certain, yet-to-be determined hours, Bruder said.
"At our age, we're looking for peace and quiet," said 58-year-old David Levesque, a new Del Webb resident and Connecticut native whose grandchildren live in nearby Goose Creek.
Bruder said Del Webb sales agents are taking in a healthy number of contracts for the lots left in the first phase, which is about 80 percent sold out. The community hasn't seen a slowdown in interest despite the otherwise sluggish housing market, she said.
Tightening lending standards, which have partly slowed home sales overall, tend to affect younger, first-time buyers more than the older demographic that Del Webb is targeting, Bruder said.
"I just thank God in this market that we offer something different," she said.