THE VILLAGES — Villagers enjoy beautiful Florida weather, incredible recreational amenities and countless opportunities for friendship and personal growth.

But it takes good health to fully enjoy those opportunities. So, a new partnership between the developer of The Villages, the  University of South Florida and The Villages Health System has been created to help Villages residents enjoy that optimum health.

“Nothing is more important to a senior than his or her health,” said Gary Morse, developer of The   Villages. “We’ve been searching for a creative, forward-thinking university to work with local health care providers, study our community and bring us innovative ideas that will enhance the health of our retirees. We want to create America’s healthiest hometown.”

“Together, we have a bold goal, namely to help the residents of The Villages live longer and better,” said Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF College of Medicine and chief executive officer of USF Health. “We’ll listen, we’ll assess and then we’ll implement a series of actions focusing on the ways to make the biggest difference in residents’ quality of life.”

Tim Hawkins, president of The Villages Health System, called the USF partnership a “game changer” for Villages residents.

“Not only will USF be a tremendous resource for our residents and our local doctors, but their presence here accelerates our plans with regard to the Moffitt Cancer Center,” Hawkins said. “We now plan to draw funds out of reserves and complete the purchase of equipment for the new cancer center in The Villages. I’m confident that the continuing generosity of Villagers through the Mission for Moffitt campaign will replenish those reserves in time

to build the next hospital here in The Villages.”

USF’s work will begin with a series of focus groups and surveys beginning in May. From that research will come specific opportunities for Villagers to experience greater health. That research and subsequent studies will also play a major role in the development of the next Villages hospital, designed to offer the latest in senior-focused health care.

“Two hospitals, the Moffitt Cancer Center, and now USF, together with our local health providers, will all be a part of The Villages Health System, designed to give our residents the very best in wellness and health care,” Morse said. “One day, The Villages will be known as ‘America’s Healthiest Hometown,’ as famous for health care as it is now for golf.”