Villagers keeping it socially distanced

Mike Connifey, of the Village of Sanibel, maintains social distancing as he competes in platform tennis at SeaBreeze Recreation Center. He’s one of many Villagers finding ways to socialize safely.

The Villages has a different meaning to different people, but one defining characteristic everyone can agree on is its bustling social life. With more than 3,000 clubs, nightly entertainment and neighborhoods that feel more like families to many residents, The Villages never has a shortage of things to do, places to be or people to see. Even in a pandemic, many Villagers have sought ways to maintain the aspects of their friendships and outings without imposing an additional risk to their health or safety. No-contact sports, driveway happy hours and, of course, video calls are some of the community’s favorite ways to socialize right now. Here are some ways to adhere to social-distancing guidelines while gathering this summer:

Distanced dancing: Lee Ferrette always is on the hunt for a good dance party. Anything that can get her and her husband out of the house, she said, is a welcome break from their usual routine. The Village of Virginia Trace resident said she will usually find a dance party in someone’s driveway or an empty parking lot. “We’re ready to rock,” she said. “If you can dance and everybody is socially distanced, we’ll go.”

Recreation center rendezvous: What Anita Briggs, of the Village of Orange Blossom, missed most about her sculpting club was the people. Briggs said she was “very happy” to be back at Mulberry Grove Recreation Center and getting to see everyone again. Even with the guidelines of mask-wearing and sitting only one person to a table, returning was “well worth it,” Briggs said. “We don’t need to be too close to each other to talk,” she said. “The new recreation rules work for me just fine.”

Driveway happy hour: “Everybody used to go out in the driveways, and it was really a lot of fun,” said Rosemary Pluto, of the Village Tierra Del Sol. Early in quarantine, driveway happy hours became very popular, though the summer heat has cut down on when meetups are possible. Pluto does, however, still meet with her friends when the weather is right. “It’s been so hot that we don’t go outside to do it until it gets a little cooler,” she said.

Safe sports: Bocce golf is the next new thing for Rita Thompson, of the Village of Chatham. “It gets us out once a week,” Thompson said. A newly formed bocce golf group in her neighborhood has been a great way for Thompson and her husband to get out and see friends without being too close to them, she said. “It’s no true competition, just a fun thing to do,” she said. “We don’t need to win to have a good time.”

Video calls: “People in The Villages are social,” said Beth Hicks, of the Village Santiago. “But we are also in a group that needs to take extra care. Zoom was seen as a way to be social but distant.” Hicks said she facilitates a few book clubs and board meetings via Zoom right now. “The first part of most meetings is just a gaggle of people saying ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’ We need the companionship of our friends.” Hicks said seeing each other on screens and seeing the waves and smiles really helps everyone feel the warmth during a video call.