Active retirement at Sun Park Living

Tai Chi Playa Dorada Playa Blanca courtesy of Chris Craig small-min

Sun Park Living is now closed, but when operating it was, for a few years, a special place. This was my experience …

I was disappointed that I couldn’t go on the walk. Mike had planned and organised two cars of people from Sun Park Living to go on a 12 km (7 mile) hike over fairly rough terrain and was leaving at 9.00 a.m. But it was my choice as it meant I do Tai Chi on the beach instead!

So, assembling in the cafe casually around 8.45 there was gentle anticipation and chatter, some people well known to each other and some like me introducing themselves for the first time. Around 30 of us walked down to the Dorado beach, just 400 yards away near the heart off Playa Blanca in Lanzarote. A warm breeze already blowing, we were set for highs of 25 degrees after a few unsettled days.

Tai Chi on the beach - active retirement in spain

What better way to start your morning? Taught by Adam, a previous winter resident, George had volunteered to lead the session. He hadn’t even tried Tai Chi until a few months before but now felt confident enough to lead the session. Facing the mountains of Fuerteventura across the sea, we spread out on the golden sand and with waves gently lapping followed George’s lead to gently warm up and then perform the simple 8 pose Tai Chi routine.

Relaxing, energising and certainly shared, these sessions are for anyone. With our group between 50 and 80 years of age and in various states of health and disrepair we all did our best and enjoyed it, possibly for the first time. Everyone knew this was definitely a better way to spend a morning in February than being back in the UK in the cold and snow. I even ventured in for a swim afterwards; bracing but refreshing in so many ways. Thanks Chris for getting me in on the first day.

This example of a shared activity illustrates what Sun Park Living is about. The accommodation is clean and reasonably comfortable but basic. The park itself is very well located close to the beach, to the town and also to the very impressive marina with its fancier hotels and restaurants.

The accommodation is what is provided by Sun Park Living, now marketed as Fabulous Lanzarote. It is fabulous but it’s Sun Park that brings the magic. Instead of being holed up in your own villa or in an impersonal hotel you are part of a community of like-minded people all enjoying being away from the winter cold, and by varying degrees active and ready to enjoy activities with others.

You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to and can just sit quietly reading on your terrace or near the pool. Indeed for some, sitting down and having a smoke in the area overlooking the pool and relaxing in the sun is a part of this. But if you do want to share in an activity then you can leave the privacy of your own self-catering apartment and head to the café. Here, besides enjoying a sandwich, a coffee or a juice, you will find the library, Internet connected computers and the all-important notice board.

Sun Park Living active retirement village in lanzarote

This is where people place invitations for other visitors to share in an activity. There are too many activities to do all in a day and there is something for anyone willing to join in and give it a try. Everyone is inexperienced and all activities are organised by the residents. Well in fact there is a gym that you can join and they also run higher level professionally taught classes but the magic ingredient is the volunteer led classes.

I could choose from offshore navigation, line-dancing, or whist sessions one day and then Pilates, chess and arts and craft making another. Evenings are also volunteer organised and managed with eh bar being stocked and manned by some of the longer term visitors. Having over 150 apartments there is a wide range of people visiting at any one time and I was lucky enough to see Steve from Birmingham, a semi-retired professional pianist, give a virtuoso performance one afternoon, witnessed by over 50 people who had heard about it is the grapevine; truly special and memorable.

Many people, both individuals and couples stay for 3 or 4 months or longer having tried out for a week one year and then a month the next. They are not on holiday as such but live in a holiday orientated environment popping home to the UK when they have business to do or just to see family.

And of course family members come out to stay in the resort using the local hotels nearby, although the village is strictly for the over 50s and no children are allowed. In my opinion is much the better for this policy as there is time enough and other places to see the grandchildren.

After my time at Sun Park I truly felt as though it had changed my outlook on how one should spend time post-children and when work slows down or stops. It just makes so much sense to enjoy the sunshine and pop back to the UK now and then and the pricing of Sun Park Living encourages long term stays, so newly made friends tend to meet up year after year.

Just feeling the sun every day in February is fabulous but Fabulous Lanzarote is all about Sun Park Living and getting something extra. That extra ingredient  is that I arrived knowing nobody and with an open-mind and left having spent some memorable days with Joy, Syd, Adam, Ann, George, Corinne and others, all of whom I hope I see on my next visit.

If this is active retirement then I can’t wait!

Adam Jackson has written a book called The Ethos, that was largely based on the time he spent there. It’s a thoughtful piece and gives you a flavour about the positive side of this place. It is a great shame it had to close after financial problems left many residents out of pocket.


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