A 20th anniversary is a big deal, especially for residents and staff of The Cypress of Hilton Head, an award-winning continuing-care retirement community on Hilton Head Island.
Festivities the week of March 19 at the country-club-style campus included an anniversary parade with floats and a marching band, as well as a private concert for residents by pianist Emil Pandolfi at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. The fun continued all week with a comedy night, a casino night and dancing with popular local band The Headliners. The grand finale of the anniversary week was "The Cypress Follies," a variety show starring residents and staff.
"We wrote all our own songs," Cypress sales manager Becky Davis said.
Most of the events took p "We wrote all our own songs," Cypress sales manager Becky Davis said.
Most of the events took place at the community's 35,000-square-foot clubhouse.
Roots of The Cypress
James Coleman, president of The Cypress Company, said the idea for the upscale continuing-care community began in 1988 with the desire to do something special with the last large parcel of land in Hilton Head Plantation. The concept of The Cypress was enthusiastically embraced by a group of Hilton Head residents who had lived on the island as retirees for 10 to 20 years and who didn't want to change their lifestyle but needed more services as they aged.
"There are others now, but The Cypress was the first condominium equity-ownership model," Coleman said. "Also, the not-for-profit structure by a private developer was unique."
He said one of his favorite events at The Cypress was when the staff burned the mortgage in January 1993.
"We've been debt free ever since," Coleman said.
All the common facilities, including the clubhouse and Preston Health Center, were deeded over to the owners association. Amenities include a dog park, croquet lawn, three-hole golf course, walking trails and art and fitness rooms. Although the developer retains ultimate responsibility at The Cypress, residents (called members) provide guidance for financial and operations issues through committees. Life Care Services manages the community.
Over time, the 100-acre campus has evolved to include the waterfront Bay Club, which wasn't included in the original plans; the Dogwood Wing (for dementia care); home health services by staff; and the community's walk-in health clinic. In recent resident satisfaction surveys, the expanded fitness room, a Wii bowling league and the cover over the pool, which enables year-round swimming, have received rave reviews by members.
Members and friends
Don Havlish, 94, and Ann Higgins, 95, have lived at The Cypress for 20 years. Both are widowed now. Havlish said he and his wife moved to The Cypress when her health declined.
"I had to do most of the cooking, and one day she said, 'I'm sick of your cooking; we're going into The Cypress.' We were here the first week it opened. I've been on most of the committees," said Havlish, who still drives, uses the community's exercise room six days a week and shops for his groceries.
Higgins, 95, also is independent. She enjoys eating dinner with her friends but said that after decades as the wife of a high-ranking Army officer with around-the-clock domestic help, she likes keeping house and the privacy of her apartment.
"You can't be isolated here," she said. "This is home to me."
The Cypress hasn't been immune to the housing downturn; resale home prices in the community have dropped by about a third compared to the peak of the local real estate market in Jan. 2006. The rise and fall of housing prices at The Cypress mirrors the rest of Hilton Head Plantation, Coleman said.
The 322 homes at The Cypress range from $1.5 million waterfront cottages overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, to villas, golf cottages and $160,000 one-bedroom apartments. Included in the purchase price of each home is a 10 percent non-refundable club and community membership fee. The monthly fee for members varies based on the type of home and how many people live in it.
Davis said the average age of new residents at The Cypress is 72, and that most who move from Hilton Head Island or elsewhere downsize about a third of the square footage of their homes. But their average monthly expenses remain about the same, she said.
"Their cost of living doesn't go up. They're trading more sqaure footage for more services," she said.
Sales materials distributed by the developer estimate that a homeowner with home equity above $180,000 can afford to live comfortably at The Cypress.
The monthly fee includes interior and exterior home maintenance, home owners insurance, utilities, housekeeping and laundry services, transportation, activities and landscaping. It also includes 30 meals a month--the residents choose which meals to eat and which dining area (they can also request home delivery of meals).
The 375 people who work at The Cypress become like family to the 425 members, and vice versa, Davis said.
There if you need it
The Preston Health Center, on The Cypress' campus, is a 60-bed, Medicare-certified facility offering progressive rehabilitative and long term care programs, short term recuperation, and respite services. About 20 percent of Cypress residents end up needing to use this nursing facility for more than a year, and 50 percent for short stays, company literature says. Members receive discounts at the health center.
The Cypress also operates a licensed home health agency to provide assistance with medication, respite care and other services.
"What we're really all about is peace of mind," Coleman said. "We'll take care of whatever needs might arise."