Moving to Ashby Ponds, the Erickson Senior Living community in Ashburn, Va., from their home in Annapolis, Md., in December 2020, John and Mary Zohlen were eager to jump into activities and meet new friends. For more than 30 years, the couple enjoyed life on the Chesapeake Bay.
“Before moving to Ashby Ponds, I sold my sailboats but brought my 12-foot kayak with me,” says John. “Spending time on the water is important to me, and I thought it would be a great way to meet my new neighbors.” John contacted the Resident Advisory Council about opportunities to kayak and was encouraged to start a new club.
Fun on the water
“I submitted a proposal for the ‘Ashby Ponds Paddlers,’ a group for residents interested in kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddle boarding. I was pleasantly surprised by the immediate support I received from management,” notes John.
Advertising his new club in the Ashby Ponds community newsletter, the Purple Paper, John received immediate interest. “My goal was to create an active outdoor recreational activity for community members with similar interests,” he says.
The Ashby Ponds Paddlers is just one of many outdoor activities available to community members and an excellent way to stay fit. “Ashby Ponds community members currently lead more than 200 clubs and activities representing a wide variety of interests,” says Resident Activities Coordinator Faith Edwards. “A growing number of these activities include time outdoors, which research shows is vital to a healthy lifestyle.”
Enjoying the sunshine
One of the most popular outdoor activities on campus, the gardening club, provides a “green” outlet for fresh air and socialization on the beautiful campus.
The Ashby Ponds Garden Club first took root in 2009, just one year after the community opened. The group now boasts almost 150 resident gardeners, who maintain a combination of in-ground and tub gardens. “We learn from each other’s different gardening styles and the chance to be outside and meet new neighbors,” says garden club president Eugene Rainville.
A community affair
The Ashby Ponds gardeners have access to a toolshed for storing their tools, and fellow community members frequently visit the 13 benches scattered throughout the gardens, for a relaxing view of their neighbor’s efforts.
“Many of our gardeners grow vegetables and herbs, others grow flowers, and the majority grow a combination of the three,” says Eugene. The fruitful gardeners enjoy sharing their harvest with the greater community.
“Our gardeners share with friends and neighbors while others put their produce in baskets in the common areas for staff or residents to enjoy,” says Eugene. "One gardener has supplied the Windows restaurant with rosemary and thyme. And, by popular demand this year, we are creating a community herb garden from which residents can snip the oregano or rosemary they need in a recipe.”
Fun and games
For Ashby Ponds community members looking for friendly competition, the cornhole and bocce leagues fit the bill. “Each year, we find more and more residents interested in playing cornhole,” says the group’s founder, community member Ron Kutscher. “In fact, we had to get more boards this year because so many people were interested in playing. The best part is the friendly competition and the chance to get together with fellow residents.”
The bocce group has also seen substantial growth in resident participation. There are currently over 200 residents participating in three leagues. This year, the community welcomed two new bocce courts with the completion of the newest clubhouse. “Our leagues play every weekday,” says community member Sharon Harvey, who serves as the bocce club secretary.
“We enjoy the camaraderie of playing together and meeting people on the other teams,” says Sharon. “Bocce is a wonderful opportunity to get some physical exercise while enjoying the fresh air. Our members are always willing to extend a helping hand. We are all very supportive of each other.”
In addition to the many outdoor clubs on campus, Ashby Ponds also hosts several popular outdoor events. This spring, community members enjoyed a “Kentucky Derby” featuring 10-blow up horses and a frozen mint julip machine. Building on the event’s success, the resident life team sponsored a field day complete with opportunities for residents to compete in lawn dice, badminton, cornhole, and ladder ball, all while enjoying live music.
“There is always so much to do at Ashby Ponds,” says Sharon. “That is just one of the many great things about living at this remarkable community.”
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