Jesse and Sue Irwin were in their early 50s when they moved to Soleil Laurel Canyon, a 330-acre resort-style community in Canton that is designed for homeowners ages 55 and older.

“We were living in a big house on three acres in Woodstock when our youngest child grew up and left home,” Sue Irwin said. “We wanted something smaller but we didn’t want to move again when we retire. It may have been a little early to downsize but there was no reason to stay in our other house.”

Joe and Lois Rebele were still in their 40s four years ago when they became empty nesters and moved to Soleil.

“Our children were grown and it was just the two of us in a large house. We were looking for a one-story home with neighborhood amenities and a maintenance-free environment. Soleil offers the lifestyle we were looking for,” Joe and Rebele said.

When they started looking at options for downsizing, the Irwins and Rebeles discovered a little known secret: Up to 20 percent of homeowners in active adult communities can be under 55. They can’t have children who live with them permanently but they can have kids who are in college and visit them during vacations.

A 55-and-older community may be the perfect solution for couples who are under 55 but no longer want the upkeep of a big house and lawn.

“When we lived in a big house with a pool and a big yard, we spent our weekends cleaning and maintaining it. We love the maintenance-free lifestyle at Soleil. It allows us to spend our spare time having fun,” Joe Rebele said.
The Rebeles and Irwins enjoy the best of both worlds: satisfying careers outside of Soleil’s gated entrance and a lifestyle reminiscent of a resort vacation at home. Though they miss some of the activities that happen during the day, there is plenty to keep them busy when they are at home.

Residents at Soleil have the opportunity to participate in more than 50 social clubs and regularly scheduled activities that range from Friday night movies to arts and crafts classes, cooking demonstrations and wine tastings.

Jesse Irwin is involved in a singing group, a card club, a drama troupe and the Men’s Christian Fellowship. His wife enjoys tennis, parties and other social activities at the community.

“The clubhouse is wonderful. It offers so much. We can go there and watch TV on the big screen or read a book in the library. There’s a great kitchen that the community organizations can use,” Jesse Irwin said.

The community’s 28,000 square foot clubhouse includes heated indoor saline pool, billiards parlor, gourmet teaching kitchen, fitness center and aerobics studio, library, two card rooms and an arts and crafts studio.

“The community itself is an absolute joy to live in and the amenities are wonderful. We enjoy tennis, swimming and working out at the exercise facility. My wife has participated in a pottery class. I’m in the computer club and produce the website for the cooking club. There are so many choices here that there’s something for everyone,” Joe Rebele said.

Outdoor amenities at Soleil include a performing arts center, outdoor amphitheatre, outdoor lagoon-style pool, six clay tennis courts, full-time tennis pro, walking trails and greenhouse.

“We love the community. The whole neighborhood is like a big family. All of the amenities, activities and options make it even better. We had that time in our lives when we had children, home maintenance and yard work. Now we can sit on the porch and hear the crickets,” Sue Irwin said.

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