February 2008 Issue
Retirement communities prepare for the baby-boomer generation.
A morning of yoga, followed by a massage.
Afternoon discussion groups touching on a host of topics, ranging from the Treaty of Versailles to the history of rock ’n’ roll.
An evening spent taking in the touring production of a Broadway show.
No, this isn’t a schedule of activities proffered by a cruise ship or a packaged trip abroad. It’s an ambiance that retirement communities have crafted especially for the first wave of baby boomers who are ready to enter a new phase of life.
Today’s communities still offer residents the range of medical care they were created for — from continuing care to assisted living to skilled nursing — as well as the peace of mind in knowing that as health needs change, appropriate help will be at hand.
But new ingredients have been added to the mix. As America ages — the first wave of baby boomers turned 60 in 2006 — adult communities are tailor-making their facilities for the generation who listened to Janis Joplin and view 50 as the new 30.
“There is no question that communities today are focusing on wellness, on engagement and on enhanced living,” says Elinor Ginzler, director of livable communities for AARP. “Some are a vibrant world unto themselves, while others recognize the value of connecting to the community outside.”
New communities such as Hickory Chase, a continuing-care facility slated to open in Columbus next year, are in tune with the amenities their younger residents will be looking for: namely, a lifestyle that’s carefree.
“Younger baby boomers want to know that all of their needs in life are taken care of,” explains Doug Honbarrier, regional vice president of sales and marketing for Erickson Retirement Communities, of which Hickory Chase is a part. “They want to be assured that they don’t have to worry about the have-tos in life so they can focus on the want-tos.”
That’s why, he adds, the convenience of community amenities, including a beauty salon, bank and gift store are must-haves.
“The baby-boomer philosophy is that now’s the time to do all the things they wanted to do but couldn’t because they were too busy taking care of a family or too busy with a career,” Honbarrier explains.
“They are looking for a setting that will not get in the way of that mission.”
But simplifying life doesn’t mean skimping on accommodations. Boomers may be downsizing, but that doesn’t mean they’re living without all the special touches they grew accustomed to in their previous abode. High-end extras, including Corian countertops and ceramic-tile floors, vaulted ceilings, Jacuzzis and soaking tubs, eat-in kitchens, sunrooms and an extra bedroom that doubles as a guest room or den are now in demand.
“This is the ‘green’ generation who also wants efficient heating and cooling and lots of natural light,” says Euggle Robertson, vice president of Bristol Village Homes in Waverly.
As they banded together to support their beliefs during the ’60s, so, too, do today’s retirees seek a sense of belonging.
“Residents who move here are looking for a community of friends – people who are like-minded, who provide outlets for pursuing different interests or similar interests, getting involved and being engaged, ” Robertson adds.
It’s no surprise that the residents of Bristol Village call the shots when it comes to coordinating activities, which often means creating some that are eclectic and a tad avant-garde. No longer emphasizing the crafting of spoon holders and coffee mugs, art classes host clay sculpting with live models. Exercise classes are conducted by boomer-age personal trainers who know firsthand what arthritic hot spots to focus on. Relaxation time often emphasizes spirituality and reflective meditation around a labyrinth.
“We’ve had several requests,” Robertson says with a smile, “to replace the chamber music piped in on the walking track with Beatles songs.” An appeal, she adds, that will no doubt be granted.
“Clearly, it’s not your parents’ retirement anymore,” says Lisa Roth, director of assisted and independent living for Towne Center Community Campus in Avon Lake. “Our residents have done well for themselves, they’ve worked hard all their lives and they expect the best, from spa treatments on-site to trips to partake of the fall colors on Lake Chautauqua [in western New York].
“Residents want to travel more and have the opportunity to engage in a better lifestyle.”
Some communities, including Cleveland’s Judson Retirement Community, encourage boomers to embrace what is offered before they make the move.
Judson’s Smart Living program allows potential residents regardless of age to use the warm-water swimming pool and attend lectures given by professors from nearby Case Western Reserve University and curators from the cultural institutions comprising University Circle. Interactions like these provide opportunities for participants to become acquainted with the lifestyle that’s offered.
“Many baby boomers who move here have been in a position where they have experienced health issues by helping their parents, but they aren’t ready to think about the need they themselves might have for care someday,” explains Cynthia Dunn, president and CEO of Judson Services Inc. “There’s a safety net built into living here that people discover when they visit and activities that appeal to where they are now in life.”
A generation ago, Dunn says, people took a wait-and-see approach before moving — if their health needs or those of their spouse changed, only then would they seek a change in residence.
“But now, as we get more information about healthy aging, we’re taking responsibility for our successful aging experience,” she says.
“For retirement communities, that means no longer taking a Big-Brother, paternalistic approach, where you come in and we’ll take care of you. Instead, it puts the emphasis back on individuals, saying, ‘You’re an adult. You’re in charge.’”
A Smooth transition is possible with these tips
Maybe you’ve been stuck in a rut and long for a new adventure with new friends. Or perhaps you want to be rid of show-shoveling and lawn-mowing forever. Whatever the reason, it’s time to relocate. And although you’ve found the perfect new community, your old house still needs some attention: Stuff is stuffed in every nook and cranny. Chucking it all without a second glance seems mighty tempting — but, well, you just wouldn’t feel right about pitching without perusing.
Here are a few tips that will make the process as painless as possible — sans Dumpster:
- Survey each item with a critical eye toward the future: Can you use it in your new home? Does it have meaning for you on an emotional level? Can a treasured household possession be recycled for a new purpose – for example, can that antique brass basket you used as a log bin in your old house become a magazine rack in your new home? Items not making the cut may fetch an attractive price on eBay, at a consignment shop or at a neighborhood garage sale.
- Before starting each room, gather at least eight sturdy cartons or large, clear plastic bags and label them Keep, Repair, Trash, Gift, Donate, Recycle, Sell and Don’t Have a Clue. As you sort, place items in the appropriate carton or bag. Those you are clueless about can be set aside for a second glance — but try not to tip the scales in that direction.
- Take one room at a time. If the task seems overwhelming, divide it into zones. In the bedroom, for instance, Zone 1 can encompass two nightstands, space under the bed and the dresser, while Zone 2 can include the chest of drawers and the closet. (Then again, if the closet resembles Dracula’s dungeon, it may qualify as a zone unto itself.) A sense of accomplishment is guaranteed with the completion of each zone.
- Don’t even think about taking: shabby patio furniture, books you haven’t opened in 10 years, old cans of paint or varnish, outdated road maps, hardwood floor cleaner (if you’re moving to a place that has wall-to-wall carpeting), shades that won’t fit your new windows, saved periodicals you’ve never read, clippings you didn’t get around to filing, boxes of papers from three jobs ago, invitations for future events you don’t plan on attending, restaurant menus you don’t use, coupons that save you less than a dollar, greeting cards that are not award-winners, century-old photos in which the subject is unknown, a dozen copies of the same photograph, garden tools you no longer need or linens that are past their prime.
- Do you still harbor fantasies about fitting into those jeans you wore to the high school After Prom 30 years ago? It’s time to purge your closets of clothing you haven’t worn since the Carter Administration. As you take stock of each article you own, ask yourself: Do I wear it? Do I love it? Does it fit well? Sell or donate apparel that fails the quiz.
- If the idea of do-it-yourself decluttering makes you dizzy, there are professional organizers who will do the job for you. When interviewing potential candidates, make sure you understand their fee schedule and ask if they will provide a written estimate, how long they’ve been in business, what type of certification they have, what type of insurance they carry, their areas of expertise and how long they think the job will take. Make certain that the organizer is sensitive to your needs (she won’t argue, for instance, over keeping your grandmother’s mismatched silver if it really means a lot to you).