From the generation that brought us long hair, bell-bottoms and miniskirts, as well as, thanks to its younger cohort, shoulder pads, power ties and a glut of MBAs, we will soon be seeing new trends in retirement living. Collectively, this diverse group is popularly known as the baby boomers, progeny of the largest birth boom in American history. Close to 76 million boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest members of this generation are now 62, and statistics say that a healthy chunk (some 55 percent) will consider moving from their current home to another, be it to a retirement community or to a smaller house. What will they be looking for, and what will they find available to them? Here's a sample of what's available in Richmond, with an eye toward national trends.
According to surveys, boomers are twice as likely to prefer moving to a multigenerational development than retirees in the generation before them. That means living in a community where you find a mix of homes for younger families and empty nesters. Among the newest in this category is Founder's Bridge, in the northwest corner of Chesterfield County. Founders Bridge offers four different types of empty-nester homes, three of which are maintenance-free. Built around the Virginia State Golf Association's Independence Golf Course, this development also offers tennis, walking paths, a swimming pool and activities meant to encourage resident participation. "Everything we do, we do with the entire community in mind," says general manager John Farrell. That means things like wine tastings, golf outings and holiday dinners. "Our homeowner's association initially attracted more of the senior set," he notes, but adds that now the representation is pretty evenly split between seniors and other adults.
Not everyone wants to live in the suburbs. In fact, 30 percent of boomers considering life in an adult community prefer an urban setting. South of Richmond is Chester Village, a group of one- and two-bedroom apartments for active seniors 62 and over. While the community provides standard amenities such as an exercise room and a craft center, its best feature is located just steps away from the front door: the village of Chester itself. Residents can take an easy walk to the bank, the pharmacy, the library, a quilting shop, a nail salon and a soon-to-be-built British pub. Manager Stephanie Fowler says it's the best she's seen during her 10 years of involvement in senior communities. "Everything is right here. Besides the shopping, the town green is right across the street, with concerts in the summer as well as a farmers' market. The Cultural Arts Center is also nearby, all of which makes our residents truly feel engaged in the community at large."
Gone are the days of institutional meal preparation. Trends indicate that residents of retirement communities want options, from menu items to dining venues to takeout. At Westminster Canterbury on Richmond's North Side, all of the above and more are available. The development features five separate dining venues: a café for sandwiches and light fare; a buffet restaurant with a staple of choices; a smaller, upscale dining room with a changing menu; a bar and lounge for cocktails and appetizers; and a separate catering facility that can accommodate up to 500 for large parties. At the heart of the dining program is a wellness initiative that dining director Mike Scheff describes as "huge."
"I can't emphasize enough the thought that goes into preparing meals that eliminate salt and fatty foods," he says. "It goes a long way to keeping our residents healthy."
Increased Emphasis on Memory Care
Tragically, Alzheimer's disease and dementia most often affect those over 65 years of age. An estimated 4.5 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and that number is expected to climb to 11 million to 16 million by 2050, making advances in memory care an important trend for continuing-care developments. Sunrise at Bon Air offers just such advances. Instead of housing a large number of residents, Sunrise houses just 27, each with his or her own apartment. Three memory cottages contain objects familiar to residents from their past, such as typewriters, old telephones and baby dolls. And because Alzheimer's patients can experience agitation as part of their disease, there is a "snoozeling" lounge with a water feature, soft music, aromatherapy and special lighting. "The idea behind our development," says Theo Prokopis, director of community relations, "is to create pleasant days. The environment is warm and inviting, with fireplaces and sitting rooms, and encourages residents to come out of their rooms and into our small community."