Putting the living back in senior living

Above: Weitz Company completed Encore on First Mesa, a 44,000-square-foot senior living community in June. (Photo courtesy of Weitz Company) Real Estate | 29 Dec, 2016 |

Whether it’s a 92-year-old flying in a glider plane for the first time or built-in movie theaters and Starbucks, today’s senior living communities are putting the living back in senior living.

Many of the same features showcased at the latest luxury multifamily developments like resort-style pools, spas, upgraded common areas and things to do can be found at newer senior living communities too.

Developers and senior living providers are planning and designing new projects with enhanced amenities, features and programs to lower the average age of entrance, which is currently 82 years old.

“All these things are in an effort to try to attract a younger, active lifestyle that’s focused on wellness and doing fun things,” says Chris Harrison, executive vice president and general manager at Weitz Company. “Our providers are trying to deliver something that appeals to younger adults to get that entrance age down.”

He oversees the company’s national senior living and housing product line and builds projects from $4-55 million in value for senior living providers like Sun Health Senior Living, the largest locally-owned and operated nonprofit provider of retirement communities in Arizona.

Maravilla in Scottsdale is an senior living community with many different amenities for its residents. (Provided photo)

Maravilla in Scottsdale is a senior living community with many different amenities for its residents. (Provided photo)

Joe La Rue, executive vice president of Sun Health Senior Living, says creating social, physical, intellectual and spiritual activities are the cornerstones for healthy living.

For instance, at Grandview Terrance, located in Sun City West, he tells a story about its bucket list program, which helped a 92-year-old gentleman’s dream to fly in a glider for the first time become a reality.

In addition to entertaining things to do, seniors also want to age in place, says La Rue.

He tries to take away the angst, emotion and anxiety sometimes caused by transitions to a community.

One way is by offering residents customizable floorplans and finishes so new residents can replicate their old homes whether it’s the same refrigerator, floors and Lazy-boy recliner chair.

In addition, more Continuing Care Retirement Communities are building facilities to provide every level of care in one community from assisted or independent living to memory care.

Julie Johnson, principal at Avison Young with 25-years of experience representing senior-living clients, points to Maravilla in Scottsdale as an example of a top-tier luxury retirement community. She says the tour she took of the community reminded her of a Four Seasons resort.

“Someone who moves there doesn’t need to move again because it provides every service they will ever need,” she adds.

Residents are able to increase their level of care and service based on the need. Facilities also remove the burdens of playing multiple utility bills as well as house and landscape maintenance.

“People say after they move in, ‘we are so much more in charge of our lives. Now all we have to focus in on is living our lives to the fullest,'” explains La Rue.

New senior living communities aren’t the stereotypical 400-square-foot cracker box with terrazzo floors and only shuffleboard and puzzle for entertainment.

“Baby boomers see how attractive the lock-and-leave lifestyle and the amenities these new complexes offer to residents and they want that too,” says Johnson. “Baby Boomers demands in the apartment market are carrying over to senior CCRC.”

Reports estimate about 10,000 Baby Boomers will be retiring every day between now and 2030.

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