Recently, a Seattle-based hospitality company, One Eighty, announced plans to convert the former hospital site at 4415 S. Lakeview Canyon Road in Westlake Village into a boutique-style retirement community.
If Dan Madsen, CEO of One Eighty, is listening, here’s one boomer’s advice on how to make the facility succeed.
No. 1: Connect residents with the city around them
Trips to the farmers market and the Civic Arts Plaza are nice, but what I’m talking about is providing retirement community residents the opportunity to really become involved in their local community.
Invite city officials to discuss important topics, create a help desk that pairs talented residents with community needs and align with local elementary and high schools for mentoring.
Encourage residents to create a project where residents and their neighbors work together to improve life in our city.
There is so much talent in residential communities that goes unnoticed and unused. Programs like these bring meaning and purpose to residents and deeply connect them to their neighbors inside and outside the facility.
No. 2: Make it easier for me as I grow older
Handrails in the hallway and elevators are commonplace today, but how about incorporating new design elements to increase our comfort in our home as we age.
Wouldn’t it be great if each unit had an entryway camera to let me know who’s at my door, a keyless front door entry so I don’t have to fumble with keys, and light sensors that come on when I enter the room?
Offer me a curbless shower or a walk-in tub that accommodates me today and in the future, when I may need to use a wheelchair or a walker. Build me kitchen cabinets that I can reach with pull-down or pull-out drawers. Provide me with a bedroom closet where I can reach the clothes pole.
I can’t think of a better place to invest in aging-in-place technology and design than a retirement home.
No. 3: Update amenities to align with boomer interests
Most of us didn’t spend our formative years listening to Lawrence Welk or playing bingo. Boomers are interested in self improvement, so give us activities that play to our interests.
Offer wellness programs— classes in weight loss, nutrition and chronic disease management. Provide writing classes where we develop our life story and discover our legacies.
Make available dining choices that meet our generational tastes— like Thai food or Jenny Craig selections—and offer us a wine selection beyond “red” and “white.”
Bring in a weekly technology guru to share with us the latest iPhone app or website that may be of interest to us. Update the library to include Oprah’s Book Club list. Play music of the boomer generation and beyond—some of us can even relate to Adele, Pink and Lady Antebellum.
Lastly, put a Starbucks or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the lobby and invite neighborhood residents to get their coffee there, too. These are the gathering places of our generation.
No. 4: Make it affordable
The last few years have not been kind to boomers—our investments, our job opportunities and our home values have all tanked. So working with us to make the move into a new residential community makes a lot of sense.
How about offering a pricing structure based upon the age and health of the resident? The younger and healthier we are, the lower the cost. This might entice younger residents to move in sooner and stay longer.
Offer paid work programs. If I have a talent that you can use— front desk management, computer skills, gardening—put me to work and reduce my rent.
Give me a choice in meal plans rather than charging me for three full meals a day—options like dinner-only or no meals on weekends.
Offer a matching service for single seniors who may want to share a residence to lower costs and enjoy companionship.
I am hoping that retirement living in the future will be a financially viable option for many of us and a destination for living our best lives—a place to contribute my talents and skills, where I feel nurtured and where I will be in a community of friends.