Moving from a culture of care to a culture of hospitality is what many senior living facilities are doing to adjust to the market demands of aging baby boomers.
Baby boomers were born between the mid-1940s and the mid-1960s.
“Baby boomers are just now coming of age when looking at facilities like ours, where we provide a lot of services,” said Claudia Larkin, vice president and CEO at Brewster, 1205 S.W. 29th St. “Space is important, and they’re used to certain amenities in their home, and they’re looking for those again.”
The generation that preceded the baby boomers was “more thrifty” and didn’t require much when downsizing and moving into a senior living facility, Larkin says. When Brewster opened in the 1960s, the apartments were less than 400 square feet.
“We don’t have those anymore,” Larkin said, adding that baby boomers want more space and services than their parents and newer apartments at the senior living complex start at about 1,900 square feet.
“I attribute a little of that to it being their first downsize,” she said of why baby boomers’ demands for space has grown. “They’re leaving homes a little larger.”
Universal design elements are other aspects baby boomers are asking for in senior living facilities, Larkin says. Those elements include zero-entry showers, flooring that allows for ease of mobility, table height breakfast bars and wall ovens and microwaves that eliminate the need for bending.
Larkin says the 13-unit Cottonwood Villas currently under construction at Brewster is on schedule to be completed for move-in later this summer. The facility’s board of directors also has given approval for the building of a pool and 266-seat cultural arts center with a live performance stage.
An intergenerational coordinator has been hired to create and facilitate joint programming for Brewster residents and children, including an art camp this summer with Quincy Elementary students.
“There’s so many benefits to putting the generations together,” Larkin said. “For one, it staves off dementia.”
The joining of the generations is also important for another senior living company that announced it will open a three-story, 132-unit independent living facility in the spring of 2020 on the former Topeka State Hospital grounds near S.W. 6th and S.W. MacVicar avenues.
“We always try to involve the community,” said Jerry Hill, of Calamar Inc. “We do a lot of things with students, but the opportunity to be here on the campus (means we) will have much more structured interactions with the students … it just makes for a very vibrant community.”
Calamar’s community — at what is currently Topeka USD 501’s Kanza Education and Science Park — is expected to include retirees of the school district, who will get the first opportunity to lease an apartment within the first year of the facility’s opening and have their first month of rent free of charge.
“That was something that we asked for specifically. I don’t know of anywhere else that is done,” said Larry Robbins, USD 501’s deputy superintendent. “I saw that it was not only an opportunity for our students, but since it’s a senior living facility, it’s something they can do for our adults who have spent years dedicating themselves to education.”
Some of the intergenerational activities expected on Calamar’s campus once it opens are student performances, technology assistance, tutoring and internships for students interested in senior health care.
With eight facilities in the Midwest, Hill says, Calamar’s expansion into Topeka was too attractive to pass up.
“It’s a very stable community,” he said. “State government is here. It’s a community that many people want to stay in. They don’t want to maintain a home (after retiring), but they want to stay in the same area to keep their doctor, their church, those kinds of things. It just makes it a very strong market.”
Contact education reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143.