Changes in senior living and elder care add options for aging boomers

July 12, 2019
By Matthew Reitz
Originally posted in Rochester Business Journal

Residents of Chapel Oaks enjoying happy hour at the new Marie’s Bar + Bistro

As the nation’s baby boomers continue to enter their 60s and 70s, elder care facilities are experiencing a growth spurt, as well as making significant changes to accommodate the needs of the next generation of older Americans.

Senior living and elder care facilities have experienced significant growth in recent years, and many facilities are updating to adapt to the changing needs of older individuals. In addition to updating service offerings, such as on-site medical care and memory care units, senior living facilities are moving toward an all-encompassing approach that covers the full continuum of care, from independent living to skilled nursing facilities.

Rebecca Ahrns-Walker, director of St. Ann’s Community at Chapel Oaks in Rochester, said the facility, which has been in operation for more than 20 years, encompasses 120 independent living units and offers all-inclusive “luxury senior living” options.

“Everything is included for our folks, including their meals, transportation, housekeeping, activities, wellness programs and all of their maintenance,” she said. “So it’s really worry-free living.”

Ahrns-Walker said the facility has always been all-inclusive, but in recent years added a wellness center with senior-friendly equipment and a pool. The wellness center, she said, is very well attended and offers aquatic classes, as well as times residents can gather with family members and use the pool.

“Another thing that is new in the last few years is we’re offering meditation and mindfulness programs, and they’re very popular with our residents,” Ahrns-Walker said.

Ahrns-Walker said seniors who ultimately choose the facility often say “it just felt right,” and pointed to the facility’s community center as a potential attraction for seniors. She said the center includes a spa, dining room, fitness center, hair salon, game room, library and a new bistro and bar.

“All of that stuff kind of just draws people in,” she said. “It was just so welcoming to them.” Officials said the community feel of the facility is another draw for prospective seniors, who are able to enjoy the happy hours, meals and other events St. Ann’s offers. Ahrns-Walker said even residents who aren’t seeking that human connection soon recognize the benefits of the community atmosphere and the person-to-person interaction that might have been missing in their lives.

Jennifer Aiezza, a marketing manager with St. Ann’s, said in addition to the luxurious facilities at St. Ann’s, prospective tenants are drawn to the full continuum of care offered by St. Ann’s facilities.

Aiezza said residents coming through the independent living facilities have first-priority access to St. Ann’s assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

“That gives peace of mind to the family members as well as the residents,” Ahrns-Walker said. “Everybody is worried about what happens next, but when you have that continuum that worry is taken away. It’s already set up for them how it’s going to progress in the future.”

Ahrns-Walker said Chapel Oaks also recently started an on-site physician practice that provides convenience for residents. She said the new addition is being utilized by quite a few of the residents.

Susan Bussey, a senior vice president of housing with Jewish Senior Life in Rochester, said all of the Jewish Senior Life buildings are connected, including a 90-unit independent living, 60-unit assisted living and 16-unit memory care facilities.

“So you can kind of just flow through the levels and not have to go outside,” said Bussey, who oversees independent living, assisted living, memory care and several other programs for Jewish Senior Life, including dementia daycare and companion care programs. “The beauty of our campus is we’re a continuing care retirement community that offers life care.”

Bussey said couples entering the independent or assisted living facilities can be transitioned to a higher level of care but remain connected to one another.

In recent years, Bussey said the facility opened a memory care facility at the assisted living level, as more individuals were in need of memory support but not physically in need of moving to a skilled nursing facility.

“That program is running very well,” she said, calling it an “easy to navigate community” in the style of a small home. “It’s just very accommodating.”

For independent living, Bussey said there are more couples than ever before and residents are more interested in fitness classes and continuing education than in previous years. Bussey said in the past the exercise facilities were underutilized, but now yoga and personal training classes are overflowing.

Dining facilities have also changed drastically in recent years, Bussey said, with the addition of smaller venues with more choices. In the past, there was typically a single dining area, but Bussey said Jewish Senior Life opened a couple smaller venues, including one that serves high-end meals and another that’s similar to a pub.

As for the future, Ahrns-Walker said there’s so much choice in the marketplace St. Ann’s will continue to adapt, including expanding activity offerings and health wellness options.

“We’re all trying to find our niche, and that continuum of care is critical,” Aiezza said. “We need to make sure our daily services really meet the needs of our seniors at that time.”

Bussey said as more older individuals are staying in their homes longer, Jewish Senior Life is implementing community programs to meet their needs and assist them in remaining independent in their home. Those programs include memory care, companion care and physician house calls.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of the people who really want to stay home,” Bussey said. “We’re definitely looking at our community just to see what we could do differently possibly in the future to just keep meeting the needs of our residents.”

Matthew Reitz is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

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