As Baby Boomers approach the age where some form of assisted living starts to become part of their reality, the table is set for the sector to see an explosion in new development. With this increase in demand, one would expect an uptick in efficient, market rate senior housing.
But that hasn’t really been the case. In the last decade or so, there has actually been more interest to create new senior living communities that are bristling with amenities, supplying concierge-level access to healthcare.
“Years ago, senior living was this place nobody wanted to go and now it’s a beautiful option to continue any activities that you had in your life that maybe you can’t do on your own,” said Katie Kleinsmith, senior vice president, senior living, Caddis Healthcare Real Estate.
Healthcare real estate in general is trending smaller and more specialized, as providers seek to create easily accessible post-acute care near to patients’ homes. Senior housing, on the other hand, is headed in the other direction.
Because there is a residential component not present in other post-acute healthcare facilities, the economies of scale mandate as many occupants as possible so that costs stay competitive. Additionally, a multi-faceted project—offering some combination of independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and/or memory care—has more to offer prospective residents. If a resident enters the facility with one set of needs but requires additional help as they age, moving down the hall is much easier than moving to another facility.
“Typically when you offer something for everybody, you have a more successful community,” Kleinsmith said.
Today’s senior housing also boasts larger unit sizes. The market has shifted from studio to one-bedroom spaces, though there have been more two-bedroom units to accommodate couples. More and more, couples are taking on space in a variety of care setups, too.
“We are seeing a trend where some spouses will live in memory care and only one of them may have dementia, because I think there’s a need for couples to remain together,” said Maria Oliva, chief operating officer, Pathway to Living.
Pathway and Caddis recently opened Heartis Village of Orland Park, a 96-unit assisted living and memory care community in Orland Park, Illinois. This is the second Heartis-owned community to be managed by Pathway, following the 108-unit assisted living and memory care community that opened in Peoria, Illinois in 2016.
The 89,622-square-foot property includes a three-story assisted living building and single-story memory care wing. The community’s 72 assisted living apartments range in size from 371 to 1,032 square feet and include one-bedroom/one-bath, one-bedroom-plus-den/one-bath and two-bedroom/two-bath layouts, each with a kitchenette.
There are 24 memory care studios within the facility, where residents benefit from programming designed to provide rehabilitation for the brain—a process called rementia—by helping those with memory impairment become more engaged and communicative.
In addition to enjoying the privacy of their own apartment, residents of Heartis Village of Orland Park will find numerous opportunities for socialization and activity just outside their door. Amenities include an all-day dining room and a separate bistro, movie theater, chapel, spacious community rooms, salon, spa, a library and technology center and a therapy gym and fitness center.
“It isn’t just about providing care,” Oliva said. “What drives our organization is people coming to these communities so they really can live life to the fullest.”
A doctor’s suite brings back the house call, allowing residents to meet with their healthcare professionals in privacy without having to leave the facility. A large, secluded courtyard with a walking path and raised gardens permits residents to get fresh air with ease; memory care residents have access to their own central courtyard where they can enjoy the outdoors in a secure setting.
Residents can choose from a variety of social, educational and recreational pursuits designed to enhance overall well-being. Tailored to residents’ hobbies and interests, programming might include morning yoga sessions, painting lessons, cooking demonstrations or drama club activities. Shopping and lunch excursions or recreational outings may also be available for residents looking to get out and explore the surrounding community.
There are more considerations when scouting a senior housing location like Heartis of Orland Park beyond just demographics or an imbalance in supply and demand. One is proximity to a community as well as commercial amenities.
“On one side of this building there is a residential neighborhood. On the other side, there’s shopping and commercial and we’re kind of in the middle. We’re in a transition place,” said Jud Jacobs, executive vice president, development and partner at Caddis. “We may kiss 10 or 12 frogs before we find the location that we like, but we have to look at all of those things.”
As the boomer generation takes on more space within senior living, they are going to expect a higher level of service and amenities. And organizations like Pathway and Caddis aim to deliver.
“Every community that we do, we’re trying to get a little bit smarter about what the resident wants and what the resident needs,” Jacobs said. “Hopefully this is our best one yet. And maybe the next one will be a little bit better.”