According to a study commissioned by Clarity and The EAR Foundation in 2007, adults fear the impact of change that comes along with latter parts of aging. The concern of less independence and being shuffled to a nursing facility takes precedence over a select group of fears that include that of their own mortality. Of their children, greater than 3 out of 4 participants feared that their parents would be mistreated or become depressed in a senior housing facility. This issue can largely be attributed to the design and location of nursing homes and facilities.
For the past several decades, senior housing developments have been marketed as specialized suburban structures situated near recreational and medical facilities. These developments would address a market need, but do so in a highly restrictive, age-consistent, autonomous urban design independent of the surrounding community. More recently, the industry has established simplistic models (independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, others) for what are, in reality, very complex relationships among real estate, finance, and healthcare industries.
While contemporary senior housing facilities remain in an awkward stage of development, the anatomy and forward design features indicate a promising future. For example, senior living offerings have diversified into an array of care models ranging from active adult retirement housing, to memory loss units, to rehabilitation facilities, to entire communities that offer a continuum of care when compared to their institutional, hospital-like settings of the past.
The adaptation to a new seniors marketplace, brought on by the retiring Baby Boomers, could result in an organization of resources and redeployment in creative ways, likely as infill projects woven into the communities, and even neighborhoods, where aging adults want to stay. This is new, as earlier models of senior housing did not provide many options. These now-retiring adults are interested in location and amenity features that are neither dominating or prohibitive, nor withdrawing or lazy. Instead, they are seeking to skew social categories, and in their individual pursuits, potentially meld lifestyles with that of their children.
Rather than conceiving senior housing as an individual, isolated development, the future of the industry may belong to providers and real estate developers who produce methods for borrowing on and contributing to a wider, mixed-generation neighborhood. We are certainly getting close to the point where the senior living industry begins to move away from providing “retirement communities” to providing for retirement in existing communities.
For information on senior housing developments in Texas, please contact Robert S. “Bob” Lowery, Managing Partner of MREA | Medical Real Estate Advisors at 713.701.7900.