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Connected community

October 24, 2013
by Ryan Miles
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Ryan Miles

As the silver tsunami begins to impact the nation’s long-term care facilities, providers are noticing a growing demand for mixed-use, intergenerational housing that is built into the community. More than any generation before them, Baby Boomers are less accepting of a retirement lifestyle removed from the community at large. Instead, they are seeking a lifestyle that allows them to remain an active part of their town or city.


AARP's 2011 Boomer Housing Study reported that 84 percent of those surveyed expressed a strong preference to stay in places and communities they have called home. As such, providers are increasingly looking for ways to achieve a sense of connectivity for their residents, and three main themes have emerged:

  • Walkability. Location is essential for those facilities seeking enhanced connectivity. Facilities located near a vibrant community have an inherent marketing edge.
  • Intergenerational. This can take many forms, such as incorporating a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) within a greater community using a connected design or building long-term care (LTC) facilities on or near college campuses. The Kendal Corporation, a Quaker-inspired senior housing development, has built several such communities near colleges and universities.
  • Mixed-Use. Incorporating retail units, often on the first floor of a multistory building, not only allows residents to frequent independent businesses, but also encourages outside citizens to visit.

Senior housing developments, whether independent living (IL), assisted living (AL), skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) or CCRCs, have long been isolated sites that sought to provide everything their residents would need within their walls. Although such an all-inclusive design will still be the right fit for many seniors, others want an alternative living choice that provides closer ties to their community.

“I think it’s one obvious trend of the future,” said Dodd Kattman, a partner in MKM Architecture + Design in Fort Wayne, Ind. “Recent statistics have illustrated that consumers’ preference for the traditional CCRC model has grown stagnant. In addition to existing all-inclusive campuses, providers should consider a pluralistic approach regarding housing style, location and alternative approaches to the delivery of services and care to these future residents,” he said.

Kattman explained that the model of building large, insulated sites can be traced back to a post-World War II romanticization of sprawling development and the subsequent rise of suburbia, but what’s changing this outlook is an exceptional convergence of different generations’ views on living a connected life.

“We’re at this unique period of time where the walkable, connected lifestyle appeals to college kids, to young families and to retired people. People of all ages are looking for a place to live where they can walk to restaurants, stores, coffee shops, etc.,” Kattman explained.

One example of a walkable senior living community that focuses on civic inclusion is the Townhomes at Hendricks Place, which benefits from a great location within the historic town of Lititz, Pa. Hendricks Place is part of Moravian Manor, a CCRC that offers the full spectrum of care. Over the years, ownership has made a conscious effort to expand its footprint seamlessly within the community. Instead of constructing a large campus and trying to re-create a small town feel within it, Moravian simply brought the CCRC to the small town.

“There’s just not a distinct separation between where our facilities start and stop,” said Moravian Manor CEO and President David Swartley. “You’ll see community members, school kids and seniors all using the same sidewalks and interacting.”

A more urban example can be found in Armstrong Place Senior Housing located in San Francisco’s Bayview District. Developed by nonprofit BRIDGE Housing, it offers apartments for low-income seniors along with market-rate units and local retailers on the ground floor. Its proximity to the city’s newest mass transit rail line links its residents to downtown, further enhancing its sense of civic inclusion.


When it comes to financing this new trend of senior living developments, there are as many questions as there are answers. “The financing aspect is the great unknown,” Kattman said.

In today’s economic climate of low interest rates and limited traditional bank loans, often the preferred option for funding senior projects is to obtain financing through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)/Federal Housing Administration (FHA) program. There is an existing model in the market today for such financing and plenty of lenders with ample experience are executing it; however, this is not the case with mixed-use, intergenerational facilities. Financing can still be obtained, but things can get complicated.

Kattman has seen many such deals get done with a grab bag of funding options. Different sources include tax credits, bonds, grants and various governmental set-asides. Securing financing for these developments encourages partnerships and nontraditional relationships because it often takes multiple organizations and a lot of creativity to complete the funding picture.