When Ryan Novaczyk’s grandmother Betty came to live with his family after developing Alzheimer’s disease, they decided the best way to keep her healthy was to keep her busy.
Betty enjoyed the outdoors, so she helped the family rake, pull weeds and garden.
Most of the days, she went to bed because she was tired, not because she was overmedicated, Novaczyk said.
In 1998, the family started New Perspective Senior Living in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, with a strong focus on amenities for seniors.
When New Perspective Senior Living opened a $30 million, 135-bed senior living facility in August 2016 in Brown Deer, it included a pool table, a library, a Starbucks and a pub, where residents are served two free drinks a day.
The company also has local facilities in Brookfield, Mequon and West Bend.
“Every building has about 40 to 45 percent of common space, which is very high for our industry,” Novaczyk said. “With every new project we have, we find ways to improve. It has been the evolution of the business, but also the mindset of trying to get people out of their rooms and into the community spaces so they are living life on purpose.”
Just as today’s luxury apartments include everything from walking tracks to heated swimming pools, so do the newest senior living facilities.
Baby boomers are accustomed to a lifestyle where all of their needs are met, so when they move into a retirement facility, there is demand for high-quality communities, said Ben Mandelbaum, chief operating officer of New Jersey-based LTC Consulting Services and Senior Planning Services.
“Baby boomers can’t be offered a one-size-fits-all solution,” Mandelbaum said. “The baby-boom generation invented the idea of mass customization and many assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities now make it their aim to appeal to this new generation of seniors.”
Full-sized gyms, trained chefs who have studied at top cooking schools, spaces that have been decorated by professionals and numerous social activities, including entertainment areas with age-modified Zumba and belly dancing classes, have redefined the aging in place movement, Mandelbaum said.
At West Allis-based Heritage Senior Living LLC, which has 15 locations throughout Wisconsin, most campuses offer a pub area where residents can bring their own wine or enjoy the facility’s happy hour. There are also structured entertainment nights, warm water therapy pools, movie theaters and beauty salons.
Four different wellness packages are offered, ranging in price from about $100 a month up to $900 a month. The packages include massages and other spa-type amenities, said Debbie Miller, Heritage’s vice president of sales and marketing.
“We try to foster an overall campus resort feel,” Miller said. “We can provide an all-inclusive luxury resort package.”
For its memory care patients, Heritage offers multi-sensory rooms, which utilize light, sound, aromatherapy and touch to stimulate the brain.
These spaces, called “Snoezelen” rooms, are available throughout the day to anyone who needs them to reduce stress and agitation, Miller said.
During the late 1970s, two Dutch therapists began experimenting with a sensory tent to increase enjoyment for people with intellectual disabilities.
In 1992, the first U.S. Snoezelen room opened. The rooms are now used in a multitude of settings, including schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities.
“We are trying to take a different approach to therapy and reduce agitation, reduce medication,” Miller said. “Even just by taking a few minutes to sit down and have awareness of your surroundings can help with relaxation.”
Eastcastle Place, 2505 E. Bradford Ave. on Milwaukee’s East Side, has an artist studio with two kilns.
Harriet Herrick, a retired art teacher and professional artist, creates her own glasswork and pottery in the space, and also teaches the residents how to make art. Eastcastle residents also have a rooftop terrace and an herb garden that the chef incorporates into his menu daily.
Many of the senior living facilities have a focus on food. Residents come from different cultures and often have stories to share about how they prepared food at home, and their favorite recipes and traditions.
At Heritage and New Perspective, those traditions are honored with special dining nights, holiday parties and bistros.
“We took a step back from our high-quality, home cooked meals and looked at our culinary program to see how we could make it engaging and exciting,” Miller said. “We added action stations, cooking demonstrations and monthly themed meals. The variety is nice and the residents have loved it.”