5 Ways Providers are Spicing Up Senior Living

While movies, exercise classes and happy hours are industry mainstays, some communities are thinking outside the box when it comes to new programming and services for residents.

Whether a special event or ongoing service, SHN spoke with providers to find out what they’re doing for their latest, most innovative activities, entertainment and amenities. Here are our top 5.

“Home” Brewing. Galloway Ridge at Fearrington, an LCS-managed community, answered the challenge to engage residents by offering programming with a little more hops: beer brewing.


In the past year, a group of eight to 10 residents at the North Carolina continuing care retirement community has been working with dining chefs to brew and bottle beer each month.

The group of men, who call themselves the Hops & Barley Brew Boys, got together after the director of food and beverage suggested the activity as a means for involvement.

“Many activities are lady-oriented, not men-oriented,” says Bob Holton, one of the brew boys. “But this plugs in another opportunity where a group of guys can get together and socialize.”


The brewing process takes about four weeks from mixing the ingredients to fermenting to bottling. And when the beer is ready, it’s offered at community or holiday events for donations, which cover the cost of the materials.

One of the beers even earned an honorable mention at a local brew festival, which the dining director suggested the men enter.

But Holton says the activity is all about the comradery.

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“We get together and sit around and talk and have a beer, then go through the rest of our days,” he says. “It’s just a chance to get to know people.”

Antiques Roadshow. An Oakmont Senior Living community in Brea, Calif. is hosting an Antiques Roadshow-inspired event that will allow residents and visitors the ability to have their antiques appraised—in the name of St. Jude’s hospital.

In exchange for an optional donation, the Oakmont’s Capriana community is employing three professional appraisers to come on-site and estimate the worth of antiques. Residents can collect the possessions to find out what they are really worth, a la popular TV series the Antiques Road Show.

“It’s a nice event to find out what pieces appraise for,” says Brent Rodriguez, marketing director for Oakmont’s Villagio at Capriana memory care community. “It’s also an open invitation to networking in the senior living industry that’s open to all residents, spouses, and children for the local community.”

“No Hassle” Pet Program. A proposed continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Nevada County, Calif. plans to implement a pet sharing program that allows residents to borrow other residents’ pets as part-time companions.

Rincon Del Rio, with a groundbreaking slated for August, will include a “No Hassle Community Pets” program that allows interested residents to enjoy having a four-legged friend without the burden of being solely responsible for that animal.

The CCRC, to feature seven neighborhoods boasting 345 units, will be sprawled over 250-acres of nature, including miles of walking and equestrian trails.

The pet sharing program will promote physical activity among residents, as well as provide a sense of companionship, says Rincon Del Rio Co-Founder Carol Young.

“Older people have their dogs they love, but maybe they just had a hip replacement and can’t walk that dog,” Young says. The program will also benefit pet owners, who might need help caring for their pets, or need a caretaker if they go on vacation.

Residents who don’t own a pet would be able to call the CCRC’s main office and request a pet for a specified amount of time.

“There are people who have lived with a spouse their whole life and then that spouse has died — they are hurt,” she says, adding that being with a pet can instill a sense of purpose. “If you walk the dog, chances are someone will stop and talk to you. We know a lot of people love dogs.”

On Demand Tech Rentals. While a growing number of seniors own their own mobile devices, others may be hesitant to try new technology because of the device’s price tag.

At Emeritus, whose $2.8 billion merger with Brookdale Senior Living will form the largest senior living provider in the nation, a new pilot program including some of its Illinois, Indiana and Missouri transforms common areas into Internet cafes.

Residents can also borrow mobile tablets for use, says Ginna Baik, national director of innovation and resident technology with the life enrichment team at Emeritus.

“Some seniors are hesitant to buy the iPad because of the cost associated, and they worry they won’t get value out of using that [device],” Baik says, explaining how a mobile device rental program can help ease seniors into using technology that, for many, is life changing.

Residents can rent an iPad for one to five hours, and are encouraged to use the device in the common areas to promote socialization among residents, as well.

“A daughter, 73, and mother, 93, both got iPads at the same time, and they have been FaceTiming every single day. She and her mom connect because of this project,” she says.

A rental model can also encourage residents, once they are familiar with the project, to purchase their own.

In fact, overall tablet ownership among seniors has risen from 2% in 2010 to 25% this year, according to senior marketing agency Zillner.

Robotic “Sailbots”. Robotic science is inviting a collaboration between a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) and a nearby engineering college that is seeking practical applications to develop new technologies geared toward senior care.

North Hill, a CCRC in Needham, Mass., is serving as an informal consulting and testing grounds for students at Olin College who are working with residents to create devices that will improve the quality of life for seniors.

Both organizations, which sit less than two miles from each other, have a history of collaboration, said Caitrin Lynch, a professor at Olin College who specializes in anthropology and aging.

In the past, North Hill residents have participated activities from Olin’s robotics program, particularly when it comes to robotic sailboats, or “sailbots.”

More recently, Olin’s Engineering for Humanity class visits North Hill meets with residents to better understand the values and needs of seniors and to obtain feedback and ideas on projects they are working on, more often than not in a one-on-one environment, Lynch said.

“The collaboration is much more one-on-one, rather than in a big group of people,” Lynch said. “The design results are better when you’re working with a person to understand what they want. Ideas come up that arise out of the needs of the people you’re designing for.”

In May, both North Hill and Olin College officially kicked off a “Celebration for Innovation” to launch their latest collaboration, the North Hill-Olin College Fund for Innovation in Aging.

“The objective of the program is to provide financial support for projects undertaken by students and faculty at Olin College of Engineering that will benefit older adults as well as provide a meaningful learning experience for Olin students,” North Hill stated in a release.

So far the Fund has celebrated its first grant, which went toward an Olin student’s development of Lilypad Scales, a digital scale that can be used by individuals with limited mobility, such as the elderly or those who are in wheelchairs.

Though still in its early stages, Lilypad Scales will be tested at North Hill for its practical use, Lynch said.

“The Olin-North Hill collaboration is about improving the lives of North Hill residents, but also about improving the lives of seniors and older adults more generally,” said Lynch.

Written by SHN Staff

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