CCRC Face-Lifts Keep Aging Communities Competitive

As continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) in the pipeline nationwide have all the fixings today— multiple dining areas, exercise and wellness facilities and more — those with years under their belt are staying competitive through campus renovations and updates.

An older CCRC in Portland, Ore., – founded in 1957 – is undergoing a $60 million redevelopment project to overhaul its campus in order to attract the modern prospect. The redevelopment includes the demolition of 110 apartments and associated common spaces to make way for a new, centralized main street.

As part of its new downtown, nonprofit Rose Villa Senior Living will offer a variety of dining options, including on the go and upscale eateries; a new wellness center, complete with a pool and slide, lazy river and hot tub; a performing arts center; a pocket-style community design; an electric car charging station and more, says Rose Villa Senior Living CEO Vassar Byrd.


“You have to think bigger,” Byrd says about modernizing older CCRC communities. “Some people asked me, ‘Why does the pool need a slide? Well, we have a couple residents vying to go down the slide first. And [those types of features] appeal to visiting family members, grandkids.”

Byrd admits that not much renovation took place prior to when she took the helm in 2006, and renovation plans were put on hold when the economy took a hit in 2007.

“Many of our buildings are from the ’60s,” she says.


While physical improvements are key, shaking up management at the top can inspire outside-the-box thinking.

“The super common story you have is a single site, independent community that has been handed from one executive director to another without any outside influence,” Byrd says. “Complacency is scary. You need to break up the traditional management structure and include residents in planning. They’ll tell you what they want.”

Rose Villa is also updating its Internet bandwidth to fully accommodate all of its residents’ online activities, she says, as well as installing a virtual learning lab that will be equipped with the latest technology.

“They’re Skyping, watching Apple TV — there are multiple ways they reach out electronically,” she says. “They’re pushing the envelope. If you’re thinking, ‘[Seniors] just email a little bit, right?’ — that is old thinking. That will kill you.”

Erickson Living, which develops and operates 19 entry-fee CCRCs in 10 states across the U.S., spent over $100 million on construction of CCRCs at its existing communities in 2013 alone, adding 550 healthcare beds to the company’s portfolio. Today, Erickson is in the midst of building nine new residential buildings at seven of its developing communities.

To stay competitive, it’s important to always plan ahead, including identifying what future amenities will require upgrading, Byrd says, adding that after Rose Villa’s current renovation project the community will be able to implement more consistent upgrades on a rolling basis.

Leading developer and manager of continuing care properties Life Care Services (LCS) has been in business since 1971, and has seen how CCRCs have evolved to give residents more options in regard to dining and wellness.

“The CCRC product has evolved with changes in the market,” says LCS Senior Vice President and Director of Development Kent Larson, adding that many communities include an independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and/or memory care wing. “It’s very typical to see assisted living and memory care wings, years ago that wasn’t a typical component.”

Key differences between the CCRC of today and CCRCs built decades ago reflect residents’ desire for options  — a variety of dining options and wellness or activity centers, Larson says.

“You [see CCRCs] with lots of dining options — a sandwich shop, bistro, coffee shop — as opposed to one main dining room,” he says. “And wellness used to be maybe one work-out room, but now it has expanded to strength training, aerobics, having an indoor pool, maybe a spa where residents can get massages.”

While LCS’ latest CCRC Trillium Woods in Plymouth, Minn. — to open its doors in summer or fall of next year — will be built with a resort-style design, LCS oversees the refurbishing of many older CCRCs as well.

“Some might be missing now popular amenities, and if they want to remain popular they need to refurbish,” Larson says.

While CCRC construction slowed during the recession, Larson points to the $161 million development of Trillium Woods, being developed in partnership with The Westminster Funds, as reflective of the big picture of CCRCs — they will continue to be a viable product in the senior living market.

“CCRCs are a very good product for quite a [lot of people],” Larson says, adding that he expects full occupancy at Trillium Woods within 12 to 18 months after opening. “Looking forward, there will be more new CCRCs developed, and communities that are older have invested and reinvested [to stay current].”

Written by Cassandra Dowell

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