Senior Living Communities Around Us
A living room at an Atria Senior Living location, opening this spring on Old Quarry Road.
As you drive up Old Quarry Road, you will see a new sprawling building emerging, filling the once-vacant lot. This is the new Atria Senior Living, one of the many senior-living communities committing billions of dollars to create the present and future homes of an aging population.
These communities bear no resemblance to what our great grandparents might have envisioned when we spoke of a retirement home. The antiquated concept of a “nursing home” has given way to new options in senior living, which range from independent living, round-the-clock assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care. These attractive new facilities combine the efficiency of a well-run medical facility and the amenities of a high-end hotel. The more comprehensive facilities are referred to as a CCRC—or a continuing care retirement community, which is a single facility that offers residents the full spectrum of care levels. A CCRC is designed to ensure the continuity of a senior’s care throughout their retirement years.
The newest community being built in Ridgefield is Atria Senior living. “About eight years ago, we saw the first of the baby boomers reaching retirement age, or what we used to consider retirement age. Since then, we’ve seen the percentage of older adults in America continue to grow, and there’s going to be an even sharper uptick in the next decade,” explains Atria Senior Living senior vice president John Hartmayer, a Ridgefield resident. “From 2020 to 2030, the 75 plus population is projected to grow by 11 million people, which is a 50 percent increase in this segment of the population.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016 more than 575,000 Connecticut residents were age 65 and older, making up an estimated 16 percent of the state’s total population of 3.6 million. People are living healthier lives and staying active well into their later years. “Senior living communities offer a real home where they can age well in the company of others, participate in programs and events based on their interests, eat well, set goals, and continue to live purposeful lives,” says Hartmayer.
The first senior living residence in town was Ridgefield Crossings, which opened 13 years ago and is part of the Benchmark group that recently added a large facility in Fairfield to its portfolio of 17 Connecticut communities. “Benchmark Senior Living at Ridgefield Crossings is proud to have been the first assisted living community in Ridgefield,” says Benchmark senior vice president Bob Moran. “We are continually updating and adding to the comfortable, home like feel. In 2016, we completed a number of cosmetic improvements and last year added a bistro, which has become a popular focal point for residents.”
Cuisine is a big selling point at all of these communities, boasting fine chefs and all-day dining for residents. Some even have room service. However, these services are designed to extend beyond hotel-like services. Maplewood Senior Living in Westport also takes their dining options and cuisine seriously, especially for memory care residents. Maplewood, which is opening a new community in Southport in 2018, offers a program called “Inspired Dining” for those living with memory impairment. As people age, their sense of taste often decreases—which makes eating fresh, colorful and flavorful foods even more important, so Maplewood and other communities include farm to table food in their menus. “At Maplewood we believe the most satisfying and healthful dishes begin with the freshest ingredients,” says Maplewood CEO Gregory D. Smith. “Our creative culinary team does a phenomenal job of showcasing what is at its best at this moment to offer a combination of unique and classic dishes that are in season, farm fresh, and sourced locally. The open display concept allows chefs to prepare meals directly in front of residents for them to see, smell, and hear their meals being made, which stimulates the appetite and engages them in the dining experience.”
Another cutting-edge aspect of these communities is their employment of technology to enhance residents’ lives—and in some cases their memory care treatment. Residents are often computer savvy and like to stay connected. Maplewood recently developed a “Center for Aging Innovation and Technology” that is piloting multiple products for their communities including a virtual reality system specifically designed for seniors that offers immersive experiences to entertain, spark memories, foster social connections, and reduce stress and anxiety. There are also Amazon Alexas in each room that are connected to a home base to help communicate daily happenings or answer residents’ questions.
From food to technology to engaging activities, and of course, expert full time, on staff skilled care for various needs, these communities are providing comfortable long-term solutions for the care of Connecticut’s growing rank of seniors.