Health and Fitness
September 22, 2015
With life expectancy rates rising, more and more seniors are looking for senior housing options to alleviate the stress of home ownership, move closer to family and retire with ease. Instead of assuming that they know what seniors want and expect out of a senior housing community, Avanti Senior Living is talking with seniors one-on-one to find out why they're searching, what they're looking for and how they are narrowing down their options.
"Transitioning into a senior living community is not always about health challenges," said Tim Hekker, CEO of Avanti Senior Living. "It is about seniors having the freedom to live the life they desire with an abundance of choice, access to convenient technological tools and mobile devices, delicious made-to-order meals and opportunities for lifelong learning, creative pursuits and whole person well-being. Seniors want to spend their retirement having fun with friends and enjoying new things that life has to offer without worrying about home maintenance."
To understand the seniors' perspectives, Lori Alford, COO of Avanti Senior Living, talks to seniors every day to get their input. She interacts with seniors in everyday life getting their opinions on housing, features, amenities and picking their brains for some new ideas. Alford asks her friends' grandparents, she asks young seniors she meets in public and she asks her own family. She even asks herself what she would want out of a community if there was no age limit and she were to move in tomorrow. Lori understands the necessity of catering to the future generations of retiring seniors, more specifically the boomer generation. She knows that people are naturally resistant to change; however, she understands that senior living communities are a consumer-related choice. People look for communities that will provide the best fit for their needs. Just like the fashion industry or companies such as Nike or Proctor & Gamble do, altering products or designs to keep pace with the changing preferences of their consumers is a necessity. It's a new generation and the industry cannot keep the status quo.
"As I have asked seniors what they want and done research to figure out how they think and what they value, I've learned that they want to do stimulating activities like the rest of us. They want to participate in a real book club that you or I would attend, try out an art class led by a true artist in a studio and not an arts and crafts room, attend educational seminars and experience culture and have a variety of things to choose from every day at whatever time fits their schedules," said Alford. "For a long time it has been about bringing the outside into the community so residents didn't have to leave. The future generation doesn't want that though; in fact, that's what they are afraid of. They want a lifestyle full of choices and opportunities to leave the campus. They want to feel engaged, cultured and full of life experiences."
Helen Zapolski is a New Yorker now living in New Jersey who's excited to move "deep in the heart of Texas" once Avanti Senior Living at Towne Lake opens next month. She is ready to shake things up a bit. It was a difficult decision for Helen, but after some research she realized that she could still keep her independence and live her life as she always had but be closer to family and enjoy being catered to as she sees fit. She is one of many seniors who told the Avanti team about her desire to learn more about technology.
"I was nervous about the idea of moving into a senior living community, but it seems to me that senior living communities are a way to live with ease," said Helen. "When I heard more about services offered beyond the actual amenities, I was thrilled to hear that they would actually have tech people on-site to help you learn and master technology. For starters, I'm planning on meeting with the tech guru to figure out how to use my new cell phone. My family is always telling me, 'Leave it on so we can call you,' but I don't know what buttons to push!"
Defying stereotypes about seniors, native Houstonians Pat and Ray Ham are also interested in technology. They decided to begin their search when Ray started experiencing health problems, and Pat thought that living in a community that catered to seniors of all ages and offered care and services would help. The couple has lived in Houston for more than 25 years and decided they would like to retire to Avanti at Towne Lake with their dogs.
"We never foresaw ourselves living in a senior living community, especially since we both come from such independent, active backgrounds," said Pat. "When Ray started having a few setbacks with his health, we realized that we needed to be proactive and find help before we couldn't handle his needs on our own anymore. Our basic search began with finding a place that allows dogs and is one story, which means no elevator problems. Then as we narrowed down our search, we realized that we also wanted a place that is tech-savvy. Avanti is doing something we had not heard of beforethey are actually giving residents their own customized tablets. There is a huge misconception about assisted living, and we are thrilled to learn that the stereotypical image we had in our minds is far from the truth."
Another common theme among seniors Avanti talked with is the desire to have spacious accommodations in a hip setting. Eunice Kent, a Houston native, lived in another senior community, but she is moving into Avanti Senior Living at Towne Lake because it provides more space, as the size of her suite is important to her. She also wanted the dÃ©cor to be modern and mature and the layout to be convenient.
"I love the outdoors, so it was important to me to find a community that would provide many opportunities to be outside," said Eunice. "I want to be able to dine outside, sit outside if I want fresh air and watch children play on the playground. Having my own tablet and intelligent technology will help me keep in touch with my family, who are all very tech-savvy. I hope to learn more and stay in touch with them in more ways than one. Most significant, moving into a senior living community means I won't have to worry about the lawn, housekeeping or normal maintenance issues associated with home ownership. I am excited and feel like I am moving into a community where I will always be on holiday!"
Alford and other team members will continue to talk with seniors to make sure that the Avanti Senior Living communities provide the amenities and choices they desire. They have used much of the feedback to shape their communities, programs and culture thus far, and as a result, Avanti is creating a truly unique lifestyle.
Photos Courtesy of Avanti Senior Living
Photo 1: Pat and Ray Ham, future residents of Avanti Senior Living at Towne Lake, are excited to move into their new suite and enjoy patio weather with their dogs.