Retirement Housing: What the Changing Market Wants

By Kleyman, Paul | Aging Today, September/October 2002 | Go to article overview

Retirement Housing: What the Changing Market Wants


Kleyman, Paul, Aging Today


The first article in this two-part series, "Retirement Housing Industry Is Facing a `Midlife Crisis'" (Aging Today, July-August 2002), described how changing demographics are altering the very shape of retirement communities. In the following article, national housing consultant Maria Dwight, president of Gerontological Services Inc. in Santa Monica, Calif, and J. David Hoglund, principal of Perkins Eastman Architects, Pittsburgh, Penn., summarize two case studies they worked on together. This article is based on their presentation at the 2002 National Council on the Aging (NCOA) and American Society on Aging (ASA) Joint Conference last spring in Denver.

Architect J. David Hoglund knew he had stepped into an intense expansion project when he attended the Collington retirement community's authors' party. It was a week before he was scheduled to start the process of redesigning and revamping the facility. He recalled, "They had glass cases with 18 or 20 books that residents of Collington had written. That seemed very nice-until somebody pointed out that they had all been published that year, not over 20 or 30 years." Among the residents of Collington Episcopal Life Care Community in Mitchellville, Md., were such retired luminaries of nearby Washington, D.C., as the late celebrated Watergate figure Elliot Richardson and 17 retired ambassadors. Hoglund realized that resident purview over his every step would be particularly keen.

"Collington is extremely resident-focused," Hoglund continued. "There were 16 different resident committees that we met with, including the theater group, the garden club, the flower-arranging group, the chess club, the sanctuary committee. We met with all of them and did fireside chats with the whole community, sometimes with 200 to 300 people in the room. There were lots of resident engineers and architects who wanted to tell us how we really should be doing things, and we met with a lot of them to review the drawings and go through the plans."

Hogland partnered with retirement-- housing consultant Maria Dwight, president of Gerontological Services Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif. Dwight completed her detailed assessment of Collington, including extensive resident interviews and market surveys of the region, before Hoglund arrived with his architectural team. She remembered that following a presentation she gave to residents about her research process for the project "a fellow came up to me and said, 'I am the retired head of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and I'm going to be very interested in this study.'"

TWO PROJECTS

Not only have Dwight and Hoglund worked together on retirement-community projects for over a decade, they teach a three-day workshop every year at Harvard University. During their workshop at the 2002 NCOA-ASA Joint Conference last spring in Denver, they described the changes in retiree and preretiree markets that have emerged since the early 1990s, examining the affluent Collington campus and an earlier project, Redstone Highlands in Greensburg, Pa., operated by Redstone Presbyterian SeniorCare for moderate-income clients.

Hoglund characterized prospective Collington residents as people who might comment, "We're a couple in our Los who haven't slept in the same bedroom for 20 years. We need two bedrooms, an office and space for when the kids come over. We want to have storage and we want a garage, not a place with a car parked 60 yards away." Even though Collington had been built in 1988, Hoglund said, it was based on 1978 models and market realities for continuing care retirement communities (CCRC). More than developing a market study, Collington management looked to Dwight to help them draw up a longterm strategic plan for the 125-acre wooded site.

Of key concern were the changing demographics in the region. Hoglund said that Collington's chief executive officer not only hoped to attract the younger retirement population, but she also wanted ethnic diversity. …

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