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Monday, Apr 15, 2024

Elder Facilities Cater to Retiring ‘Silver Tsunami’

Everyday 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65, a trend that will continue for the next decade, according to Pew Research Center. Addressing the coming ‘silver tsunami,’ as some call it, isn’t just about finding the right location for retirement but also about helping the population maintain social and active lifestyles. The Valley region’s assisted living facilities meet market demand by providing programs that keep the elderly connected and lively. “Now that people are living longer, 60 is the new 40,” said Lloyd Hartley, executive director of Meadowbrook in Agoura Hills, No. 13 on the Business Journal’s list of Assisted Living Facilities. Catering to seniors who are more active than ever requires the facility to also stay active in the community, Hartley said. For example, Meadowbrook is a designated polling place that draws voters from the neighborhood. Also, Meadowbrook regularly hosts political events and support groups that allow outsiders to come visit the facility. “There’s a preschool we have a relationship with; they bring the little goblins over to our seniors,” said Hartley. “It’s really cool to see the meeting of generations.” The community outreach results in a constant flux of people that helps create a positive image of the facility, which in turn allows the facility to be on people’s minds as they begin to plan retirement, Hartley said. Ernie Sandlin, director of marketing at University Village in Thousand Oaks, No. 1 on the list, said his facility is connected to local organizations like California Lutheran University and the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce. Residents at University Village can volunteer to be part of Conversation Café at Cal Lutheran, where they connect with international students to help with conversational skills. “Socialization is paramount to one’s well-being regardless of age,” said Sandlin. “It’s probably why residents of these communities tend to live a little longer because of the interconnectedness that is provided to them.” Eldercare development The Valley region’s ongoing housing shortage also includes eldercare facilities. According to the U.S. Census, the fastest growing age group is 65- to 69-year-olds. However, developing an eldercare facility in the Los Angeles area presents multiple challenges. Large developments generally see some resistance from the community as residents expect an increase in traffic and in eldercare facilities, possible noise from ambulances. “It’s quite the opposite,” said Hartley from Meadowbrook. “Because we are a community full of seniors, they know not to blare sirens.” Sandlin from University Village said while ambulances are a necessity, the traffic footprint tends to be lot lighter than a typical multi-family development, where families have multiple cars. For cities, supporting such developments is a balancing act; while the population needs more eldercare facilities, elected officials have to deal with residents’ concerns. In 2006, Los Angeles city passed an ordinance that created a separate approval process for eldercare facilities. However, most of the senior housing projects will go through a discretionary process that adds extra years for development. For developers, one of the biggest challenges is bridging the discrepancy between where seniors are and how zoning is allocated. “The challenge in L.A. is that most of the neighborhoods where you find a high concentration of seniors, you also find a high concentration of low-density residential zoning,” said Daniel Kianmahd, principal at Panorama Group, an assisted living real estate development firm in Los Angeles. “Seniors want to age in-place, in the same neighborhoods where they raised their children and where their grandchildren visit them.” The need for eldercare is projected to increase. According to Kianmahd, in Los Angeles the current number of units under construction only addresses 1 percent of the aging population, where the national average hovers around 8 percent. “When we build quality assisted living facilities that seniors want to move into, those seniors leave behind homes that add to the supply of housing, thereby giving young couples and families a better chance at becoming homeowners,” said Kianmahd. “It’s the natural evolution of housing and planning.”

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