When it comes to retirement living, designers find they must, as The Who once sang, start “talkin’ bout my generation.”

Well, maybe not their own, but one of the generations currently in the retirement years. That’s because different generations dictate different lifestyle choices, especially in retirement. “Younger retirees expect different amenities and services than previous generations of seniors, based on greater aff luence and lifestyle preferences,” notes R. Douglas Spitler, president of Episcopal Retirement Homes Inc. “We have experienced a greater degree of customization of apartment homes offered by Episcopal Retirement Homes and increased interest in wellness centers, including indoor pools and multiple dining experiences.”

According to experts, there are three generations now in the throes of retirement, with the GI generation and the baby boomers bookending the trio.

“We’re now welcoming the Silent Generation into our communities,” says Chris McKenzie, vice president of marketing for Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, which owns and operates Llanfair Retirement Community. “People are forgetting there’s this intermediary generation before the baby boomers.”

What the Silent Generation is asking for is spacious accommodations and lots of choices and flexibility when it comes to how they live (whether through assisted or independent living) and how they pay for it, McKenzie says.

“They also want something in return for their money — some form of ownership,” she adds. “We’re being asked for different styles of dining, not all meals in the dining room, but in café or bistrostyle settings, and also for wellness and fitness (facilities).”

To that end, Llanfair Retirement Community has just broken ground for a new health and wellness center to be named the Clara Curry Wellness Center, after its donor. The facility will feature a café, indoor walking track, shuff le board and an exercise area with fitness equipment.

In focus groups conducted among 66- to 80-year-olds on a waiting list for Otterbein Retirement Communities, respondents indicated their top priorities for retirement living: a solarium or sunroom with a view of green space, a two-car garage, two bedrooms and an office (or one of the two bedrooms to be used as an office), technology-friendly accommodations with plenty of storage and no steps or brownstone-style.

The focus groups involved about 60 people and took place over two days at the end of June at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, says Rosemary Cicak, vice president of marketing for Otterbein Retirement Communities. The company is developing a retirement facility in Lebanon.

COUNTRY CLUBBING IT

A new business model for retirement living that addresses flexible financing and residential freedom is featured by The Stratford at Kenwood, according to Mark Marron, director of sales and marketing.

“We go into mature neighborhoods and create a country-club casual environment,” Marron says of the upcomingcampus, now being constructed between the key customer locations of Kenwood, Madeira, Hyde Park, Mariemont, Indian Hill and Oakley.

The highrise on its campus will house 215 independent living apartment homes with one to three bedrooms, plus 26 assisted living apartments, 12 memory support apartment homes and 12 skilled nursing apartment homes. It offers panoramic views that include the top of the Carew Tower.

For more flexible financing, without such hassles as closing costs, The Stratford will offer a 90 percent refundable entrance fee, plus a monthly service fee that covers all utilities, amenities and service except long-distance phone and upgraded cable. Concierge-style services can be added into the monthly fee. The effect is an independent lifestyle without the worries or maintenance demands of typical homeownership, Marron says.

“We call it ‘the active lifestyle you deserve in the neighborhood you love,’” Marron adds.

Another advantage of the central location and in-house amenities such as its multiple and varied dining venues, is that it is a convenient and inviting draw for residents’ children and grandchildren, Marron points out.

AGING IN PLACE

A buzz term in the field of retirement living is aging-in-place, which capitalizes on retirees’ resistance to moving, either from their current homes or from the area in general. Developers are responding to the large percentage of seniors who don’t migrate south for retirement, but instead choose to stay where they are, perhaps to remain near family and friends.

The term may also refer to a trend of bringing a la carte services to seniors in their homes, whether they live independently or in assisted living facilities or retirement communities.

Jordan Park Mariemont is a new development with the age-in-place philosophy.

Its best amenity, according to developer Rick Greiwe, is its location.

“I selected Mariemont for my development because it gives people an opportunity to age in place where there’s a multitude of (ages and generations),” says Greiwe, of Greiwe Development Group.

The 28 single-floor units give its homeowners “a village experience,” livingwithin an established community in a condo “home that’s equipped for you to age.”

The concept , which Greiwe says differs from a more isolated, strictly retirement-aged community, seems to have caught on, with sales bucking the current trend in real estate. Just six units remain available, he says.

Another development, Liberty Grand Villas in West Chester, seems to appeal to a variety of ages, according to Susan Nef f, sales and marketing director.

Among its diversified residents are baby boomers, perhaps in early retirement, young professionals in first homes and “in-betweens,” or single-again individuals, made so through a spouse’s death or divorce.

Liberty Grand Villas’ units are adaptable to an aging population, Neff adds. “We have them available with no steps, wide doorways and big bathrooms” (to accommodate wheelchairs).

AGE AND ARCHITECTURE

Lisa Sandlin has always questioned the way houses have typically been designed. A graduate of UC's School of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning, Sandlin remembers caring for her aging grandmother in her ranch home. "The kitchen was not equipped to handle her needs ... and the laundry facilities were inaccessibly located in the basement," she notes.

"The baby-boomer generat ion is posing new challenges to the housing market that must be addressed," adds Sandlin, who runs Lisa Sandlin Design studios in Hamilton. "Houses should be versatile, flexible and transformable to meet a family's changing needs."

For an ice-cold-eye assessment of a building’s adaptability to an aging population, designers might well also seek the advice of the Lifespan Design Studio in Lebanon.

Owned and operated by architect Doug Gallow and his wife and partner, Ellen, a gerontologist and certified aging-inplace specialist, the Lifespan studio offers design and/or consultation services to individual and institutional clients.

Every project they do, whether specifically for the aging population or not, is colored with the understanding that aging is “a lifespan event” and people’s abilities are progressively changing, Gallow explains.

So if the project is a police dispatch renovation or a school renovation, it’s completed with the consideration for all contingencies that might affect the inhabitants’ physical abilities; for the injured policeman or for the aging teacher, for example.

They find that at the extreme ends of life the physical abilities are different, but comparable, says Gallow, who cites the example of a frail senior citizen and a 4-year-old having a similar struggle opening the heavy glass door of a department store.

“Everyone’s abilities change, and their physical environment helps or hinders that,” Gallow notes.

There’s no reason why the physical environment shouldn’t be amenable to the able-bodied person, as well, according to Gallow. For instance, “kitchen counters don’t have to be 36-inches off the floor,” if a lower counter would better suit an owner who is short or who prefers to make meals while seated, he says. Similarly, receptacles can be placed higher off the floor to prevent excessive leaning over.