Baby Boomers may have been surpassed by Millennials as the “nation’s largest living generation,” according to Pew research, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost the power of getting their own way. This time, Boomers are bending, breaking and rewriting the rules for retirement and senior living.

In fact, Readers’ Digest lists six ways Boomers and their must-haves are altering the landscape of senior living: 1. If pets aren’t welcome in Mom and Pop’s new digs, they’ll pass; 2. Retirement facilities with vacation-style amenities, lots of services and choices; 3. More space to live, play and entertain; 4. Fitness centers, gardens to tend, volunteer opportunities, social wellness activities and events and other non-sports ways to relieve boredom and stay out of the rocking chair; 5. Urban housing options that emphasize walkability in both distance and ease of walking; and 6. A wired world to stay connected — Wi-Fi for Skyping with grandkids, posting photos to Facebook and, of course, online shopping.

“The future is not a gated community for seniors,” said Western Home Communities CEO Kris Hansen. “Boomers are certainly not going to tolerate doing the things we’ve always done and in the environment we’ve always done it. We want to create an environment that responds to their needs and defeats ageism in our community.”

Recognition of that truth — and a desire to meet the needs of this population — is true at Friendship Village, New Aldaya and other senior living communities.

Hansen says Western Home Communities has been a “catalyst” for senior living advancement for a number of years. Now they are in the thick of a major $42 million project that includes Prairie Wind, an independent living facility with 75 apartments that opens in June, skilled nursing cottages and the centerpiece, Jorgensen Plaza for Well-Being.

The $12.5 million plaza will feature an aquatic center, restaurant and pub, fitness center, salon, large community center, restorative suites and numerous other amenities that also will be available to the public. It is expected to open in January 2018.

“This isn’t just for our residents. We’ve always done our part in serving the greater community, and we’re focused on aging services and future needs. We are evolving … and we’ve had to change our mission statement. Instead of fulfilling lifestyles for seniors, we are creating fulfillment for all stages of life. What that means is, we’re all working together in a collaborative way to create a seamless continuum of care for the Cedar Valley,” Hansen said.

Amanda Lynch, wellness coordinator for Western Home Communities, will continue researching “how to find that sweet spot of programming for our residents and the 55-plus folks in the Cedar Valley. It’s amazing and exciting that there will be one place for them to go and do a multitude of things from working out, having therapy, sharing social time with their friends and family. Jorgensen Plaza truly will encompass all the dimension of wellness — health and fitness, spiritual and social,” she enthused.

At Waterloo’s Friendship Village, the mission statement has been a front-burner issue for Executive Director Lisa Gates. “We’ve refined our mission statement and restated our core values, and that affects all of our facilities. As our legacy employees — people who’ve been with us for many years — are retiring, we’re discovering a need to instill understanding of our culture and values in the younger generation of employees,” she explained.

A grand opening is set for March 17 for the new Cold Creek Café at Village Place, which also features an outdoor patio for dining. Free samples will be offered from 1 to 3 p.m. The Cove’s lounge will get a new patio with a view of the lake on the Friendship Village campus. Meal plans are becoming more flexible, as well, because of new options outside the traditional dining room.

Friendship Village will observe its 50th anniversary May 1, 2018. Plans are being made for how best to celebrate the event, as well as options being developed for possible renovations and expansion. Now, as in the future, Gates says they are “reacting to the wishes and wants of current residents and being responsive to changes in attitude about retirement and senior living care from Boomer-aged retirees.

“Our vision is to continue to provide facilities, amenities, events, activities and programs that feed the mental, physical and spiritual needs of our residents and future residents, and that set us apart,” Gates explained.

Millisa Tierney, executive director and CEO at New Aldaya in Cedar Falls, said, “There are several plates spinning, as usual, at New Aldaya as we continue to build and enhance services for our residents and the community.”

New Aldaya recently received licensing for a new catering kitchen, adding to their event and catering services for a range of events, including wedding receptions, anniversary celebrations and business seminars. Additionally, the wellness program has been officially branded. ‘Live Better Your Way,’ is open to anyone ages 55 and older to use exercise equipment and participate in a range of classes, including Tai Chi, yoga and boot camp.

“That was rolled out in January 2016, and we’ve had a successful first year, tying together the benefits of living better, living well and staying well,” Tierney says. “New tracks of educational classes are being ramped up.”

She describes New Aldaya as a pioneer “in sticking our foot into the puddle of the blended community model” with New Aldaya Lifescapes’ Main Street, which includes a pub and café and plenty of live entertainment. “Feedback from community users shows they really like the environment and easy access and parking,” Tierney explained. “Throughout New Aldaya, we adjust to needs and things residents and visitors would like to see to keep it fresh and consumer-centric.”

She acknowledges “tremendous” change in post-acute and extended care health options, which has required some repositioning to address those issues. “I’m also pleased with growth in employee health participation. There was huge growth for 2016 in health and wellness for the people who work here.”

Plans are in the development phase for new housing options to offer potential residents, and two smaller capital campaigns are moving ahead for remodeling the chapel, a $300,000 update and an entry garden and outdoor entertainment space, projected at $200,000. That space will have a water feature and be accessible from the chapel or Main Street.

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Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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