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CEDAR FALLS — More baby boomers are ready to rock retirement, and rules for retirement communities are being rewritten.

It’s estimated about 10,000 members of the generation born from 1946 to 1964 are entering retirement daily. By 2030, people ages 65 and older will comprise more than 20 percent of the population.

Much as this generation altered the cultural landscape in their youth, Boomers’ vision for their retirement is considerably different from their parents. They’re not content to stroll off into the sunset listening to the Stones on their wireless headphones, or sit passively in the proverbial rocking chair scrolling websites on an iPad.

They want to be active, youthful, engaged and challenged. Many, either from financial need or sense of purpose, plan to continue working. The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies says roughly 3 out of 5 boomers plan to work beyond age 65.

At Western Home Communities, the mission is create fulfilling lifestyles that fit a new “LifePlan” community focus and redefine aging.

“We know the status quo isn’t going to fit what’s coming in the future,” said Western Home Communities CEO Kris Hansen. “We’re an innovative and future-focused organization, so how do we position ourselves to offer housing and services, holistic wellness and active, fulfilling lifestyles? We celebrate our history, but innovation is in our DNA, it’s who we are. I think we’re definitely on the cutting edge of some things in order to help people live the fullest lives they can, in a setting they want to be in.

“It’s not just about a place to live or receive care; it’s about a holistic lifestyle. We’re creating communities among seniors, and we also are open to making connections with the greater community around us,” he explained. “We’re taking our services and offering them in a way that folks are comfortable with, and it’s a much broader focus on community-based services and outreach.”

The $52 million expansion in southern Cedar Falls, particularly the Jorgensen Plaza for Well-Being, is helping forge that connection. Expected to open this spring, the facility will provide a much broader focus on community-based services and community involvement.

The wellness center boasts an aquatic center with Olympic-sized pool, walking track, exercise classrooms and equipment, a beauty salon and inpatient and outpatient therapy. Chef Jim Nadeau will oversee Table 1912, a fine-dining restaurant, fast-casual food at Caraway Café, Gilmore’s Pub and food at the Prairie Wind complex.

“It gives our residents several convenient spots to go on campus for socializing opportunities with friends and family, a place to enjoy a fine dining experience, farm-to-table dishes, a quick meal or pick up a smoothie after exercising, or join their friends at the pub,” Hansen said.

The Diamond Event Center, seating up to 400 with state-of-the-art audio-visual systems and on-site catering, will provide a venue for wedding receptions, anniversary celebrations, luncheons, dinners, parties, dances, graduations and fundraisers.

“Certainly we have our Windy Hill Choir thinking about performances here and we’re encouraging other events, but it’s not just about an event or performance. It’s more about the friendships, the relationships that can be built,” the CEO explained. “I’d like to create some senior maker spaces, too, so people can be creative and pursue new interests, and I can see retired business professionals, retired engineers and others sharing their expertise with young entrepreneurs in the community.”

In addition, Prairie Wind opened last summer. The 75-apartment, three-story independent living facility is attached to Jorgensen Plaza and features a breakfast café on the first floor, a third-floor library/lounge and kitchen area for resident use, two guest suites and a large conference room.

This is Western Home’s sixth independent living community, the fifth on the south campus. The first, Willowwood, opened near downtown in 1989. The organization also has expanded into Grundy Center and other communities in Northeast Iowa.

“You know, a lot of input for the Boomer generation is coming to us through their adult children or grandchildren who are concerned about their aging parents or grandparents. So our focus isn’t just about meeting the needs of seniors, but fulfilling the expectations of their family,” Hansen said.

“That’s part of what drives us. The old models for retirement communities just don’t get it anymore.”


Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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