From a serpentine sofa below soaring ceilings, you watch a row of glassware on the bar catch the natural sunlight pouring into the room.
“Would you care for a glass of wine?”
That may not be the assistance most of us think of when it comes to housing and care for the elderly, but it’s part of what’s on offer at Oakwood Senior Living, a 62-unit assisted living facility built by local developer Rick Dover in a hundred-year-old elementary school in a historic downtown neighborhood of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Each apartment in the 5,000 square-foot center has towering windows and ceilings, unique dimensions and layout, and the blend of luxury retro and modern finishes and decor that are a trademark of Dover Development’s award-winning heritage restorations. Upstairs, oversize double doors open from a fine-dining space onto a second-floor balcony where Oakwood Elementary’s original schoolbell still gets rung. Below, a solar-enhanced vegetable and flower garden, walking trails, and a putting green fill out the footprint left vacant 23 years earlier and blend into the tended lawns, old trees, and tidy, postwar single-family houses of the surrounding blocks.
Dover’s senior facilities work splendidly in this small Southern city with modest growth and per-capita income, low population “churn” and housing turnover, and abundant inner-city development incentives. But many aging residents of big cities, suburbs, and rural towns also want to stay close to the neighborhoods where they raised their families. They, too, need affordable personalized care and are drawn to what Dover calls “a cozy residential feel.” And across the board, what’s on the menu where they live really, really matters.
These preferences reflect the new values of aging consumers in every area of life. After all, Millennials don’t own curiosity and discovery in food culture, the insistence on broader choice, on personalized and custom offerings, and preference for healthy, whole, and ethically produced foods. According to a 2012 University of Pittsburgh study, 70 percent of assisted living residents drink alcohol. Given that seniors in assisted living may spend two-thirds of their time eating, drinking, and gathering to eat and drink, it’s clear why food services and dining are the most important factors in resident satisfaction. Providers take note: that’s unlikely to change in the next decade as the first cohort of Baby Boomers reaches the predicted assisted living-ready age of 80.
If your point of view could use a quick update as we round the bend into the ten-year home stretch, you’re invited to take a closer look at Dover Development’s Oakwood Senior Living right here, and our own comparison of trends in foodservice for assisted living in the infographic below. The bar is open, and it has definitely been raised.