Active Adult Communities

2/19/2021 | By Annie Tobey

Would you rather be a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond? This judgment of size is one we make throughout our lives – from schooling for ourselves or our children, to churches and other community groups, to employers. Each option has its advantages; individual preferences vary, too. When it comes to deciding on a new residence for ourselves or a loved one, the benefits of a small senior living community are worth considering.

To help you consider these benefits, we’ve talked with three small senior residences, and we’ve provided an overview of these perks.

Anthology of Meridian Hill, Indianapolis, Indiana

“We can do more personalized service and we can get involved more with group activities,” says Chris Schindelbauer of Anthology of Meridian Hill. Anthology is an assisted living community with fewer than 100 rooms, including 44 for memory care. “On the clinical side, we can do a more personalized care plan and monitor how the needs are met for the activities of daily living, plus medication management and dietary needs.”

Anthology offers restaurant-style dining, with everything cooked to order, helping them to meet dietary needs more easily.

“We have a sense of community. We’re a small neighborhood,” says Schindelbauer. Adding to the community feel, many of the residents lived nearby before moving to their new home at Anthology. Some residents even invite their previous neighbors to become a part of their new community.

“We have all of the same features and benefits [of a larger facility],” Schindelbauer says. “We just really don’t have the huge get-lost-in-a-crowd feeling. We all know each other. We can easily introduce new residents to their new neighbors and to department heads relatively quickly.”

The Crossings at Ironbridge, Chester, Virginia

“We have the ability to provide high-level care at affordable prices,” says Cheryl Toler of The Crossings at Ironbridge. “With our residents, our entire team knows each resident, is able to meet that individual’s needs, and has the ability to provide communication with each family member as needed.”

The Crossings at Ironbridge has 83 apartments, which includes 23 dedicated to memory care.

Toler adds, “There are no downsides of a smaller community … The Crossings at Ironbridge provides a comfortable home-like atmosphere, a great selection of activities, and location.”

Hickory Hill Retirement Community, Burkeville, Virginia

The “little pond” at Hickory Hill has demonstrated the benefits of a personalized atmosphere since its inception. The retirement community is tucked in the country in Southside Virginia. It was founded by Dolores Mullens, built on the family property in 1999, and is still owned and operated by the family.

“It’s a very beautiful place,” says Falon Newton, who is marketing director at Hickory Hill and Dolores Mullens’ granddaughter. “We love our residents. We do things differently … because we’re family owned. We have two cats and a dog – Corky, a chocolate lab – as our welcome wagon, and a bird aviary.” Except for memory care rooms, public areas and rooms are carpeted and wallpapered, for a warmer, less institutional feel.

Of the advantages of the small size – 28 memory care beds and 62 assisted living – Newton says, “The care is better because it’s more concentrated. I think that’s a great benefit to residents.” Seven of the family members – a very tight-knit family, as Newton says – work at Hickory Hill, each overseeing a department. “There’s nothing that slips by us. We run everything with a fine-tooth comb. We’re very particular about things … You can’t have too much of that when you’re talking quality of care.”

Hickory Hill offers plenty of activities, too, off-site and on-site. Perhaps the most distinctive is fishing on the property’s pond, which has a walkway with railings and a pavilion on the water.

Newton adds that their location helps keep prices competitive, even for memory care. “This has never really been about the money for us,” she says. “This is my grandmother’s missionary work and always has been.”

The Benefits of a Small Senior Living Community

In summary, these and other small-but-mighty senior communities can offer a range of benefits:

  • Staff knowledge of all residents.
    • A small total number of residents can lend a greater comfort and familiarity between residents and staff.
    • For some residents, the small-community feel can better encourage friendships with other residents.
    • Family members and friends will be more familiar with staff during visits.
    • The lower number of residents may result in a lower staff-to-resident ratio.
  • Increased staff time spent caring for each resident. One of the big benefits of a small senior living community is often the increased time residents get with staff.
  • Attention to individual needs and tailoring to those needs. Of course, any licensed facility must ensure accuracy in medications and diet. A lower staff-to resident ratio, however, can potentially offer better oversight (noting subtle effects of medications, for example). On the diet side, food may be better catered to taste preferences as well as dietary needs.

A study reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society compared 11 different aspects of life in small versus traditional nursing homes. Researchers found that the quality of care at the smaller nursing home at least equaled and, in some cases, exceeded the quality of the larger one.

“Senior living is a people business, which means providers must value and respect their residents and employees,” says Senior Housing News. Accordingly, the more contact that administrators and providers have with their residents, the greater potential for value and respect.

Of course, quality care can be found at any size senior living community. When searching for the best new home, decision makers should vet each community to determine if it meets their standards and their needs. Knowing that quality can be found at any community of any size, the question remains: Do you want to be a big fish in a little pond or a little fish in a big pond?

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey