Retirement Communities

3/13/2020 | By Rachel Marsh


No longer weighed down by that stuffy, inhospitable stereotype that they once held, retirement communities are now seen as a thriving destination for retirees everywhere. Seniors are planting themselves at Continuing Care Retirement Communities (or CCRCs) across the nation, leisure and relaxation getaways to settle into and call home. And Hamilton County, part of the Cincinnati metropolitan area and located in the southwest corner of Ohio, has created a flourishing reputation for these very types of communities.

In fact, the county now boasts the fifth highest ranking in the nation of density of CCRCs to the ratio of 65+ population.

Retirees are flocking to the area in droves, eager to throw out the tedious responsibilities of the past and finally prioritize their hobbies, their social lives, and … themselves.

For Adults Seeking Activity, Care, and Everything in Between

A Continuing Care Retirement Community, or CCRC, is a community that provides multiple levels of care on one single campus. Care levels generally range from independent living to assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care. They’re designed so that residents can remain in that community without ever having to move out; even if an individual’s health eventually declines, they can move to a different, more specialized building within the same community.

You may already be familiar with CCRCs – but before you get too comfortable with the term, know this: a lot of these communities are in the process of transitioning their name to something more inclusive. Many CCRCs have begun the rebranding process, and now prefer the term “Life Plan Community,” or LPC.

So, why change the term from something so many are already familiar with? The conversion comes from a variety of different reasons: some communities, for example, sought to eliminate the words “continuing care” from the title; many associated this phrase with the notion of a medical facility or nursing home. Instead of being seen as a place where older adults are cared for, LPCs prefer to be identified as a setting that encourages an active lifestyle and new experiences.

Furthermore, Life Plan Communities cater to many healthy, thriving retirees who merely seek a simpler way of living. The term “life plan,” these communities reasoned, indicates the continuation of living; it sounds more future forward – the goal of CCRCs in the first place. Though the communities do provide care at every stage of aging, the new term focuses less on the care that its residents may eventually need, and more on the active lifestyle they are still living.

The Perks of Calling It ‘Home’

Overall, Life Plan Communities seek to give their residents a more laid back, carefree lifestyle in an environment that they can settle into for the rest of their lives. The benefits of LPCs, millions of retirees agree, are extensive.

Maintenance

General property upkeep is often covered by onsite staff to allow residents a more stress- and obligation-free way of life. Maintenance typically includes lawn care, snow shoveling, and raking, plus housing exterior care such as pressure washing and painting.

Onsite healthcare

There are generally medical personnel on campus to do routine health checks for residents. There are also specialized healthcare providers available to perform more comprehensive care on residents as needed.

Wellness programs

Communities offer regular health programs and events like exercise classes, yoga, muscle strength, and even brain enhancement. Many have onsite gyms and recreation centers.

Security

No need to worry about neighborhood watch or break-ins. Most communities have 24-hour security guards, and many campuses are even gated.

Social satisfaction

Social isolation can become more prevalent with age. In Life Plan Communities, however – since there’s often an age minimum or restriction – homeowners are surrounded by fellow residents of their same age and lifestyle.

Social activities

In order to further foster these social engagements among residents, communities often coordinate regular activities, such as game nights, movies, classes, and offsite diversions like outings and field trips.


“The aging experience is unique for everyone, so too are the creative solutions to assure that life is as independent and purposeful as possible. Our commitment to the well-being of our residents and program participants is demonstrated by our rich variety of life enrichment and signature programs.”

– Megan Ulrich, vice president of marketing and business development at Maple Knoll Village


Amenities. LPCs offer a wide variety of onsite amenities for residents to enjoy alone, with each other, and with visitors. These generally include: pools, gyms, golf, tennis courts, community centers, churches, cafés, and restaurants.

Never pack up and move again. But one of the greatest perks of an LPC? Because of the multiple tiers of care provided onsite, residents don’t ever have to think about moving again. Though individuals may relocate to a different building, everything is still located on the same campus.

The Many Planted Roots in Hamilton County

When it comes to LPCs in Ohio – as mentioned before – Hamilton County is a magnet for these types of living communities. According to the 2018 Ziegler Investment Banking U.S. Census Bureau report, there are 5,200 individuals – age 65 and up – for every Life Plan Community in Hamilton County.

So what makes the region such a draw? Well for starters, the area itself boasts many attractive aspects – appealing facets for all generations: a thriving arts and culture scene, for instance, plus notable landmarks, sports, history, shopping, and food.

But, in addition to its leisure attractions, the region has practical appeal as well. Due to its thriving employment rate; highly rated schools; and its affordable cost of living, many young adults are planting roots with their families. Many seniors, as a result, have also embedded themselves in the community to be closer to kids and grandkids.


“Many former employees return to the area; the parents of current employees move here to be closer to their families. In addition to that there’s just a plain old charm of Cincinnati, with its many outstanding arts venues. And of course the top notch medical community is a draw.”

– Gil Heckel, director of sales and marketing at Evergreen and Wellspring Retirement Community


That being said – although the area does draw in new residents all the time – loyal, longtime inhabitants of Hamilton County are just as easy to come by. Many seniors who have called it home for decades (or, perhaps, their entire lives) seek to permanently remain in the area.Man Playing records

Because of this, many Life Plan Community developers deemed the Hamilton County area an idyllic spot to sprout roots. They themselves are able to accommodate the aforementioned high population of retirees.

Over the decades (and centuries, for some!), local retirement communities have built and maintained success: “Due to the success of established senior living communities, such as Seasons, it stands to reason investor groups are interested in adding Cincinnati [and Hamilton County] to their portfolios,” explains Elizabeth Bangel-Stehlin, senior director of sales and marketing for Seasons Senior Living Community.

And with the number of baby boomers on the rise – a foreseen phenomenon called the “Silver Tsunami” – a surplus of LPCs is, well … just what the doctor ordered. “Baby boomers are turning age 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day; and the Census Bureau predicts this number will continue to rise until 2030,” explains Kimberly Kaser, director of business development at Ohio Living Llanfair. “As a result, we’re seeing a rapid increase in the number of aging services providers entering the market. Ohio Living Llanfair has been a trusted provider in the Cincinnati community for more than 60 years, and we are committed to serving the people of Cincinnati long after the ‘Silver Tsunami’ is over.”


Keeping Residents Active, Engaged – and Young!

Each community works to both appeal to prospective residents and serve current ones; they work hard to remain relevant and fresh. They are constantly growing and evolving; through updated amenities, learning opportunities, and community needs, for example. It helps to make the best living experience possible for residents!

Kimberly Kaser, Ohio Living Llanfair:

“We know that people want to continue learning and living new experiences at every stage of life. That’s why we focus on lifelong learning. We partner with the University of Cincinnati to host classes from its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). These college level classes; for students age 55+; bring a variety of fascinating and thought-provoking topics to our residents and guests.”

Megan Ulrich, Maple Knoll Village:

“We’ve grown by hiring, training and retaining employees who embrace our mission and have dedicated their careers to providing personalized, compassionate care … We continue to focus on providing resident-centric care, along with engaging programming, to provide seniors the freedom and opportunity to successfully, comfortably and happily age in place at our communities.”

Gil Heckel, Evergreen and Wellspring Retirement Community:

“We have access to significant resources and wisdom in the field of senior living … our activities director Jenny Myers … brings many interesting and well-known speakers to give presentations to our seniors, which definitely helps to stay relevant and on top of the trends.”

Lizz Stephens, Christian Village Communities:

“When people come in the door, we really try to get a good feel for what people need and where the demand is … We recently opened a brand new memory support area … [since] there is a proven demand for memory support in the area. We took an entire floor that was independent living and converted it to this beautiful new safe, secure memory center support floor to help meet those demands.”

Elizabeth Bangel-Stehlin, Seasons Senior Living Community:

“One of the reasons Seasons has maintained relevance and reputation through the years is not through adhering to trends, rather with maintaining a formula for success and making small but meaningful adjustments as warranted … through the years, a Bistro has been added, new programs offered, and technology, and interior destination spaces introduced to further enhance the offerings of the community.”


Leaning Into the Co-opetition

Hamilton County hosts so many Life Plan Communities within its vicinity. Even so, all of the communities manage to remain sustainable; there’s no cutthroat competition amongst each other. They each bring such a unique variety to their campuses; because of this, they acknowledge that there’s room at the table for all of them to exist … and to thrive.

Uniquely Successful

Each community has its own unique brand of care to present to the community. And because of how distinct each one is from the others, different retirees find appeal in different communities. Some prospective residents may be more interested in a fresh-air, countryside-type campus; others, however, may prioritize a more urban setting with easy access to nearby businesses and restaurants.

It’s yet another reason the area is such a draw for retirees: anyone can find the lifestyle they’re looking for.

But the Number One Priority Goes to …

At the end of the day, the primary focus for every Life Plan Community in Hamilton County is, of course, the resident. Every individual needs and prioritizes different things; and, therefore, LPCs recognize that a community other than their own might be, in fact, a better overall match for some people.

“It is important to partner with other communities since no one community offers everything for everyone,” Elizabeth Bangel-Stehlin explains. “The Seasons team has developed relationships with other 5-star communities in order to assist families and prospective residents in the journey to find the right ‘fit’ for them.”

And communities work together in collaboration to make sure every individual gets the best care for their own needs. “What is unique about our industry is that we’re pretty friendly with … our ‘competitors,’” says Lizz Stephens, vice president of marketing and business strategy at Christian Village Communities. “We have an open dialogue with each other … It’s friendly competition.”

Communities also don’t hesitate to point prospective residents in the direction of another local LPC; especially if they think it might be a better pairing. “When people come [to tour], I encourage them to look at other places,” Stephens explains. “We make sure that, at the end of the day, even if it’s not our community, we want [residents] to be happy and have the best fit possible.”

Rachel Marsh

Award-winning writer Rachel Marsh has written for many different sites and publications on a variety of topics. She is the multimedia editor for Seniors Guide and works hard to make sure seniors and their families have the best information possible. When she’s not writing for work, she can be found writing for fun. Really!

Rachel Marsh