By Rusty Bradshaw, Independent Newsmedia
The Northwest Valley has several age-restricted retirement communities within a five-mile radius, though some might think there is no market for senior retirement communities.
The statistics paint a different picture, according to officials from new and existing retirement communities.
Fellowship Square Surprise is a new facility in the planning stages near Loop 303 and Bell Road. Its marketing and feasibility study was conducted by public accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen and it concluded that currently high occupancy levels in stabilized retirement facilities, compared with the strong age and income qualified demographics, indicated very low independent living, assisted living and memory support penetration rates, according to Lori Wilson, Fellowship Square Surprise marketing director.
“An oversaturated condition would be evident by much higher penetration rates,” she stated in an email.
Existing facility officials see similar data and are planning for their communities accordingly. Households age 75-plus in the United States are expected to grow 49 percent between 2020 and 2030, and despite there being several providers in the West Valley, average occupancy is above 90 percent for many, according to Vicky Ullery, Royal Oaks, 10015 W. Royal Oak Road, Sun City, marketing director.
“The aging population is driving demand for senior living,” she stated. “Although there are already several new communities that have recently opened and more under construction, over saturation will likely not occur in part due to the different socio economic markets each targets.”
Some could argue that there may be overgrowth in high-income market, Ms. Ullery added. However, there is likely room for growth in the middle- and lower-income markets.
“That claim, though, is easily overcome by the fact that retirement and assisted living communities have continued to play a larger role in caring for the elderly in the past 10 years and that role continues to grow,” she stated.
Communities not in campus settings — like Arizona Traditions, Happy Trails, Sun City Grand, Sun City West, Sun City, Ventana Lakes and Westbook Village — also see the competition for residents, but officials believe continued upgrades will keep residents buying in their communities.
“We are in a continual cycle of updating our amenities to ensure they are maintained at the ‘Del Webb standard,’” Katy O’Grady, Recreation Centers of Sun City West operations services officer, stated in an email. “That is, if Del Webb were to build these same amenities today, what products and materials would he use?”
RCSCW official maintain membership in recreation associations to help stay abreast to changing trends. They also watch what their competition in the age-restriction arena is doing as well.
“The field is always changing as new residents move into retirement,” Ms. O’Grady stated. “We strive to keep up with those changing desires, without forgetting our base.”
RCSCW has a generation gap of about 50 years among its residents.
“That’s a wide array of tastes to accommodate when it comes to dances, concerts, clubs, special events, etc.,” Ms. O’Grady stated. “Based on the feedback we get, though, we’re doing a pretty good job.”
Recreation Centers of Sun City’s recently reinstated Long Range Planning Committee will help the corporation’s board of directors and management plan for future changes to what is described as the nation’s first active retirement community.
“Continuing research and awareness of current interests of gen Xers and millennials is ongoing,” Joelyn Higgins, RCSC communications and marketing coordinator, stated in an email. “RCSC also seeks input from both prospective and new residents regarding the types of activities they are interested in pursuing and we remain committed to listening to all comments and suggestions.”
Additionally, RCSC officials stay in tune with other retirement communities across the nation as to what they are doing and adding to their list of activities and amenities.
Another campus-style retirement community is The Mission at Agua Fria, under construction at 107th and Olive avenues. Its officials believe they face little competition for residents in the Peoria area.
“Market studies have illustrated a need for a community in this area,” Gale Cerabona, Revere Healthcare marketing vice president, stated in an email. “This will be key in maximizing occupancy.”
Campus-style retirement communities provide activities and amenities, but also health care and meal options. City-style communities are designed for people who still live independently in their own homes, with activities and amenities the only offerings from the management agency.
However, both types face the competition for residents and the same need to maintain upgraded offerings.
RCSCW and RCSC officials introduce new acts, new shows, new music every year, but continue to maintain their core.
“This is true with the clubs as well as the special events,” Ms. O’Grady stated. “We find that the majority of our residents enjoy good entertainment no matter what decade it comes from, and they like to be involved in a variety of clubs.”
Balancing more than one generation’s needs is nothing new to Sun City, according to Ms. Higgins.
“We have been doing it for quite some time now,” she stated. “RCSC strives to have a number of activities that cater to all of our cardholders by offering a variety of music choices and events, such as Casino Night and the Dive-In Movie.”
Varying activity levels of members also dictates what they are able and/or willing to do, she added.
“There are many still dancing in their 80s while some that age are restricted to perhaps only card and game or craft clubs.
The Mission at Agua Fria will offer two levels, assisted living an memory care services to residents. An array of items are inclusive with apartment rentals, according to Ms. Cerabona. Such items are three meals daily; assistance with activities of daily living for assisted living and memory care; housekeeping services; social, recreational and spiritual programs; health and wellness monitoring; medication assistance and management; emergency response systems that residents can activate; scheduled transportation services; learning about the likes/talents of each resident and bringing out those joyful traits; specially-trained, licensed and dedicated staff; appropriate way-finding cues and signs; and multiple social and dining areas.
“We will be offering options to residents that are fairly unfamiliar (or non-existent) in other communities,” Ms. Cerabona stated.
However, those options will be shared with residents before and during their residency and were not discussed with the Independent.
Royal Oaks is the only Type A Lifeplan/Continuing Care Retirement Community in Sun City.
“Prospective residents have the peace of mind knowing that their long-term-care needs will be taken care of for life, without a jump to ‘care rates’ when they need higher levels of care,” Ms. Ullery stated. “Their monthly fee remains low and steady for life.”
Royal Oaks officials are constantly striving to keep pace with the changing desires of prospective residents, according to Ms. Ullery.
“No longer is the case that ‘if you build it, they will come,’” she stated. “Continual strategic planning for the next repositioning is imperative to ensure our community is moving forward.
Royal Oaks has always been in a state of construction or planning construction to add the next amenity, service or technology for residents, Ms. Ullery explained. Currently, master planning is underway to determine the future of Royal Oaks’ campus, including considering options for the newly acquired vacant land adjacent to the existing campus.
“Amenities are also a considerable focus and suggestions from existing residents and prospective residents always help evolve our campus to become even more desirable, relevant in the industry and appeal to the residents of today and in the future,” Ms. Ullery stated.
Fellowship Square Surprise will provide independent living, assisted living and memory support services in distinct buildings on campus, Ms. Wilson explained. Physical amenities include a completely enclosed gate-guarded campus; a 22,000-square-foot clubhouse with multiple dining options and activity areas; fully equipped senior fit exercise rooms, physical therapy rooms, billiards room; library; two regulation pickleball courts; walk-in swimming pool and spa; bocce ball court; woodworking shop; fenced dog park with water station and shampoo area; putting green; 2,000-square-foot koi pond; multiple gas fire pits, gazebos and sitting areas; and the entire campus will be wifi enabled.
Amenities offered and all included in the monthly rent include 25 meals per month; telephone, internet and enhanced cable TV; all other utilities; 24-hour security staff; magnetic deadbolts to each apartment and common area spaces; wearable medical alert device; full-size washer and dryer in each unit; scheduled transportation for shopping, medical office visits and recreational activities; twice-monthly housekeeping; generous activity schedule; and Bible studies.