Spokane Journal of Business

Communities cater to wave of increasingly active seniors

Retirement centers step up programs that emphasize exercise, personal health

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At the afternoon exercise class at Rockwood Retirement Communities South Hill campus, the pace is anything but pedestrian.

Roughly 15 seniors march in place, practice balancing, perform low-impact aerobics, and lift weights. Instructor Brenda Jurich tells them to smile as they dip into squats.

Rockwood began ramping up its wellness and activity programs several years ago to meet the projected needs of more active seniors and the baby boomer generation, says spokeswoman Becky Moonitz.

We kicked into high gear because we knew they were coming, she says.

Jurich, wellness coordinator at Rockwood South, 2905 E. 25th, says shes seen a shift in the retirement industry toward operating proactive rather than reactive wellness programs.

Im amazed at how many (new residents) come to me first rather than other staff members at the retirement center when they first arrive, she says. The whole culture has changed.

She estimates that about 73 percent of Rockwood Souths residents exercise there. You dont even get that percentage of 20-year-olds, she jokes.

Rockwood is owned by Spokane United Methodist Homes Inc. and has a combined total of about 530 residents at its South Hill facility and one it operates at 101 E. Hawthorne on the North Side.

The trend toward wellness and heightened activity is evidenced in facilities marketing strategies. Pictures of seniors jogging, riding bicycles, or cruising in a convertible appear in recent advertisements by Spokane-area retirement communities.

John Renner, administrator of Fairwinds Northpointe, a 212-unit facility on Spokanes North Side, says retirement communities nationwide have adjusted their marketing tactics to attract more active seniors. Bellevue, Wash.-based Leisure Care Inc., which owns Fairwinds and operates 36 facilities nationwide, caters to those who prefer a more resort-like lifestyle, he says. The companys advertising reflects that lifestylewith an ad featuring an older couple walking along the beach, hand in hand, at sunset.

They depict that these people are still having fun, Renner says. We are at the threshold of a generation turn.

Christie Hoffman, spokeswoman for Spokanes Riverview Retirement Community, says, People want a different kind of lifestyle. Theyre not looking for the same thing they were.

Riverview President and CEO Patrick ONeill agrees. The next generation is a generation that has taken care of themselves better, he says.

They are busier and healthier, Hoffman adds.

A total of 358 people live at Riverview, a continuing-care facility located at 1801 E. Upriver Drive, that has independent- and assisted-living units, plus a skilled-nursing center, Hoffman says.

To adapt to the needs of its active residents, Riverview is redesigning its gym and plans to add new exercise equipment. Once that work is complete, the facility might hire a personal trainer, ONeill says.

Riverview has begun taking its residents on longer trips, including an overnight trip to watch a Mariners game in Seattle and visits to Leavenworth, Wash., the Bavarian-themed tourist town. Last summer, Riverview took a group of its residents on a whitewater rafting trip. The response was so positive it might schedule another such adventure, ONeill says.

In the past, Hoffman says, There were days when you wouldnt take your people outside the county.

The retirement community also plans to remodel its main dining room to include a wine cellar and bistro-style eatery.

Dancing also is big. They dont just do the waltz anymore, Hoffman says. Riverview offers dancing classes, including line-dancing and swing classes.

Fairwinds Renner says that facilitys amenities include concierge service, a travel agency, personal trainers, and a fully equipped exercise room with weights and fitness classes, massage therapy, and computer classes.

The facility is expanding its guest services to include more individualized transportation services. Rather than just taking a scheduled bus trip to a pre-determined grocery store, residents can reserve a car to take them where they need to be and when they need to be there, he says.

At Spokane Valley Good Samaritan Village, where the average age is 76, residents can take fitness classes, including yoga and circuit training, as well as attend educational lectures. People who buy independent-living cottages there also receive a membership at the YMCA.

At Rockwood, Jurich developed a program called P.R.I.D.E. to help promote wellness among residents. The acronym stands for personal development rewarded through involvement, dedication, and education, she says.

The program has six components: personal health, physical fitness, mental health and wellness, nutrition, personal safety, and continued relationships with others and the community, Jurich says.

While some have thought of a retirement community as a place to go and die, Jurich asserts, It could be the best chapter in your life if you maintain your health and stay active.

Riverviews Hoffman says the activity level of the facilitys residents keeps its administrators on its toes.

Says CEO ONeill with a smile, Next, itll be bungee jumping.

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