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Not Your Grandparents’ Retirement Village: Boomers Choose Amenities Fitting Their LifestylesLock Icon

5 min read

The website for Butterfield Trail Village in Fayetteville proudly boasts that its living offerings are “anything but boring.”

The retirement community couldn’t have survived and flourished since its first resident moved in in 1986 any other way.

Butterfield Trail CEO Quintin Trammell said his community has more than 400 residents, and reading a list of amenities offered by Butterfield Trail — or any other modern retirement community — sounds like a wish list for a visitor to a first-class resort.

“We have salons, we have a swimming pool, we offer travel excursions,” Trammell said. “These types of things are what people expect nowadays. The industry is changing. People are more informed about their choices and their lifestyle. People are looking for a community that matches their lifestyle.”

Baby boomers — the generation born from 1946 through 1964 — are a huge reason retirement communities are big business.

In northwest Arkansas, for example, the $20 million Primrose Retirement Community of Rogers opened in September, and a Houston company paid $18 million in May for a Mount Carmel retirement community in Bentonville.

Greg Fogle, COO of Nabholz Corp. of Conway, said his construction company has completed several retirement community projects in Arkansas and is working on some in Oklahoma.

“It is really representative of what is happening across the nation,” Fogle said. “The last year of the baby boomers is [aged] 54 years old. For the next 10 years they are winding down to retirement. That will be the largest population of retirees that we have.

“It drives everything from health care to assisted living to independent living and all the variations that come with that. It is certainly something we see as an increasing market really across the country, northwest Arkansas not excluded. It is quite an industry and it is one that is definitely growing.”

Communities that include residential care and assisted-living facilities in Arkansas must get approvals for construction or expansion from the Arkansas Health Services Permit Agency, which determines the need for beds for each community.

Earlier this year, agency Director Tracy Steele approved a $9 million project in Cabot, a $5 million project in Harrison and a $2 million expansion of an existing community in Bella Vista. A $17 million project for Springhouse Village of Hot Springs is under review. The parent company, Foster Senior Living of Springfield, Missouri, is scheduled to open Springhouse Village of Fayetteville this fall.

Chris Clifton, the executive director of Primrose’s property in Rogers, said any business attempting to attract baby boomer business can’t go cheap. Primrose is based in Aberdeen, South Dakota and owns and operates retirement communities in 17 states.

“Competition drives retirement communities,” Clifton said. “Baby boomers are coming into the picture, and they want internet and more. We have great bells and whistles.”

Retirement communities serve 10 percent of the country’s population, and it’s a potentially lucrative market, according to David Schless, president of the American Seniors Housing Association in Washington.

“It is a very competitive business in part because it is a private-pay business,” Schless said. “You have to compete for everyone’s business. I think there is an awareness and people are more open to moving into this type of setting if their circumstances are such. That’s why you see why it is more acceptable as an investment and you see more of it being built.”

Clifton said company policy prevented him from disclosing how many residents Primrose had in Rogers, but the community has 24 independent housing units, 74 assisted-living housing units and 26 memory-care units. For independent seniors — those who don’t need assistance or supervision — Primrose offers one-bedroom and two-bedroom townhouses. “We get a lot of couples,” Clifton said.

They eat well, too. Primrose, like Butterfield and others, has an on-campus chef who provides residents with three meals a day in the community’s dining hall. “It’s better than a cafeteria,” said Clifton, who worked in the hospitality industry for 14 years before joining Primrose. “We provide three great meals. We had tamales today.”

The availability of choices is important for today’s (and tomorrow’s) seniors, who want to have a say in how their lives are lived.

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“There is a broad category of housing and services that are available to meet the needs of a wide range of seniors,” Schless said.

“Thirty years ago there weren’t that many options. There were nursing homes or you could be cared for by a family member. Today there are definitely a lot more options for people to consider.”

Cody Crawford of CR Crawford Construction, which built the Primrose campus in Rogers, said it was like building student housing or a hotel.

“Obviously I think for a lot of communities you look at, it’s much more residential and much less institutional,” Schless said. “Some of it, you wouldn’t really know it was a community for folks who need assisted living.”

Trammell said senior citizens aren’t looking for a place to mark time but to live.

“We like Butterfield to be a place where people come and live, not to retire,” he said.

“We try to offer — and many retirement communities are — a lot of different reasons for people to want to come to Butterfield and live here, from our wellness classes and performance halls to our events and activities to our medical services and transportation. We offer quite a bit to serve our residents and people who are interested in moving to Butterfield.”

Trammell said Butterfield Trail works with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville to test how seniors respond to community living in terms of mobility, flexibility and other physical tests.

He said Butterfield Trail residents compare favorably to non-community residents.

Trammell said studies have shown that isolation is detrimental to seniors’ health, and retirement communities give seniors a chance to live in proximity with people of similar ages and interests.

Not all seniors are alike, of course.

Butterfield Trail has homes, apartments and other units for independent living, assisted-living apartments and memory-care housing, and it also has a skilled nursing facility on campus.

Trammell said some residents of Butterfield Trail still work, and he noted that the relationship with the university is strengthened because some residents are semi-retired professors who still teach classes.

“Living well and living active and quality of life are very important with the new generation of residents moving to Butterfield,” Trammell said.

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