Today’s retirement residences offer a more active lifestyle.

Boomers take a new attitude towards retirement

By  Luc Rinaldi, Catholic Register Special
  • August 31, 2011

TORONTO - If retirement residences of the past were places to die, today’s are places to live.

Over the past quarter century, retirement living — once an omen of a loss of independence — has begun to take on a new face. As the baby boomer generation begins to flock to residences and homes, they will no longer associate retirement with isolation or dependence, but rather with a healthy lifestyle in an active community.

“We’re always trying to change the perception of aging,” said Maureen Scordamaglia, community relations manager at the Scarborough Retirement Centre in Toronto’s east end. “We want to show that just because you’re a senior doesn’t mean that everything ends.”

The centre’s programs back up that claim. From art, music and fitness classes to regular outings and parties, the centre allows retirees to “continue in senior years and be able to thrive.”

“Our job is to show them the difference between retirement living and long-term care,” said Scordamaglia, who has been with Scarborough Retirement Centre for five years. “That’s the biggest thing, to change those minds in regard to that.”

While providing essential medical assistance roughly on par with long-term care, retirement centres like Scordamaglia’s offer extra amenities that make residents comfortable. Whether it’s the apartment-style accommodations, personal access to utilities, on-site libraries and living spaces or one of the many other services available to guests, these centres are indeed homes, “just at a different location,” according to Scordamaglia.

To mark its 20th anniversary, the Scarborough Retirement Centre is “re-identifying itself as a boutique retirement living centre.” This includes a new wave of programs, new atmosphere and a (subtle) name change to Scarborough Retirement Residence. In the revamped community, the home’s owner will be on site, interacting with and listening to residents.

“We’re always looking at what’s going to make them more comfortable and we want them to feel like it’s home,” said Scordamaglia.

And while retirement residences may not ever fully replace home in its true sense, they’re about as close now as they’ve ever been, according to Klaus Rohrich, founder and president of Maturity Marketing, a seniors’ and baby boomer-oriented marketing company.

“To be fair, retirement residences of yesteryear weren’t exactly fun places to move,” wrote Rohrich in an online column. “But that’s rapidly changing as more and more companies see the potential for profit while they render a service to the community in providing outstanding care for our seniors.”

That change is fuelled both by the residences and the retirees themselves. Baby boomers, because they were brought up in generally peaceful and prosperous times, said Rohrich, are approaching retirement in a different way than their parents, who grew up in times of war and hardship. Just as the majority of baby boomers experienced a considerably enjoyable childhood and adulthood, they will also look to have a pleasant retirement.

“I’ve seen a whole new attitude toward retirement from baby boomers,” said Rohrich, who founded his company 25 years ago and has since witnessed a great change in the common view of retirement living.

“Retirement living is a lot more desirable than it was a quarter century ago,” he wrote. “As the population ages and older seniors comprise a larger percentage of the population, retirement residences will continue to develop in ways that meet their residents’ needs.

“There’s never been a better time to move to a retirement residence than now.”

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