How “Main Streets” are Becoming a New Model for Senior Living

From continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) to memory care communities, “Main Street” models are emerging as central design components in senior living, new developments in the sector reveal.

Main Streets are central areas within senior living communities that feature amenities such as restaurants and salons, and in dementia-care communities also give familiarity to those who suffer from memory impairment.

Senior living providers are finding they can offer multiple benefits to residents and are serving as a selling point for prospectives as well.

Main Street Attractions

At the heart of one nonprofit CCRC’s $60 million redevelopment project is its Main Street, where the community’s main services, as well as additional independent living apartments, will be located.

The Main Street at Portland, Ore.-based Rose Villa Senior Living, expected to be completed and open next year, reflects the Rose Villa and nearby Portland community, says Rose Villa CEO Vassar Byrd.

The new “downtown” will be made up of two- and three-story mixed use-style buildings, which will provide ground level amenities, including retail space, cafes, restaurants and a wine bar, among other things, and will have an additional 35 apartments on the upper levels.

“The apartments will have floor to ceiling windows and balconies,” Byrd says. “In Portland, we have a lot of lofts, so our new apartments will feel modern, and provide for lots of natural light. Residents will have views of the river, and some will have views of downtown Portland.”

The downtown, or central area within a two to three block radius, will feature lighting fixtures, a variety of areas to sit and other elements that to draw both residents and those outside the Rose Villa community in.

“When you drive into Rose Villa the first thing you’ll see is the plant and nursery store,” she says. “Then on the corner you see a restaurant, health and wellness spa — it’ll be just like a real town.”

Some amenities, such as the spa, will be run by outside businesses to encourage a real community feel, she says.

“We don’t want it to feel like one giant corporation,” she says. “All venues will have distinct branding and signage.”

While residents are free to come and go as they please, offering shops outside of their homes brings energy and vitality to the senior living community, she says.

“As people age, they are less likely to go outside of the community,” she says. “We wanted to make sure they have access to all the things they’d have [in a traditional village]. We have a lot of residents over the age of 90 and 100, and we want to make sure those people are not missing out. We want them to be able to do all the rings they like to do as they get into older age.”

Main Street-Meets-Memory Care

At Texas-based U.S. Memory Care, which has four memory care communities throughout Texas, Main Street models are signature to its brand, the company says.

And the Main Street model helps in a memory care capacity, says U.S. Memory Care at Vintage Director Teresa Wolfe.

While the needs of residents in stand-alone memory care communities differ from those in other senior living communities, the desire to enjoy a centralized area featuring shops and other services is the same, Wolfe says.

At U.S. Memory Care at Vintage, in Houston, Main Street resembles a street of shops, with choices from a movie theater, hobby shop, sweet shop and a beauty shop.

Like Rose Villa, the shops at Vintage have distinct signage to promote a true community experience.

For example, a snack shop is named Paula’s Sweet Shoppe, and includes a popcorn maker that is “always popping” she says.

In addition, the Main Street is centralized between Vintage’s three memory care neighborhoods. Neighborhoods are distinguished by level of memory care aid needed.

“So, when residents walk out their front door, they’re on Main Street,” Wolfe says. “We’ll have live entertainment on Main Street, such as a piano player. We have a water fountain and area to sit, and to hear the water running is very calming.”

The Main Street at Vintage reflects the needs of those with memory impairments, Wolfe says.

“Sometimes in the afternoon residents will have behavioral issues, so taking them to Main Street helps with that,” she says.

The movie theater also serves as a church and educational programming center.

Hobbies & More is brightly colored and is meant to stimulate activity among residents. All activities are tailored to be skilled appropriate, she says.

“People say ‘Wow’ when we open the doors because it’s so incredible,” Wolfe says, noting that the administrative building’s lobby also opens to Main Street.

Because of its Texas location where temperatures can rise above 100 degrees, Main Street is in an enclosed area so that residents are not over-heated, but large windows allow for natural light to fill the space.

Ultimately, Main Street is a “happy place” for residents, she says.

“The music, the activities — it’s a place to go that still feels like home, and their families can join them,” she says.

Written by Cassandra Dowell