Boomer retirees seek life of luxury

Publish Date:

Saturday, August 30, 2008

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Denver Post

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As baby boomers age, they're demanding better options for where and how they live. In response, senior-living companies are raising the bar on the level of accommodations and activities available for seniors who can afford it.

Their goal is to capture the market from the time seniors are active and ready to chuck home maintenance through their need for assistance and consistent medical care. The goal for residents and their families is to have a high-end, low-maintenance lifestyle, with assistance available when they need it, without having to relocate from all that is familiar.

At least two developments planned for metro Denver aim to capture this market with projects promising the ultimate in luxury for their well-heeled customers.

A dining room at the upscale 298-unit Balfour Cosmopolitan Club in downtown Denver, which is expected to open in 2011, as seen in a drawing.
A dining room at the upscale 298-unit Balfour Cosmopolitan Club in downtown Denver, which is expected to open in 2011, as seen in a drawing. (Rendering courtesy of Balfour )

The Stratford at FlatIrons in Broomfield, scheduled for completion in May, and the Balfour Cosmopolitan Club in downtown Denver, expected to open in 2011, promise to raise the bar for luxurious senior living.

Sunrise Senior Living, developer of The Straftord at FlatIrons, says it will provide all of the elegance, pampering and services of a luxurious five-star hotel at the 206-unit independent and assisted-care center near the FlatIron Crossing shopping area.

"Right smack in the action"

Meanwhile, Michael Schonbrun, founder and chief executive of Balfour, is touting his project at 15th and Little Raven streets as "the only luxury senior living community with an in-city location that puts seniors right smack in the action of dining, shopping, cultural and sports opportunities without having to drive a long time to get there."

Larry Arnold, executive vice president of 50 Plus Community Marketing Inc., says the market for high-end retirement communities like The Stratford and The Cosmopolitan Club is driven by active adults and empty-nesters who can use their home equity to afford more high-end living situations.

He estimates that 8 percent to 12 percent of the senior population can afford luxury retirement living.

Their reasons for wanting to move to a senior living community include "wanting to put the lawn mower away for good, having the ability to 'lock and leave' when they go on vacation, or wanting to remain in Colorado's four seasons," says Arnold.

Some feel isolated and want to be around other seniors. Still others feel they've earned the ability to live well and simply want to show off, he says.

First project from ground up

Although Sunrise Senior Living has been around since 1981, The Stratford marks the first time the company has built an independent-living facility from the ground up. In the past, Sunrise has taken existing buildings and modified them to its specifications.

The company chose the FlatIrons location because of the proximity to shopping, entertainment and the highway as well as the demand in the growing Broomfield area. Sunrise found that approximately half of their prospective residents are relocating to the area to be closer to their adult children and grandchildren.

"Those children have higher expectations for the features of their own homes and want the same for their parents," says Jennifer Henkel, executive director of The Stratford.

Monthly rent at The Stratford will include utilities, meals, housekeeping, security and handyman services. Apartments will have the sophisticated feel of newer homes, with such touches as granite countertops. The building will have restaurants, a high-tech movie theater, art studios and full-service spa.

In true hotel fashion, a concierge service will assist residents with most anything, from making theater reservations to helping plan a party. When they don't feel like driving, a chauffeured car will take residents wherever they need to go.

Like The Stratford, the 298-unit Balfour will have luxury touches such as granite countertops, fitness and spa areas as well as a movie theater, concierge service and a variety of dining options in the building.

In contrast to The Stratford's rental system, the Cosmopolitan Club works on a refundable entry fee program commonly used by many other retirement communities. Residents pay a lump sum to, in essence, hold their apartment. When they leave, they or their estate is refunded 90 to 100 percent of that amount. In addition, residents pay a monthly fee that covers utilities, most meals, services and amenities.

Luxury senior-living communities have existed in Colorado for about 10 years, all with varying degrees of accommodations, luxury and cost.

According to Brett Robinson, senior vice president for MacKenzie House LLC, designer and builder of senior living communities, part of the struggle to capture a piece of the market is that the people who can afford to live in the communities also can afford to stay put and hire in-home care.

They also battle the perception that retirement communities are grim places where seniors go to live out their remaining days. The goal of the new breed of retirement community is to change that notion, emphasizing that seniors deserve to live it up while others take care of the mundane tasks.

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