Category Archives: Strategy

The Rise of Intergenerational Senior Living

Senior living community, Montello, WI

Unique multigenerational living communities find success

It turns out that today’s seniors and young generations have a few things in common—they both often suffer from feelings of isolation, and in the case of young 20-somethings, they both may be living within a limited budget. The commonalities, along with the fact that these generations share stronger relationship bonds with each other than counterparts from years past, have given rise to intergenerational senior living.

How the trend has evolved

While the concept of multiple generations living in a single home is not new for many nations, in the United States, living on your own away from family correlates to our strength of independence and self-reliance. Our own country’s history had a hand in families living apart. At the same time that senior care facilities were established in the 19th century, younger generations were leaving home in search of jobs in the West. Children further distanced themselves from parents after World War II, using resources stemming from the G.I. bill—as suburban homes became affordable in the 1950s and ‘60s, households contained only one or two generations, while more and more elderly moved into senior living facilities.

In 1950, about 21% of households included two or more generations. Thirty years later, that percentage fell to 12%.

But we are going back to our roots. According to new data, multigenerational living is on an upward climb—19% of U.S. residents lived in a multigenerational home in 2014. What’s more, multigenerational living isn’t just happening in single-family homes. Senior living facilities and developers are creating multigenerational living communities around the United States.

In fact, a movement to bring generations together in a wider community is known as New Urbanism. The philosophy says that communities should be built around an 8-to-80 principle by serving those ages and everyone in between. It starts with communities that are walkable, have plenty of green spaces and access to age-friendly amenities.

A look at intergenerational senior living

You may have noticed that today’s youth have a much stronger relationship with their parents—more so than those parents had with their own mothers and fathers. It’s a cultural shift that feeds into varying generations being willing to live in close proximity to each other—even under the same roof. This shift also lessens social isolation, a phenomenon prevalent in seniors, but experienced by people of all ages, especially youth.

Some senior living communities and senior housing complexes are attracting residents with retail and restaurant spaces that also cater to people of all ages. Others are building new or repurposing existing spaces in neighborhoods where there are schools that naturally bring generations together or in locations where senior living residents can easily walk to amenities that allow them to interact with others.

And yet others are purposefully integrating young generations into their senior living communities. Here are ways facilities and developers are bringing generations together:

Providing student housing options

Watkins Manor, an assisted living facility run by Winona Health, offers 10 Winona State University (Minnesota) students the option to live at the manor for a monthly fee that includes utilities and meals. In return, students must volunteer 10 hours a month with seniors. The manor, a former mansion, is not conducive to wheelchairs and walkers, which gave leaders the opportunity to open their doors to students.

Similar arrangements exist in other locations, including Judson Senior Living in Cleveland, Ohio, where a small number of university students can stay for free in exchange for interacting with seniors.

Fostering generations

The Victory Lap in Chattanooga, Tenn., found a unique way to help those who age out of the foster system—house them in available senior living apartments. The organization sees several advantages to the model: it improves the occupancy rate, it could alleviate the ever-growing labor shortage by training the former foster children and it strengths intergenerational relationships. Other communities are looking to duplicate the model.

In Oregon, Bridge Meadows developments were built specifically to bring together foster children, their families and seniors. Senior residents are expected to volunteer six hours a week, assisting their younger neighbors in any way they can, like helping with homework or seeing children off to school while parents are at work. In turn, the children are learning valuable life skills.

Enjoying school spirit

A development group created Legacy Pointe at the University of Central Florida. Those who live in the senior living community can take classes and participate in other learning opportunities. On Arizona State University campus, a full continuum of care will be available at Mirabella, from independent living to skilled nursing. The facility will include classrooms, and residents will have a campus identification card to access facilities and events.

Reaching out to youth

The Lakes at Stillwater, Minn., strategically located near an elementary school so children and seniors can easily come together for intergenerational programs.


In all these multigenerational living communities, each generation has a lot to offer the others—seniors share knowledge and experience with youth while youth help energize seniors and can teach them about new technologies. These experiences also help combat ageism.

We can help with a unique solution

If you are looking to integrate seniors with younger generations through a new senior living design or construction project, contact us. We start with a master plan to help ensure greater success for your project before creating designs and a construction project plan. For a free consultation, give us a call at (920) 969-9344.

To get ideas for intergenerational programs in your facility, read our blog, “How Intergenerational Programs Benefit All Ages.”

John Huhn Named Community Living Solutions Director of Development

We are happy to announce that we recently hired John Huhn, LNHA, as our new Director of Business Development.

John Huhn, Director of Business Development, Community Living SolutionsHuhn comes to us with more than 30 years of experience in the senior living industry. He is a licensed nursing home administrator, having served in multiple senior living leadership roles, as well as roles in operations and project management.

During his tenure, he has been involved in developing a broad spectrum of senior living communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Arizona, including skilled nursing facilities, CBRFs, co-ops, and assisted living, memory care and independent living communities. Most recently, Huhn served in a leadership role for a technology company, where he focused on improving efficiencies and outcomes in the senior living industry.

Huhn, who is based in Minneapolis, Minn., will be focused on growing our markets in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

“John brings a breadth of industry knowledge to CLS as we continue to grow our business in 2020 and beyond,” said Duane Helwig, Vice President of Design and Partner. “John’s expertise will be invaluable as our clients partner with us to meet their goals through master planning, design and construction projects.”

With offices in Appleton, Des Moines, Iowa, and Minneapolis, we serve clients throughout the Midwest. With expertise in master planning, architectural design and construction, we partner exclusively with senior living providers and developers on projects that include 55+ and independent living communities, memory care and assisted living communities, and skilled nursing facilities.

How Can Senior Living Hospitality Differentiate Your Community?

Senior living communities everywhere are feeling the impact of our changing market, and these changes go beyond the influx of baby boomers needing care. Competition is higher than ever. Seniors and their families are thoroughly researching potential living and care solutions. With these changes and more in play, new senior living trends to help communities compete seem to emerge weekly. How does a community keep up? One service industry basic—hospitality— may be an industry game changer for senior living communities that execute on it authentically.

Hospitality is not just a great entry space and a warm welcome. Differentiating your senior living community using hospitality is so much more than focusing solely on community amenities. True hospitality in the senior living industry is the intersection of remarkable service and authentic community. And perhaps most importantly, enduring hospitality is not a customer experience tactic relegated to communities with the largest budgets. Enduring senior living hospitality makes your facility memorable, appeals to today’s consumers desperately seeking community and become a market differentiator.

Selling senior living hospitality vs. healthcare

You might be wondering why all the emphasis on hospitality. We’re in the care industry, right? In an industry where every single community sells very similar healthcare services setting yourself apart can be challenging. Authentic hospitality is service-focused, experiential and creates lasting community and fellowship. Excellent service contains many of the same elements at different communities, but it will look, feel and be unique to your community when it is mission-driven.

Mission-driven hospitality

If hospitality is not just beautiful amenities, delicious meals and a daily itinerary, what is it? Let’s redefine hospitality as a business driver. True, hospitality is mission-driven. Personalized experiences, authentic interactions, generosity and strong community start at an organization’s core—mission and vision. Without mission, hospitality is a surface level nicety. Mission-driven hospitality can create change and differentiation. Brand culture and community flow from your mission to create a one-of-a-kind experience residents and families remember.

To provide an example of authentic senior living hospitality let’s use the sample mission: Providing care and compassion that allows our residents to fully embrace life. We’ll use this example as we explore how brand, culture and community work together to create hospitality in healthcare.


Brand is so much more than a logo and tagline. Your senior living community’s brand becomes the essence of your mission. The brand is a visual expression of your mission and directly influences how hospitality is built via culture and community. The tagline for our example community might be “Embrace Life Together.” The themes of seizing the day and sharing moments together within this brand lead us to consider how the community’s physical space:

  • Creates both small fellowship spaces and larger community venues.
  • Guides residents to share meals and conversation together.
  • Promotes activities aimed at helping residents make the most of each day.

The senior living space design is critical. Your space reflects your brand, and potential residents will picture themselves living in your facility as they evaluate the community that best fits their lifestyle.


While brand is the external expression of your mission, culture brings that mission to life on the inside. If your brand focuses on care, is your team being cared for and appreciated? Are they empowered to go beyond the basics to provide the right care (physical and emotional) to every resident? Is your team building connections with residents that create belonging? Culture separates remarkable care from bland customer service.

In our example community, the way team members treat one another and embrace life together will dramatically impact the experience residents have interacting with your team. Embracing life together and going above and beyond for residents are concepts that need to be modeled by leadership.


Hotel-like amenities, including personal training-based fitness centers, coffee shops and on-property boutiques are the “it” senior living hospitality trend for building a community. Rather than simply following the trends, try putting resident desires first to drive creativity and problem solving. Ask how your mission coupled with resident demand can drive innovative resident experiences. Are residents looking for more interesting dining options? Try embracing life together and building community through monthly progressive dinners. Get your residents and team involved in brainstorming the right experiences for your community, and your building design and amenities will follow.

The bottom line on senior living hospitality

Get started differentiating your organization by infusing hospitality into every facet of your senior living community. Start by answering the following questions:

  • How is your mission being used to help your community come alive for residents?
  • How does brand coupled with resident demand drive innovative (not necessarily expensive) resident experiences?
  • Based on your mission, how can your team provide personalized engagement?
  • Are your employees driven to provide an authentic branded experience?

Considering how your space might change to fully reflect your mission? Great architecture and design can invigorate your community. Ready to learn more? Contact us or call  (920) 969-9344 to schedule a free introductory meeting.

Volunteer Ideas for Seniors

For older adults, the health benefits of volunteering are many

As a leader in senior living, you want your residents to have expansive, fulfilling lives. And perhaps you’ve been researching volunteer ideas for seniors to help them feel that connectivity to the greater good. If so, you’re on the right track. Numerous studies have proven that volunteerism has benefits that go far beyond helping those in need. In fact, for your senior living residents, it turns out the health benefits of volunteering are many. Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits, and then explore some volunteer opportunities for your residents.

Health benefits of volunteering, from the inside, out

Studies show that seniors live longer, happier, healthier lives when they devote some of their time to volunteering. That’s according to studies of volunteers in the United States, who reported that they had higher levels of well-being when compared to their non-volunteering counterparts, and lower rates of disability. Analysts believe that seniors reap these health benefits because of the increased social, physical and mental activity they experience through volunteerism. The same studies indicated that volunteerism may be especially good for seniors who are experiencing stress or are likely to otherwise experience social isolation, a serious issue that affects many seniors. Even among seniors experiencing grief from the loss of a loved one, they can achieve great benefits through volunteerism, which has been shown to shorten their course of depression.

With the research clearly pointing to the myriad benefits of volunteerism, senior living providers have an opportunity to truly enrich the lives of their residents, while also building the communities they call home. Supporting resident volunteerism can begin by simply giving seniors the tools and space they need to forge connections with the organizations that would value their contributions.

Volunteer ideas for seniors

When you and your staff are ready to explore volunteer opportunities for senior citizens, you may be surprised to find an abundance of organizations eager to bring seniors on board. Here are just a few examples of ways you can connect your residents with volunteer opportunities:

  • Partner with local schools, YMCAs or Boys and Girls Clubs to get your seniors involved in intergenerational activities. Whether you can get your seniors to the students or students come to seniors, these intergenerational programs bring joy to residents and foster in youth a deeper understanding of the elderly. LeadingAge reported on one partnership in which seniors worked with at-risk students—providing caregiving to infants and toddlers and talking and playing cards with older children.
  • Your more talented residents could knit hats, scarves and mittens for charity. Many of them could also help make fleece blankets for charity or for cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy treatments.
  • Residents could spearhead a charitable drive for food, hygiene items or clothing. They also could gather care packages for troops serving overseas. Ask your veterans whether they would be willing share special notes about their time in service.

These form just a small sample of opportunities available, and virtually every community has organizations in need of senior volunteers. With some time and commitment, it’s possible for an organization to create a volunteer pipeline that strengthens your community, while improving quality of life for our senior citizens.

Building senior volunteer opportunities starts with building the right space

If you are considering starting a volunteer program for your senior residents or expanding on your current efforts to cultivate volunteer ideas for seniors, having the right multipurpose space is essential. By putting great architecture and design to work for you, you can create a place that helps seniors enrich their lives by playing an integral role in the community. Whether you’re looking to expand to allow for a crafting space, meeting rooms for volunteers, or perhaps a volunteer resource center, we can help you get there. Ready to learn more? Contact us or call (920) 969-9344 to schedule a free introductory meeting.

Best Practices for Marketing Senior Living Communities Online

Meeting Seniors “Where They Are”

In today’s digital world, more and more people are using the information available online to research companies, engage with brands and aid in their decision-making process. Although information gathering is instant in this digital space, the decision-making journey may take weeks, months or even years. This is especially true with big decisions that can be emotional or cause significant life changes, such as selecting a senior living facility for yourself or a loved one. For this reason, it is critical that you are willing to meet potential residents and families wherever they may be in their decision-making process.

Why you should be meeting seniors online

Social media and other online channels provide an excellent opportunity for you to showcase your senior living design, facility, staff, programs and more to a wide audience of both seniors and their families. A Pew Research Study found that up to 59 percent of seniors aged 65 and up use the Internet, with 71 percent of those using it every day. This time spent on the Internet is often spent browsing and researching, comparing and reading reviews. According to BrightLocal, 97 percent of people read online reviews for local businesses in 2017. In this same study, 73 percent said that positive reviews make them trust a local business more. And when it comes to long-term care for a loved one, there is nothing more important than trust.

How to meet seniors where they are online

The opportunities to build trust by leveraging social media and online reviews with residents and families may seem a little daunting to some senior living communities. After all, how can you be sure that disgruntled residents or employees don’t tarnish your reputation online? To best meet seniors and their families “where they are” and build trust with your facility, there are a few best practices for marketing senior living communities online:

  • Be present on more than one platform. To meet seniors wherever they may be in their decision-making process online, your senior living community must be present in more than just one space. This means moving beyond your senior living facility’s website to also include social media platforms such as Facebook®, which is the one of the most trusted review sites, according to BrightLocal.
  • Engage with potential residents and families during their research process. One of the best things about social media is the opportunity it creates to engage with individuals in an instant. Social media posts and direct messages allow you to move past a traditional contact form on your website, and respond to questions and feedback instantaneously.
  • Show off your facility. Facebook can provide a great platform for marketing senior living communities online through sharing your favorite resident stories, photos of your facility and updates on programs and amenities that you offer to residents. Remember, though, to get permission from anyone featured in your posts, whether they be employees, residents or family members.
  • Make the most of your resources. Facebook is an excellent free resource to provide information to seniors online. According to Pew Research Center, 62 percent of online adults aged 65 and older use Facebook. Include basic information in your senior living facility profile such as your phone number, address and website for a complete resource for seniors and families who are in the decision-making process.
  • Hear seniors out. Online reviews, either through Google® or a social network like Facebook, are the perfect place to turn when looking for senior’s feedback on your senior living community, programming and more. Use these reviews as a sort of checklist when looking for changes to implement in your facility.

Let us help you meet seniors where they are

Is your senior living design an area of concern when marketing your senior living community online? Community Living Solutions can work with you in the master planning of your facility design to evaluate your current situation and provide solutions. Contact us or call (920) 969-9344 for a full market assessment to help determine your future facility design and programming needs.