Senior living has gone gourmet, high tech and green
Finding a retirement community for mom or dad can be overwhelming. But one thing that can make your decision easier is whether or not that place is environmentally friendly. That’s where Maplewood Senior Living in Southport comes in.
Wetland preservation tops the list at this new facility scheduled to open in June. The community sits on 27 acres of wooded uplands and meadows—13 of which are preserved—including a trail walk around what used to be an ice pond at the turn of the 20th century. Rain gardens catch excess runoff and indigenous species of birds, fish, and other animals are free to roam. Much of the rock found on the property was repurposed for the foundation of the 100,000 square foot building. And, every room is technologically savvy with voice command through Amazon’s Alexa and Ring video doorbells in each of the 98 private apartments.
But wait, there’s more. Did we mention the farm-to-table dining? Lance Galassi, Healthcare Account Executive who covers Fairfield County with A Place for Mom, the leading senior living referral organization, said when it comes to a place that’s mindful of the environment, it’s all about the food.
“What comes up a lot is farm fresh food,” he explains. “Some people are concerned with whether or not the place is connected to a farm. I know Maplewood has their own farm.”
Maplewood takes pride in their 40-acre property in Easton run by CEO Greg Smith’s father Bob. They plan to raise a barn and visitor center for holding events like wine tastings as an opportunity for a resident outing.
“It will be like a field trip for seniors,” explains Andrea Ellen, vice president of marketing and communications at Maplewood. “We’ll use it like a 4-H program for farming.”
Aside from the herbs, root vegetables, and heirloom produce that will appear on the menu at Maplewood, Bob also hopes to raise cattle and poultry at some point in the near future. All other food will be sourced locally within a 100-mile radius.
Senior care is certainly not what it used to be. These communities have made great strides in changing their style. No longer sterile and unappealing, today’s senior residence is more like a resort spa than anything else. “The feelings of guilt dropping mom off at an institution are gone,” says Ellen. “I would live here!”
Maplewood is not unique in providing good care in an environmentally sustainable way. Sturges Ridge, a Benchmark facility recently opened between Carolton Convalescent Home and Fairfield Ludlowe High School, boasts plenty of eco-conscious amenities. No VOCs in the floor coverings and all lighting is LED. Plumbing fixtures have low water flow. Electrical car chargers grace the parking lot and, of course, they embarked on their own wetland preservation.
But of particular significance is the boiler room—there isn’t one. Sturges Ridge installed a VRF, or variable refrigerant flow, HVAC system. It is extremely efficient with just two computer-monitored hot water heaters that provide multiple heating and cooling zones from the same system. In other words, if Mrs. Jones wants her heat jacked up to 80 and Mr. Smith likes it cool at 65, that’s no problem. It gives the 68 assisted living apartments and the 20 memory care suites individual control all year long, which saves money.
Bill Cook, director of development for Benchmark, hired all the architects, engineers, and contractors and oversaw the entire project at Sturges Ridge. He has also worked on other Benchmark projects like Split Rock in Shelton, which is LEED-certified.
Cook pointed out the Fairfield location is not a LEED structure. In his view, it’s almost unnecessary to apply for certification. They do all the same things but without the paperwork and, in many cases, the higher costs. Most of the accepted building practices are already up to energy code standards. When it comes to Sturges Ridge, he prefers to call it “LEED-certifiable.”
“If there’s something more efficient, why wouldn’t you do it?” he says “Everything we do now is eco-conscious. It’s just common sense from an efficiency point of view.”
Cook went on to say that consumers know what they were getting with the LEED stamp. But now, people have come to expect it and they’re getting smarter about the environmentally friendly amenities these facilities have to offer.
By 2020, it is estimated nearly 56 million Americans will be age 65 or older who may need senior housing and care. In Connecticut, the National Center for Assisted Living shows 34 percent of residents are over the age of 85. As seniors start looking to move, they want to make sure the place they will call home leaves less of a mark on the planet.