Senior Independent Living
Last Updated: April 2, 2013
It's 7:30 am on a Friday morning. Hillary Kenyon, 72, has
already decided that today will be a Nordic ski day. So the
resident of Touchmark at Mt. Bachelor Village, a senior independent
living community in Bend, Oregon heads twenty minutes away to Mt.
Bachelor for a couple of hours of cross country skiing. Heavy
clouds have discouraged her from heading to the chairlifts, but
it's no big loss. She has already skied three days this week.
"I haven't found the time to sit down for the last 50 years,"
the Connecticut native explains. "And since I moved to Touchmark
two years ago, I have more to do than ever."
Rigorous activities like cycling, hiking, and skiing, once
reserved for athletes decades younger, are gaining popularity with
seniors living in communities. Gone are the days when retirees fill
their days with shuffleboard and flower arranging. Touchmark at Mt.
Bachelor Village has long distance cycling clubs, downhill, and
cross-country skiing groups, even clubs for mountain biking
"I tried the really hilly trails," says Kenyon, who rides her
hybrid mountain bike a few times a week, "but decided all those
bumps were no longer for me."
Not every resident of Touchmark and other resort-style retirement
communities plans his or her day around cycling and
snowshoeing. Fitness remains a touchy subject for many of
Touchmark's residents, especially those who have never considered
exercise a leisure activity, says Dr. Marge Coalman, EdD, Director
of the Full Life Wellness & Life Enrichment Program for all of
Touchmark's properties. "I have interviewed many men over the age
of seventy-five about what they like to do and they will just look
at me, because all they have done, all their lives, is work."
But organizations like the International Council of Active
Aging, of which Coalman is also a board member, are working hard to
change this behavior.
"We have to work exercise into their goals," Coalman, a graduate
of Stanford's Exercise Physiology for the Aging doctoral program,
explains. "We don't even use the term "exercise"; we speak of
"Active aging is definitely changing. At Touchmark, we sit down
with our new residents and ask them what they plan to do physically
with their next thirty years. We have people in their 60's who are
taking up snowshoeing, cross country and even downhill skiing,
residents who move here and become exercise fiends."
Another trend in senior independent living communities is the
lowering age of residents. The average at Touchmark's communities,
which span from the Pacific Northwest to Wisconsin, was in the
mid-eighties a few years ago. Today, there's an influx of people
aged 55 to 65 who are choosing to move to these environments, to
connect with a peer group of life long learners.
"As this younger group moves in, we've needed to modify our
programs, to change our campus by adding espresso machines and
other amenities," Coalman adds. "The people who we see moving into
our communities share a great interest in remaining active. They
are also active volunteers within the community and within the
The baby boomers have still yet to appear in senior independent
living developments in really large numbers, but many resort-style
retirement communities are under construction in anticipation of
their arrival. Central Ohio's White Oak community will occupy 27
acres and boast luxury condominiums for seniors over 62 years old,
according to a recent article by Tim Tresslar in the Dayton Daily
News. The project will feature walking trails and a timber frame
lodge, and will feature suites as well as free standing cottages
and villas. The community will even offer a horticultural center
for its gardening members.
Though there won't be shuttles to a world class ski resort at
White Oak like there are at Touchmark at Mt. Bachelor, residents
will still stay plenty active with an indoor-outdoor pool and full
"What leads people to environments like ours is the draw of
community," Coalman says. "The social connectivity is a great
contributor to remaining physically fit."
In Bend, Kenyon has adjusted her activities to reflect the
interests of the friends she has made since moving here from across
the country to be closer to her daughter's family. "I've taken up
snowshoeing because it's something I can share with my friends who
don't ski," she explains. "I also cross country ski with friends
from my neighborhood. When I do ski downhill it is often with my
daughter and granddaughter."
Kenyon lives in a two-bedroom cottage, a short walk from the
community's main lodge and activity center. It is one of several
living arrangements that is typical of resort-style senior
independent living communities. Cottages are ideal for single
retirees; there are larger homes for couples; and all three lodges
feature suites as well as common areas, art studios, and
multipurpose rooms for movies, lectures, and other group
"Our seniors are definitely getting the message that they're
going to be here for awhile," Coalman says, "that if they want to
stay engaged they have to take the initiative. Wellness is not a
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