There is no shortage of high-end assisted living options in the United States. There are beautiful grounds, gourmet dining and spacious apartments, with a costly price tag attached. However, there are far fewer options available for older adults with less discretionary income.
After two years of research on the unmet needs of the middle-income market, The Branches of North Attleboro, a new Benchmark Senior Living community in North Attleboro, Massachusetts is attempting to change this. The community offers an innovative housing option for seniors, says company President and COO, Stephanie Handelson, who says their model is “addressing the wide range of needs for the value-smart consumer who is looking to get the best of what the industry has to offer, without breaking the bank.”
An Affordable Assisted Living Model
The number one priority during the development of The Branches of North Attleboro was to provide an affordable assisted living option for middle-income seniors, Handelson told Senior Housing News.
“We wanted to bring the price point down so people could live here longer and be able to afford it… in order to do that, we didn’t eliminate any of the social space, we limited the resident space,” she says.
Affordability wasn’t the only focus in the development of The Branches of North Attleboro. According to the assisted living community’s website, it is also rooted in the spirit of community and kinship, focusing on the power of connections: “connecting residents with the people, places and activities that bring purpose and meaning to life.”
The crux of the affordable design comes from the layout of the assisted living community, specifically the individual resident apartments.
According to an article published by Senior Housing News, the living area “resembles a college dormitory,” offering each resident an apartment comprised of one private bathroom and bedroom, and a connected common space that is shared with a neighboring resident. Technology is used to match roommates, based on questionnaires that each resident fills out.
The quaint, one-bedroom apartment not only greatly reduces the residents’ housing costs, it also encourages them to be more socially active.
Community Involvement and Space
According to their news release, The Branches of North Attleboro is focused on community and connection. The size of the individual apartments were sacrificed in order to accommodate expansive common areas.
For example, the ground floor “features an open layout with a dining room, lobby, library and outdoor patios, giving residents multiple opportunities to mingle. There’s also a special corner area called “The Tap” where residents can sip wine and beer during the cocktail hour […] Upstairs, there’s a family dining room where residents can celebrate birthdays and holidays with friends and loved ones.”
The developers of The Branches of North Attleboro have worked diligently with local officials and community groups to “forge connections beyond the walls of The Branches community,” Handelson says. This resulted in a special collaboration with the Hasbro gaming company, who identified the residents of The Branches of North Attleboro as valuable community partners. Residents and their families are now testing new games and activities, including a line of Nerf products for seniors.
Technology plays an important role in the design of The Branches of North Attleboro and the community has adopted a variety of high-tech devices and programs to improve resident’s quality of life. For example, the community is participating in a pilot program using Caremerge, “a mobile and web-based app to keep families updated about their loved ones’ daily activities.”
A pilot program, Caremerge uses Google Home technology and Samsung tablets to encourages residents to remain independent and engaged through motion and voice-activated technology that assists with activities of daily living. The tablets come equipped with special hardware and software that are accessible and easy to use, and gives residents access to:
- Daily activity schedules
- Daily meal menus
- Email and web browsing
- Entertainment & games
- News sources
- Relaxation apps
- Safety features and emergency assistance
- Skype and video call features
By designing modest rooms without unnecessary features, The Branches of North Attleboro was able to keep monthly living costs down, while still allowing for the kind of shared community, social interaction and technological devices that assisted living residents are after.
What do you think of this type of affordable assisted living model? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.