Like having a college roommate at 85 years old

Warwick Beacon ·

It could be a college campus, only better – with a bistro just down the hall, happy hour every evening, a putting green and bocce court a few steps outside, a media room, and a schedule of interesting programs and speakers.

The comparison to life at college doesn’t escape Michael Allen, vice president of operations for Kaplan Development Group, which owns and will operate the 112-bed assisted living and memory care facility on Toll Gate Road projected to open early next year.

Allen was in Warwick recently, down from Londonderry, N.H., where All American Assisted Living, a subsidiary of Kaplan, just opened its newest facility. All American also operates facilities in Hanson, Raynham and Wareham, Mass. and Hillsborough, N.J.

The layout between facilities is similar, with companion suites setting All American apart from many assisted living facilities. Residents have their own rooms and share a bathroom and common living space with someone else, like having a roommate in college. They furnish it themselves or All American can do it.

“What’s amazing here is everybody has a roommate,” said Allen.

That may seem a stretch for tenants in their 80s and 90s, likely to be widow or widower and set in their ways. But it is one of the features of All American that sets it apart and makes it more affordable than assisted studio-like apartments where residents are isolated.

Seth Dudley, Kaplan vice president of sales and marketing, said the model enables All American to charge about 70 percent of the cost of conventional assisted living facilities. But it’s what residents of companion suites gain that excites Allen.

“This brings new experiences for these folks and almost instantly they have a new friend,” he said.

He said the most common reasons families turn to assisted living facilities are that an elderly family member is failing to take their medications or they are lonely and want socialization. The staff ensures a prescribed medication plan is followed, and it’s the amenities, programs and roommates that create an active and stimulating environment. It also makes for friends and a place where people look out for one another.

“It’s another set of eyes. It works very well that way,” said Allen, describing how roommates pick up on little changes such as their roommate not sleeping that could be a telltale of other issues.

Pairing tenants isn’t left to chance, although Allen says with a laugh, “This isn’t Match.com.” A prospective tenant’s background, interests and hobbies are considered. Important questions, said Allen, are whether they’re a morning person or like to sleep in.

He recalls one resident who on meeting her roommate excitedly gave her a welcoming hug. The families of both residents often get to know each other, planning events together or jointly participating in facility activities.

Allen said most residents have adult children living within 10 to 15 miles. The typical situation, he said, is a parent who is living far away – he suggests Florida – and the adult child wants to have them closer to them and family. Leases are for one year, which can be terminated with a 30-day written notice, Allen said. Rates are $4,000 per month and include wellness and activity services that are often added costs at competing facilities.

“Here there is none of that unknown,” Allen said.

All American provides an optimal wellness program that has a physical therapist and someone who oversees an exercise program on the premises. On average, Allen said, people who are 85 years old and older get less than 40 seconds of aerobic exercise daily. At All American that is elevated to 150 minutes a week through a variety of programs, including walking clubs and yoga.

It’s not all exercise, which Allen said helps reduce the incidents of falls and improves vitality. Spiritual and education programs are also provided.

Allen said the Warwick site was picked because of its proximity to Kent Hospital and the highway. He put the cost of the project at $10 million to $12 million. In addition to assisted living, All American will have 22 memory care beds. This area has added security and staffing.

Dudley said the response to the Warwick facility has been “overwhelming,” with 35 percent of the facility already under contract. He said a model companion suite will be open in mid-October, and he expects 65 to 75 percent of the space will be committed by the time the facility opens in late January or early February.

Allen, who grew up outside of Boston and whose father ran a retirement home and mother was a nurse, has a passion for enhancing the lives of the elderly. He likes seeing people active and enjoying life and aims to have All American live up to its motto, “The community that treats people like family.”

ON SITE:

Michael Allen of the Kaplan Group is pictured outside the All American Assisted Living facility Kaplan is building on Toll Gate Road. The facility is projected to open in late January or early February 2017. (Warwick Beacon photo)

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