Not your Grandma’s retirement home: How two non-profits are creating more options for OKC seniors

Image: Concordia resident Beverly Langley was one of the first members of VillagesOKC, a nonprofit dedicated to helping seniors in the community. She now enjoys living at Concordia where she is able to volunteer with VillagesOKC and other local nonprofits.
Concordia Life Care Community BrandInsight

By Eddie Roach | October 19, 2019 
 
There’s a generational divide, and it’s not what you think. 
 
Baby Boomers differ from Millennials and Gen Z in various ways, but it’s the difference between them and generations that came before them that’s making waves in the housing industry.
 
Baby Boomers are a larger cohort than past generations. According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, the number of houses with individuals age 80 and over jumped from 4.4 million in 1990 to 7.5 million in 2016—a 71 percent increase. By 2037 this group will more than double.
 

Options matter

With great numbers comes great optionality. Baby Boomers are bucking the traditional way of aging, choosing optionality over uniformity.

The former black and white possibilities of either living at home or moving into a senior community now have shades of gray between them including living with family, home-sharing, house cooperatives, assisted living residents, continuing care communities, and even niche retirement communities tailored to specific interests—enjoy Jimmy Buffett? Check out the Margaritaville-themed senior community in Florida!
 
For locals like Bev Langley, optionality empowered her to make the best decision possible. Langley is active and healthy but experienced a culmination of circumstances many others face after retirement. Several of Langley’s children moved out of state, her house maintenance began to creep up and a simple health ailment intensified. 
 
That’s where VillagesOKC came in.
 
It takes a Village
 
A member-driven network of Oklahomans, VillagesOKC is part of the larger, national Villages-to-Village network. Member/volunteers provide myriad services to seniors, helping with everything from picking up groceries to understanding the latest iPhone update.
 
Langley was one of VillagesOKC’s first members.
 
“[VillagesOKC] has volunteers that come, and they’ll help you shop, they’ll help you do anything you have to get done. And I thought ‘what a wonderful gift,’” Langley said. “You get to meet with people that have like-mindedness.”
 
“We were pleased to welcome Bev as our first VillagesOKC member,” said Marilyn Olson, VillagesOKC Executive Director. “Because she was willing to consider an alternative option, she received services and a network of volunteers who had her best interest at heart.”
 
After using VillagesOKC’s services for several months, it became clear that she needed to make another crucial decision. Though her children were willing to share their home and she had a new safety net in VillagesOKC, Langley wanted a more permanent solution.
 
Home sweet home
 
“When I visited Concordia Life Plan Community, I realized I had a good opportunity to move there,” Langley said. “[My Concordia apartment] was perfect for me, and so I thought, well it’s time to move. That was a smart decision because I have such a social life here.”
 
Langley is energized by Concordia’s activities and her new friends. Friends, it turns out, may have impacted Langley more than she knew. Recently, two groundbreaking Michigan State University studies found that friendships can predict happiness and health outcomes more so than spousal and familial relationships, especially as people age.
 
“Bev came to us like many of our residents,” said Julie Davis, Marketing Project Manager at Concordia. “A vibrant individual who understands the importance of a place that can meet her needs, provide her with a group of involved friends and give her freedom to pursue her passions.”
 
The time Langley has gained from not having to worry about home maintenance, she dedicates to volunteering for meaningful organizations. One of those organizations was VillagesOKC.
 
Full circle
 
With two local organizations giving seniors customized services and volunteer opportunities, people like Langley can find the right fit for them.
 
“At Concordia, our continuing care model gives older adults the flexibility to customize their lifestyle,” said Danny Eischen, Executive Director at Concordia. “Some may want to stay in their homes and receive specialized assistance from nonprofits like VillagesOKC while others may desire the convenience and stability of a community like ours. We’re happy Oklahoma City residents can now choose what’s best for them.”
 
Eischen deeply understands VillagesOKC’s vision. Concordia was a founding partner when VillagesOKC launched in 2018, and Eischen now serves on the executive board.
 
No matter the situation or desire, more options for seniors empower them to make better decisions for their future.