Living the boutique lifestyle

Boutique hotels…boutique shops…boutique spas…boutique senior living…. What? Boutique senior living? That’s correct! The arrival of America’s most active and adventurous generation is now flooding senior living communities across the country. And service and amenities are the first questions from their mouths when researching where they want to settle down. This generation has embraced years of hard work and now it’s payback time. With this in mind, senior living communities are experiencing something of a revelation and realize they must take a jump on board in order to win the hearts of this generation. So how does a senior living community achieve this noteworthy title of being “boutique”? Here’s a glance at what is currently being offered at this level of hospitality.

Energetic generation

Health, wellness, and the pursuit of hobbies are keeping the Baby Boomer generation busy in their post-retirement days. Senior communities are offering 24-hour concierge services to keep up with this Boomer energy. Some of the amenities currently on the rise are in-room services (i.e., meals or snacks offered at all times of the day and evening, dry cleaning pick-up, housecleaning, plant caretaker, and car services). Scheduling of doctor appointments, massage therapists, and dental visits are also being implemented. And talk about Boomer energy, this generation has reinvented itself by getting fit. Group fitness classes such as yoga, tai chi, spin, and water aerobics are amenities that have come to be expected, while some communities have taken this concept a step further by offering personal trainers, nutritionists, and dietary consultants to the list.

Social clubs are also gaining popularity. The camaraderie offered by involvement in these social clubs is very appealing to seniors, especially those who might have lived alone for many years and are excited to have the opportunity of new friendships that enjoy similar interests. Organized social clubs range from golf, bridge, wine, book, ballroom dancing, tennis, and travel clubs to crafts, bird watching, and photography clubs. The possibilities are immeasurable because of the diverse personalities that make up these environments.

Alicia Jones

On-site travel agents are becoming a hit, too. Group-rate travel excursions to exotic destinations, safari trips, and-for those health-conscious residents-yoga retreats are becoming popular. Who wouldn’t want to travel to China to study tai chi or explore some of the world’s best golf courses with their fellow residents?

Continuing education and learning courses are gaining interest. Classes may be taught by a staff member or professional from a local college, or perhaps even a fellow resident. Popular subjects include art, genealogy, floral arrangement, painting, pottery, and ballroom dancing. On-site drivers make it possible for residents to enjoy regular trips to museums, libraries, and cultural institutes to enjoy symposiums, tours, and even cooking classes.

Self-pampering and self-indulgence is easily scheduled with luxurious onsite spas. Yes, manicures, pedicures, skincare, massage, and hair salon services have been on the list of amenities for years, but in today’s market it’s the level of treatment and services offered that appeal to this generation. And, of course, residents have a choice of visiting the spa or scheduling services in the privacy of their own residence.

Owners and operators may ask how some of these services and amenities can be achieved during today’s economy, when budgets are tight.

The health-conscious resident wants freshly prepared, healthy dining choices. Incorporating local ingredients is appealing to the gourmet-preferred diners. Some communities take a fresher approach by growing herbs and vegetables in a chef-maintained garden, which allows the chef to be creative with menu changes by offering the foods in season.

While we’re talking food, a variety of dining settings is key for a boutique community. These environments are not to be confused with your great-grandmother’s tearoom featuring a jacket-required dress code and bland chicken salad scooped from a five-gallon bucket. Instead open, airy bistro settings with a coffee-shop feel are edging out the stuffy, formal settings preferred by preceding generations. Small pubs and grills present a fun option where residents can gather to watch sporting events and enjoy healthy pub fare and spirits. Even the fine dining option may be in a more elegant, but comfortable, setting.

Tight budgets

Owners and operators may ask how some of these services and amenities can be achieved during today’s economy, when budgets are tight. Here are a few suggestions: When exercise and group classes are not available on site, contact a local health club and arrange for discounted rates for your community’s residents. If a travel agent is out of the question, consider renting out a small space at your facility to a local independent travel agent. When the dining room menu needs a lift, offer a weekly “Guest Chef of the Evening” and invite a local chef or an aspiring chef to donate his or her time. I’m sure they would be honored. If you don’t have an on-site hair stylist, invite one from a local cosmetology school.

The bottom line is all about being creative. Analyze your current services and amenities and you might be pleasantly surprised at how simply you can turn your community into a modified version of a boutique community.

Alicia Jones is the Owner and President of West End Interiors, LLC, in Nashville, Tennessee. The firm’s primary focus is senior living and hospitality design. She has worked with many architectural firms, general contractors, and developers across the country and has developed an extensive database of resources.

For more information, call (615) 289-2006 or visit To send your comments to the editor, e-mail

Long-Term Living 2009 December;58(12):24-27

Topics: Articles , Facility management , Housing