By Susan Belknapp, California Business Journal.
With roughly 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, options for desirable, flexible senior living will continue to grow as baby boomers seek age-in-place or resort-like retirement options.
Paul Griffin III, a fifth-generation homebuilder, is president and CEO of Calabasas, Calif.-based Griffin Living – a privately-owned real estate developer is a sister company of Griffin Residential – specializes in centralized community developments for seniors.
Griffin Living, which started regionally in California and now has projects nationwide, creates innovative residences inspired by resort living while providing exceptional investment opportunities for capital partners.
“When I think of what seniors are looking for, I think about my parents,” Griffin says. “Do you really want to send them someplace that feels like a nursing home? I knew we could do better than most of the experiences out there and fill a very specific niche.”
Though the Griffin Living team has decades of experience in all types of development, including master-planned communities, the approach wasn’t exactly what Griffin envisioned for this residential model. He wanted something different, something better. So he patterned it after a resort dynamic. The company’s developments integrate with the surrounding area with walkable access to retail, restaurants and services – medical and dental – plus indoor/outdoor amenities and activities, such as regular barbecues, Sunday brunch and restaurant dining.
Griffin’s senior-living philosophy is so intriguing that it captured a Gold Award from the National Association of Home Builders in its Best of 55+ Housing category. Its latest project, Varenita of Simi Valley, opens in Q4, right next to a thriving retail center with essential senior services.
“We scout our locations the same way the hotels do,” Griffin says. “We want to be where the action is. Varenita, for instance, is in the center of Simi Valley – or in the ‘urban core,’ if you will. You can see the lifestyles, restaurant, activities, the access to about anything a senior might need and is still minutes from the suburbs, which is ideal when our residents’ grown children and grandkids live that close.”
Griffin Living’s approach is using the demographic model of a 50-something daughter, who is often a key decision influencer for her parents. In theory, she has her own family at home still and she wants her aging parents nearby.
“No one wants to feel like they’re ‘warehousing’ their parents,” Griffin says. “They want a place for them to live, not warehousing them to die. Real estate is really about who is using it and what are they getting out of it.”
To meet the needs of this demographic, “we always have an eye on comfort, quality of life, and accessibility for the residents and their families,” he adds.
In the demographic model, the theoretical daughter, who presumably lives nearby, can drop by after work to have dinner with her parent or parents, bringing her spouse and kids.
Griffin integrates his senior-living properties with parklike atmospheres with gazebos, flowerbeds, and fountains that flow into the centers. “This way, both residents and visitors of the shopping center relish the environment,” he says. “Even if they aren’t shopping, residents can sit outside and be ‘in’ their surroundings – in touch with the activity and energy all around them.”
Griffin says that shopping centers are now “more of an experience – someplace you can walk, go to the eye doctor, the dentist or the hair salon – things you can’t do on Amazon,” he adds with a laugh. “It becomes like the old-fashioned town center where individuals interact.”
He pauses for a moment and says: “Perhaps the daughter drops the children off to see grandma while she runs to the grocery or drug store? The kids love exploring the walking paths, turtle pools and fountains. The residents love the energy of children around and the synergy creates more activity for everyone.”
The interior of the facilities equal the idyllic exterior atmosphere. The facilities have physical therapy and the gym equipment is computerized and calibrated for the needs of older people, providing just enough resistance on muscle groups to get the benefit without risking injury. Caregivers check on every resident every day, often a few times. “Our saying is, ‘We fail if someone is sitting there in a wheelchair,’” Griffin says.
New protocols for COVID-19 are taken extremely seriously, with temperature and symptom checks. If a caregiver has reason for concern, she will have a nurse check on a resident. Full-time, visiting staff and guests are also screened daily for COVID symptoms. Casual guests are not allowed.
“Fortunately, we were already putting top-of-the-line systems for air circulation in Simi Valley,” Griffin says, “We have a variable refrigerant that filters all the air to make it equivalent to an N95 mask. We recirculate the air four times an hour for every room. That was an extra $2 million, but we wanted ‘perfect’ heating and air. It increases the value of the building in the long run and it’s cheaper to run.”
The soap at hand-washing stations is surgical-center quality and touchless and-sanitizer stations are scattered through all the buildings. “There are things we can do to help each other,” Griffin says. “Trying to keep ahead of all the COVID-19 protocols is a challenge but the assisted-living industry as a whole has been up to the task. It’s the nursing homes that are facing such difficult times.”
Griffin’s immediate projects in California include Temecula, Laguna Niguel, San Juan Capistrano, and Rancho Mirage, which is next to two hotels, making it a destination if parents want to live in the desert. Investors and lenders are climbing over each other to get into business with Griffin “because the demand will only grow,” he says. “In the next 10 years, another million people will be entering the senior market.”
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