Will High-Rise Independent Living Communities be the Next Big Thing in Philly?

Philly’s wealthy boomers want to grow old where they live. Can upscale high-rise independent living communities be the answer?

senior living communities philadelphia upscale

A Dallas high-rise senior-living community. | Photo: Ventana By Buckner.

As well-heeled, urbanite Philadelphians age, it’s clear that not all of them are going to want to take up residence in artificial villages built around golf courses in Florida. In fact, according to the AARP, most people these days actually prefer to age in the places they already call home.

As a result, the “old folks’ home” has gotten an upgrade in some major cities, with affluent grandpas and grandmas moving to tricked-out high-rises as they age. (Del Boca Vista this is not.) Innovative developers in places like Los Angeles, Dallas and New York are answering the demand by converting current buildings or putting up shiny new apartment towers and independent living communities with extra amenities like indoor heated pools, full-service spas, movie theaters, outdoor terraces, and formal and private dining. These luxury “continuing-care retirement communities” (CCRC) also offer staged-care apartments in which people can live independently or receive skilled nursing care.

Where can you sign? Right now, in this region, you’ll have to head for the ’burbs to find a facility like this. There’s currently only one (rather traditional) continuing-care apartment tower in the city: the Watermark, just off Logan Square. Jill Hofer, Watermark’s director of communications, says residents choose the location for “an active, engaged lifestyle with easy transportation to culture, dining, shopping, and top medical centers.”

As developers sense a growing market for gilded senior living in the city, there’s a chance we might wake up one day to find that someone here has decided an extant high-rise would make a fantastic upscale retirement community.

“If a landlord realized that tenants were aging and wanted to put together a package that included services, it would be something we might want to talk about,” says Tama Carey, chief operating officer of Presby’s Inspired Life, a local operator of senior living communities. But at the moment, she says, most residents looking for this lifestyle are staying put and ordering the services they need from providers.

So while Philly may not be full of swanky high-rises designed for elders just yet, here’s an idea for developers: To fill all those apartments you built, offer assisted living services as upgrades. Or, better yet, start working up plans for a buzzy new high-rise that caters to boomers instead of millennials. Who knows? In a decade or two, Center City Sips might be the purview of a bridge-playing, Tom Collins-sipping elderly upper class.

Published as “Gray Towers” in the October 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.