Legacy Village: Urban Living for Seniors in Salt Lake City

People are living longer. It’s just a fact. And new urban-living projects like Legacy Village in Sugar House are coming online to meet this growing need. Consider this, according to the Population Reference Bureau,”the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise to nearly 24 percent from 15 percent.”

But as the population ages, day-to-day living changes—employment abilities, medical requirements, and future wants all mold into a needs and expectations. In the past, the stereotype for seniors was to move in with family, hence the mother-in-law suite, or head to Southern Utah for warmth and quiet. But Salt Lake City is seeing new trends with seniors wanting to be independent, have access to urban amenities and continue their recreational life-styles.

Legacy Village in Sugar House is one such place.

Q: What makes Legacy Village unique? 

A: A few things make Legacy Village of Sugar House unique. First is its location in the heart of Sugar House.  In the past, seniors who lived their entire lives in Sugar House had to leave the area to find appropriate senior housing and care.  Now they have a state-of-the-art community close to their homes, favorite and familiar shopping, recreation and restaurants. Second is the continuum of services within Legacy Village. Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care services are available in one location under one roof and staffed with the same familiar people.  Transitions are made simpler as people age and need more help with normal activities of daily living. Finally, is the community feel of Legacy Village and its neighbors.  Legacy Village is part of a community that caters to multi-generations with housing, recreation, shopping, medical care, and eating establishments. Seniors who live in Legacy Village are an integral part of the community.  They are not isolated or separated from the vibrant community that surrounds them.

Q: What trends do you see for seniors staying in a shared community vs staying at home or moving in with family members?

A: Certainly, staying at home is the preference of most seniors and for many it is a very good option. Staying at home however, presents some issues for seniors as they age and deal with normal changes that come with aging.  Home maintenance, food shopping, cooking, loneliness, healthcare, and isolation are some of the challenges people face in their homes as they age. The strong desire not to become a burden to family makes many seniors hesitant to move in with their family in-spite of family members’ willingness to help. As a result, the community has responded with several options to assist seniors facing the challenges that come with getting older. Senior companions, senior centers, in home services, home health, and hospice are some of the services designed to allow people to stay in their homes and thrive. Several residential services are available to seniors like senior in-mind designed apartment communities, independent living, assisted living communities, dementia or Alzheimer’s facilities, and continuing care retirement communities. Legacy Village of Sugar House was built with these options in mind.  The trend is to offer choices to seniors and let them choose the option that works best for them and those they love.

Q: There can be stereotypes of seniors moving out to the country side or southern Utah for warmth or quiet, but why might they be moving into urban areas?

A: While many active seniors are drawn to warmer more year-round active communities, like those found in southern Utah, many are part-timers to these communities. They spend a good portion of their time closer to home, their families, and their long-time, trusted physicians and known medical services. As their activity level wains and chronic or acute illness affect them, they tend to come back home to live closer to family and more medical care options in the suburban and urban communities. This is especially true of seniors in their 80s and 90s.  Often with older seniors, families are influencing them to move closer to home. 

Q: What opportunities are there for seniors living in urban areas?

A: Mobility and accessibility are significant concerns for seniors. In many ways an urban environment addresses these issues. Seniors who no longer can safely drive can walk or access public transportation to get to medical appointments, shops, or eat out. Access to social and recreational activities are enhanced. Within a short distance, and in some cases a walkable distance from Legacy Village, is Sugar House Park, libraries, community centers, senior centers, and places of worship. Independence in many ways is improved for seniors living in a community located in an urban environment, like Legacy Village.

Q: How much does the fact that people are more health conscious and living longer affect the types of ways they want to live out retirement?

A: An interesting statistic is that a typical resident living in any of Legacy’s family of retirement communities is an 85-year-old widow woman with at least one chronic condition. We have traditionally thought the normal retirement age is 65, although that is changing. That means there is a 20-year period from work retirement to perhaps living in a community like Legacy Village. Health conscious living has allowed many to have a longer period of active, non-working living. Certainly 20 years of active living allows seniors to pursue their many and varied interests, like traveling, volunteering, religious service, and pursuing other hobbies. Of course, there are economic concerns that come with longer retirements and there are significant health care issues with longer lives. For example, the highest risk factor for dementia or Alzheimer’s is age.

Q: How has aging changed over the past several years?

A: The most significant change I have observed in my nearly 40 years of working with seniors is the choices that are now available. When I first started if you didn’t live in your own home or that of a family member, you lived in a nursing home.  While the services offered in these nursing homes were for the most part good (better than what was often portrayed in the media), it was generally a one size fits all service. Today seniors have choices that allow them pick what works best for them.  That could be staying at home with in-home or community based services, living in an apartment designed for seniors, living in independent living communities with meals, security, and recreational activities, living in an assisted living with help with activities of daily living and some nursing care, living in a safe memory care community, or living in a nursing home with needed twenty-four nursing care. Legacy Village of Sugar House offers choices for seniors who grew up, raised their families, and worked in Sugar House.

Q: Where do you see the future of senior living?

A: Choices will continue to expand. An area that will help this expansion is technology.  Increasingly seniors will learn about, become more comfortable with, and will depend more on technology. This technology will include things such as smart homes or living residences, in-home access to healthcare, assistive devices for independence, family connectivity, and other technologies that help seniors and improve the quality of life.  Legacy Village was built with some of this technology in mind. As new technologies are developed, hopefully we have built the infrastructure into Legacy Village to accept and fully implement these exciting and new opportunities for seniors to thrive.


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