Developing retirement communities for today’s older adults also means planning for Fido. In honor of National Responsible Pet Owners Month, we sat down with Paul Aigner, VP of development at Transforming Age, to learn about how Fido is impacting the design and development of senior living communities.
In Seattle, where dogs out number children, urban high-rise apartment complexes and condominiums are featuring amenities like outdoor pet relief terraces and indoor dog washing stations. According to a Gallup poll, 48% of those 65 and older own a pet. “If your retirement community is not pet friendly,” says Paul Aigner, “you essentially reduce your target audience by half.”
Paul Aigner is spearheading the master planning efforts for a new high-rise retirement community in an undisclosed location within the Puget Sound area. He explains that the initial plans for this luxury community include a roof-top dog walking area. By creating a dedicated onsite off-leash space, or pet relief area, older adults with mobility challenges can still enjoy the comforts pet ownership, without the obligation of walking the dog. “Designing the ideal environment for dogs can be tricky,” Paul explains. “How much of the prime roof-top real estate are residents willing to share with pets?” At Skyline, a high-rise CCRC in the heart of downtown Seattle, pets were not considered during the initial design and development when the community first opened in 2009. Despite the lack of formal pet amenities, today Skyline is home to a vibrant community of dogs. Pets are even listed in the Resident Directory, complete with their picture and apartment number. FunFun, Java, and Tigger even have their own dedicated dog-romp play time listed on the activity calendar. Skyline’s garden terrace has been commandeered by the gang of dogs; the paved terrace has morphed into a dedicated area where dogs can romp off leash and chase after tennis balls.
“We know pets increase longevity, reduce loneliness and offer a sense of purpose,” Paul states, “senior living communities need to support pet ownership, through all phases of life.” With pet ownership on the rise, developers of condominiums, multifamily housing, and senior living communities are all finding creative ways to lure pet owners. Some even say that artificial turf pet parks see more utilization and engagement than luxury amenities like pools, club houses or wine cellars.
Well-designed pet amenities do involve upfront investment and maintenance. Paul suggests that added insulation may be needed to mitigate barking sounds. And of course, the rooftop park needs to be engineered to wash away waste and odors. Newer parks often use artificial sod with drainage, combined with a sprinkler system.
Paul did mention that Fido still isn’t welcome in the bistro or restaurant. But who knows, maybe tomorrow’s senior living campuses will soon feature doggie watering holes.