Edison Neighborhood

Heritage Community of Kalamazoo opens a new independent living community for older adults

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave’s On the Ground Edison series.

KALAMAZOO, MI — The front door does not require a key. A key fob gets you in.
Outfitted with smart-home technology, the rooms in your apartment “know” what time it is and what the weather is outside. And the living environment can be adjusted with the touch of a button.
That includes room temperature, window blinds, and music, all part of a home automation system that is complemented by Amazon Echo virtual assistant technology. You talk to Amazon’s Alexia whenever you like.
Jay Prince, president and chief executive officer of Heritage Community of Kalamazoo, says the organization’s new Revel Creek independent living community for older adults is being well received in Kalamazoo.Lights brighten and dim based on your needs, triggered by inside motion detectors. There is diffused lighting for bathroom trips in the middle of the night, and automated lighting when you’re scheduled to wake up for the day.
“Little features like that, that are built specifically for seniors … we understand that we’re building it for a unique population,” says Jay Prince, president and chief executive officer of Heritage Community of Kalamazoo.  “And we want to make it really easy for people, very convenient.”
That’s the standard that Kalamazoo’s oldest senior living community is trying to set with Revel Creek, its new independent living community for older adults. After more than six years of planning, Heritage Community has opened the 60-unit apartment facility on the west side of its 30-acre campus.
Heritage Community is less than 10 minutes south of downtown Kalamazoo and is bordered by Portage Street and Philips Street.
Prince says more residential opportunities are needed for people age 60 and older. Baby Boomers (Americans born from 1946 to 1964) are retiring in huge numbers, he says, “But they’re more active, they’re living longer, and they’re embracing innovative ways to live independently.”
Shown here is the kitchen area of a one-bedroom apartment in the 60-unit independent living community.According to information provided by Heritage, about 10,000 people are turning 65 each day. And after they’ve worked full careers and their children have left the nest, they have a different mindset when it comes to retirement.
“They are looking to retire differently,” Prince says. “The previous generations, as we know, were savers. They were more modest. They were more about community. So you see a lot of (residential) builds for those generations being smaller apartments with maybe less convenient features.”
They weren’t trying to travel as much and they weren’t necessarily as socially active.
“But here,” Prince says, “you see this generation saying, ‘I still want people to come over. I want to host an event. I want my kids to come into my apartment and still have Thanksgiving here. I want services and amenities that maybe my parents were more gracious about (didn’t want).’ … The next generation is saying, ‘I want to enjoy life. I want to have a drink at the bar. I want to have prime rib or a steak for dinner. I want to have a glass of wine. I want valet services. So they’re just looking at retirement in a whole different way.”
They are being accommodated with more spacious, energy-efficient, and modern apartments that have room for family gatherings and entertaining friends. Revel Creek has one- and two-bedroom apartment units designed with 10 different floor plans. They range from 881 square feet to 1,597 square feet. That is significantly larger than units at older complexes for seniors. The largest units in the Artisan, an 80-unit independent-living complex built at Heritage Community in 1991, are about 1,000 square feet.
Jay Prince, President and CEO of Heritage Community of Kalamazoo, inside a model apartment at Revel Creek. The complex has 10 different floor plans for the one- and two-bedroom apartments. They range from 881 square feet to 1,597 square feet.At Revel Creek, more services and amenities are being provided to help people remain active. A housekeeping staff cleans apartments every other week. Continental breakfasts, light lunches, and full dinners are available at two ground-floor dining areas. An outdoor patio dining is expected to be available during fair-weather months. After any of that, residents who are leaving the building can have a staff member bring his or her car from the basement garage to the circular driveway out front, care of the building’s concierge.
Revel Creek is a life care community that has an entrance fee that entitles residents to a range of care services as they are needed. There is also a monthly fee, which is about $4,500 per unit, based on the life care plan and investment people choose. The monthly fee at Revel Creek covers rent, the smart-home technology, utilities, maintenance, parking, housekeeping, a weekly linen/laundry service, a meal allowance, transportation and valet services, as well as the use of a ground-floor fitness center, wellness programs, and social, educational, and recreational activities.
Revel Creek takes its name from the idea of savoring life's better moments — to revel —  and plans are to link to an outdoor green area to the adjacent Portage Creek and nearby trails. Tiffany Andrus, Independent Living Sales Counselor for Heritage, says the community plans to erect a small bridge to give residents access to bicycle and pedestrian trails.
She and Prince say the concept is being well received since residents began taking occupancy in recent weeks and since a Nov. 9, grand opening that was attended by about 160 prospective applicants. Andrus says the complex is about 80 percent occupied.
Terry and Pam O’Connor moved into Revel Creek about two months ago and have recruited some of their friends to do the same.“My grandma lived here. My mom lived here. I already knew the culture of this place,” says Pam O’Connor, a Kalamazoo woman who relocated with her husband from downtown Kalamazoo to Revel Creek as it opened about two months ago.
“The fact that it is the only nonprofit in Kalamazoo that provides this kind of service and lifestyle for us – that is still here as a nonprofit after all those years – all those things are really important to us in making our decision,” she says.
The O’Connors moved into the new complex as they look to proactively manage how they want to live their lives. Terry, who worked in finance at The Upjohn Co. for 26 years and at Davenport University for 18 years before retiring, says, “We have a daughter who lives on the east side of the state who has some challenges and we want to minimize those (any demands on her) by coming here while we still can and enjoying life here.”
He and his wife have friends who have had challenging medical issues. But as those friends got older they did not move into a retirement community “and unfortunately it was not a very pleasant experience,” he says.
Tiffany Andrus is Independent Living Sales Counselor of the Heritage Community of Kalamazoo.“I’d like to eliminate all of that,” Terry O’Connor says. “And living here, the people are very gracious and welcoming and it’s just a real community here. I enjoy it very much.”
He says a fellow resident did a seven-state review of continuing-care retirement communities and found the Heritage Community to be the best option.
The O’Connors sold a house about 22 years ago and had been residents of a condominium in downtown Kalamazoo until relocating to Revel Creek. And they have convinced some of their friends to do the same.
Pam O’Conner is a retired historic preservation consultant and co-author of the book Kalamazoo Lost & Found. She says she loved her centrally-located condo but is adapting to new surroundings not too far away. About their new surroundings and their conveniences, she says, “There are some things that we love. I love walking up to my (computer) tablet and going ‘This on, this off, this on, this off.’ And because I like to save electricity, I tend to go ‘off’ more than ‘on’ whenever I can because we have great light coming on almost all day long.”
Among the amenities covered by monthly fees at Revel Creek is the use of a ground-floor fitness center, wellness programs and social, educational, and recreational activities.Prince says telehealth and medication-dispensing devices can also be added to the smart-home technology that residents use. And Revel Creek residents will have access to personal care services as needed from professional staff members in adjacent parts of the community. The Heritage Community of Kalamazoo, based at 2300 Portage St., has eight living centers there, including two independent living facilities, two assisted living facilities, two memory care facilities, and The Upjohn Skilled Nursing Center.
Among its newest treatment facilities is its Memory Care Learning Center, which was opened in February inside part of Heritage’s Amber Way memory-loss assisted living location. It is devoted to educating caregivers on how to help manage Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
More information about the Revel Creek property is available here
After more than six years of planning, Heritage Community has opened the 60-unit Revel Creek apartment facility on the west side of its 30-acre campus.“It’s not just about having a convenient lifestyle,” Prince says. “But as you get used to the system down the road,  you may say, ‘You know what. I want more technology in the healthcare realm to be part of my apartment as well.’ So we do look at this system as continuing to advance and get better.”
He says as residents continue to age, their homes will continue to be customized around them.
“When we think about those that are retiring, we know that the next generation -- the Baby Boomer generation -- they don’t want to retire like their parents retired,” Prince says. “And so we wanted to build for that next generation.”

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Read more articles by Al Jones.

Al Jones is a freelance writer who has worked for many years as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the Project Editor for On the Ground Kalamazoo.