"I find that a lot of times when people retire, they don't know what to do with themselves," says Diane Martinac, who retired from Lockheed Martin after 39 years in configuration and data management.
"Here, it's right up my alley," she says of her and her husband Rick's new home at Wind Crest, an Erickson Living-managed continuing care retirement community in Highlands Ranch, Colo. "They have all these groups and entertainment, and the people are just wonderful."
Wind Crest has around 100 interest groups and activities—everything from the woodshop to musical groups, Bible study to book clubs, political interest groups to a drumming circle.
Although Diane didn't have much time for pastimes while she was working, now she's joined the Women's Club, Welcoming Committee, and Resident Advisory Council. And she volunteers at Children's Hospital just up the road.
"I find that so many older people don't want to leave their homes. I'm just the opposite—you don't want to be by yourself, you don't want the home maintenance, and then when we have bad weather like a blizzard, you don't want to be alone," she says.
She and Rick moved to Wind Crest from Lakewood in September 2017. They had been interested ever since they started looking for a maintenance-free community for her parents eight years ago.
"I had heard about [Wind Crest] on TV and said we should check it out. When I walked in here, I thought, 'Wow! This is like a four-star Marriott!' It was nothing like what we were used to seeing," Diane says.
They joined the priority list, a waiting list for the apartment home of their choice, and watched as the campus grew, building out its second neighborhood. They realized that the longer they waited, the less time they would have to enjoy all Wind Crest has to offer. When a beautiful Newbury-style apartment on the fifth floor with a gorgeous view of the foothills was presented to them, they couldn't pass it up.
"We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity when we could," she says, adding that although they moved a year earlier than they had planned, they're glad they did.
"We live on such a great floor. Once a month, we meet and connect over food with our neighbors," she says. "What makes this place even more amazing is it's like a melting pot. There are a lot of people who are not native to Colorado. You meet people who are older and have great stories, people who are younger and still working—there's something for everyone."
She and Rick enjoy meeting new neighbors over dinner in any of Wind Crest's four dinner restaurants—Windows, Burton's, Mile High, or Fireside.
"All the restaurants make it a lot of fun because you meet people there, eat with them, and hear their stories. It's fun listening to people's lives, and it's so interesting to be able to talk with different people every single day."
Diane's on to something—something that will affect more and more people who will soon face the same decision she and Rick made: whether to stay in their house or move to an amenity-rich community.
The nation's population of seniors (those age 65 and older), which stands at 52 million today, is projected to increase by more than 60% over the next three decades, reaching 84 million in 2047. As the members of this group of Americans continue to age, they will need to evaluate what living arrangements best meet their needs.
For those who elect to stay in their homes (of Americans age 65 and older, 11 million people live alone, according to the United States Census Bureau), the adverse health effects of loneliness and isolation can be significant. As a result, these seniors are at greater risk of cognitive decline, depression, and heart disease.
According to the National Institutes of Health, several studies show a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults.
For example, social relationships are consistently associated with biomarkers of health, and positive indicators of social well-being may be associated with lower levels of interleukin-6, an inflammatory factor implicated in age-related disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer.
In turn, studies show that social isolation may have significant adverse health effects. It's a major risk factor for morbidity and mortality. In fact, people who feel lonely often have elevated systolic blood pressure.
Conversely, those living in an amenity-rich continuing care retirement community like Wind Crest can pursue their passions and be engaged in a plethora of opportunities for social interaction, including dining with neighbors, participating in clubs and activities, and volunteering. These opportunities promote healthier living and longevity.
"The culture on campus has so much richness in terms of social wellness. Community members are engaged in a variety of meaningful activities, from socializing with their peers, to organizing and participating in clubs and groups, to serving others by volunteering in and outside the community," says Jeff Watson, Erickson Living's director of operations.
Should the time come for additional care, the on-site continuing care neighborhood, Mill Vista Lodge, provides assisted living, long-term nursing care, short-term rehabilitation, and memory care.
Designed with comfort in mind, the neighborhood is warm and homelike with several dining venues and living rooms for socializing, and it combines state-of-the-art technology with personalized care and hospitality.
"At Wind Crest, we take a proactive approach to health and well-being," says Executive Director Craig Erickson. "Every aspect of our community is designed to empower our residents to live longer, more independent, healthy, and vibrant lives."