Possibly your grandparents or great grandparents went to The Old Folks Home or even a Sanitarium (!)
Your parents or grandparents maybe went to a Retirement Home.
Perhaps you now know people who live in a Senior Living Facility, or are dropped off at an Adult Daycare.
The names of these establishments have evolved but have the overpriced, creepily decorated housing units with mushy food and glowering nurses aides changed? With the aging population set to double by the year 2050, will the country be overpopulated with pastel, stucco mini-apartments with cheesy faux antique décor and piped in Muzak surrounded by a parking lot outside the city?
Why am I even writing about this?
Because these establishments all have commercial kitchens. People always gotta eat so someone always hasta cook, which keeps me employed, designing these kitchens. I’m referred to (jokingly, I assure you) in our office as the “Senior Living Specialist,”since over the last 21 years my client base has swelled with senior living developers for whom I design and fit out their commercial kitchens. I must admit, I only recently stopped calling them “retirement homes” when a client corrected me. That’s what they were called when I designed the odd few in the nineties and early aughts, between the more usual restaurant and country club kitchens. (Once, after a design meeting at a nursing home, all the doors had alarms on them and I couldn’t get out. I was doomed!) But changing the name of retirement housing is proof that their perception IS evolving. One of my clients calls his place a Senior Living Resort and it is smack dab on the beach.
Competition is stiff in this growing industry and the most prized amenity–food service — is getting fancier. Wood-fired pizza anyone? There are now bars, ice cream shops, private dining rooms. Howabout a sushi bar? This thought came to me back when I was designing retirement home kitchens for the back-end of the Greatest Generation. Unfortunately those kitchens were akin to mini hospitals, serving only mediocre food-on-a-tray. I thought at the time that the kitchens would change once the more food-savvy boomers began to retire and I was right. Senior living kitchens now are more like little restaurant kitchens, thank God, but no sushi bars. Yet.
So why am I writing about this?
Well drinking pinot noir after a hurriedly slammed together grouper meuniere the other night with my 25 year old, the subject came up about some longtime friends, a couple, now post 70 and well, a little different than before, when Daughter was in middle school and life with these friends meant dining, drinking, good-bar-searching, always having a great time.
“Do you think they should go to a… Home?” She asked.
I put aside my shock at her not having some sort of cool millennial-speak for such a subject and said, “No! Way!”
There was silence then as we sipped wine. Surely both of us thinking about our friends sitting in their house watching tennis on their giant flat screen TV, the wondrous array of Indian curries and accompaniments in their now not-so-used pantry, the newest addition to their house — the cat and their weekly jaunts to Happy Hours. And not at all able to mash those visions in with those of the pastel walls, the antiques, the Muzak, the crap food?
“Retirement homes need to be more like communes.”
Yes, my daughter is brilliant.
“You mean like with Indian blankets and incense and some Led Zeppelin piped in?”
“Yeah. And a vegetable garden, herbs.”
“And the other herb of course.”
“Yeah.” Pensive. Sip of wine. “I could never take you to a place like that.”
The places owned by all those clients who helped fund her college. “Well, they are changing.” I told her about my sushi bar vision. She laughed. Of course, I’m never going anywhere when I’m OLD except to the end of a pier with a fishing pole, a bucket and a six-pack. (Whether whatever-they’re-called have sushi bars or not.)
Then we got in to the visuals of when the millennials retire, with their closed-up piercings, waist-long beards and saggy blotted arms of rotted tattoos. I can’t even imagine the retiree food of the future aged millennial. Of course they will all be retirement communes by then. There will be vegan communes; social media communes with necks permanently bent downward, a tap-a-tapping ghost phones which have been long replaced by, well something else; Google communes, where the old millennials bump around with Google glasses streaming visions of the past?
I won’t be around to design their kitchens and I wouldn’t know what to do anyway. Surely wood-burning pizza ovens and sushi bars will be passé by then and considered, with a bit of disdain, as Senior Living Food, something long gone with their parents’ generation.