Opus: A New Kind of Senior Living for Middle-Income Seniors

Linda Helfet, 78, and her husband Bill Hilliker, 86, planned to grow old in their condominium, located just outside of Boston. Plans changed when their sons moved away to different parts of the country. They had to rethink their living situation, keeping in mind what would happen if one of them was gone and the other had to live alone.

Linda and Bill toured a luxury long-term care community where their close friends lived but were taken aback by the expensive buy-in cost and steep monthly fees. They realized that they had to explore other options. What they were looking for became abundantly clear when they discovered the Opus senior living concept, which focuses on affordable senior living and volunteering.

What Is the Opus Community Model?

Opus Newton, the first senior living community under the Opus model, serves as a prototype community. This brand-new Opus community concept is unique in that it offers a whole new kind of living within the financial reach of middle-income Americans, a group that does not qualify for subsidized housing but can’t afford upscale senior living options. The goal is to give all seniors “the opportunity to live a full life of connection and purpose in a dynamic, supportive environment.”

The prototype in Newton, Massachusetts, will feature 174 residences, with one- or two-bedrooms that range in size from 650 to 1,350 square feet.

Besides being accessible for middle-income Americans, here’s what makes Opus unique:

  1. Opus residents must take an active role in their community by pledging to volunteer approximately 10 hours a month of their time. These contributions can include teaching a course, offering professional expertise, or lending one’s time to a number of community projects, creating an environment of collective contribution and purpose.
  1. Opus’s health care options are centered around giving people the ability to stay in their homes and have health care providers come to them. Rather than building costly care centers, Opus will have on-site care advocates and partnerships with providers to help keep care more affordable.
  1. Opus’s central locations allow residents to tap into the neighborhood and become part of the broader community rather than being isolated from other generations and neighbors. Development of Opus communities will continue to take place in locations that are already hubs of activity.

“Opus represents a groundbreaking opportunity for us to reimagine the future of senior living for middle-income older adults,” said 2Life Communities President & CEO Amy Schectman. “Far too often we have been left heartbroken by having to turn away people from our communities because their incomes are too high – sometimes only by a very small amount – to qualify for affordable housing. Opus allows us to offer middle-income adults who are underserved and underseen in the current marketplace a new community-focused housing option. Our hope is to develop Opus communities across Greater Boston and be a beacon of change for those who want to replicate our model around the country.”

When asked about why they want to live in an Opus community, Linda Helfet and Bill Hilliker said, “As we’ve learned more about the Opus program, it has become clear that their goal is to build a residential community which is dynamic, socially and culturally active, and self-guiding, which is exactly what we’ve dreamed of.”

In a recent article about senior living trends in 2022, Senior Housing News discusses the Opus community model and how more senior living providers will make good on their plans to serve middle-market consumers in 2022. Below are some other trends to look out for in senior housing this year!

Other Senior Housing Trends in 2022

Although omicron raises concerns about increasing infection rates, senior living providers are confident that their communities will remain “among the safest places to live and work.” Yet the pandemic’s fallout — such as labor woes, inflation, and supply shortages — will continue to weigh on the senior living industry in 2022. Senior living facilities will need to be more proactive and creative in the face of such challenges, according to Senior Housing News.

For senior living, 2022 will be a year of extremes. The publication predicts:

– More senior living projects will be focused on the small-home trend, to create affordable environments that are easier to secure from an infection control standpoint. “Such projects might involve campuses of modular or prefabricated tiny houses, or dwellings arranged in ‘pocket neighborhoods,’” said Dr. Bill Thomas of Kallimos Communities and Minka initiatives.

– In terms of luxury, urban offerings are setting the bar high, with designs, technology offerings, hospitality services, health care, prime locations, and other components justifying monthly rates of $20,000 or more.

– Over the last several years, an increasing number of senior living providers have found ways to bring primary care services into communities. In 2022, on-site primary care will go from “nice-to-have” to a “must have.”

– After enduring a difficult few years, the memory care sector is set to flourish in 2022. Memory care added the most occupancy out of any senior housing type between the second and third quarters of 2021. Memory care outpaced independent living and assisted living in the third quarter of 2021, at 3.9 percent of inventory.

– 2022 will focus a lot on personalization. Senior living operating models will be reshaped around the need to customize the experience for each resident.

When More Care Is Needed

Now and in the future, most seniors will want to stay in their home for as long as possible or take advantage of Opus’s or some of the other options described. However, if a loved one cannot live independently, and he or she is showing signs that living alone is a strain, it may be time to consider other alternatives.

If nursing home care is needed in the future, it is always wise to work with an experienced Elder Law Attorney such as myself. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into assisted living or nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you and your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. As always, please contact us at any time for an initial consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law Attorney: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law Attorney: 540-479-143
Rockville Elder Law Attorney: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law Attorney: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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