Wilson: u201cThe work we're doing on the dining areas is a national trendu2014you see it in country clubs and restaurants all over.u201d

FULLERTON, CA—Variety, choice and excitement were the impetus behind Morningside of Fullerton‘s dining-area renovations, on which GlobeSt.com reported last week. But it’s not just about Morningside, Justin Wilson III, manager of Morningside and a partner with Spieker Senior Development Partners, tells GlobeSt.com.

“Clearly, the work we’re doing on the dining areas is a national trend, really,” Wilson says. “You see it in country clubs and restaurants all over. Residents were pushing us into creating the Pacific Lounge. They like the more casual atmosphere, ordering from a menu—it’s easier for them.”

Wilson says Pacific Lounge precipitated creating more dining options at Morningside, including expanding the lounge by adding a Napa room, which offers private dining with a wine theme. “That’s another thing that’s becoming big nationally, where the demand for hard liquor has gone down a bit and interest in wine has picked up. The same thing is happening on the senior side.” Also new at Morningside is a grab-and-go area where residents can pick up a quick meal on the go.

“Basically, this is going to be their last home, and it’s tiresome going to one dining room and taking all your meals there all the time,” says Wilson. “Typically, senior congregate living has larger spaces, especially in dining. We kind of tried to break down those spaces a little bit and added features like banquette seating and trellises to make it more cool and interesting than what was there.”

It isn’t just the dining room that’s being upgraded in senior housing, Wilson points out. Residents want more modern furnishings in their units, including stone-composite countertops, white cabinets instead of unpainted oak and updated lighting. The common areas are also being upgraded to include movie theaters, pitch-and-putts, six-hole golf courses and tennis courts.

“Clearly, as seniors come to us in retirement communities, each generation is a little different,” says Wilson. “There was the silent generation, the Depression generation, the yuppie generation. They each lived differently from the way their parents lived, and what they want is different. In this business, you have to adapt, and that’s what we do.”

Adding new amenities to attract younger residents is crucial, but offering amenities that will appeal to all seniors is a challenge. “Fortunately, our communities are big enough that we can afford to make a lot of changes,” says Wilson. “Some activities are suited to older residents and some to younger. Our menus for dining are pretty extensive, but in the Lounge, we change up a portion of the menu each quarter to include seasonal fare. We’re trying to ensure that there’s plenty of variety and newness—we want to make it fun and interesting.”

The units in senior housing are also changing as residents demand more options. “Some product types we’ve added include a garden terrace, which offers apartment living on two floors instead of three to five floors, where each unit is on a corner,” says Wilson. “There’s much more glass, and a big patio or deck depending on the floor. It’s somewhere between a villa and an apartment and has different features that apartments don’t have. We’re trying to segment that market as best you can to attract as many people as you can. They have different incomes, tastes and needs. But it’s all those things you do to keep everybody happy and share the success.”