The Northshore IS TOPS for Retirement
Ranked Louisiana’s top spots to retire, Covington and Mandeville continue to work to meet demand for retirement communities.
What we really need to see in the future is truly affordable retirement and long-term care options. Much education is needed for people who do not yet need these living arrangements to understand their cost and to plan for future needs.
Paula Day, assistant vice president of care coordination at St. Tammany Health System
Dorothy Gale wasn’t lying when she said, “There’s no place like home.” Having a comfortable and safe place to lie your head at night is a basic human need, but all too often, affordable retirement communities that can provide residents with both a good quality of life and attend to their medical needs, all without breaking the bank, are difficult to access for those in South Louisiana.
The need is especially being felt on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain, where The LSU Health Foundation estimates more than 10,000 people are retiring every day.
In a 2021 study by SmartAsset, Covington and Mandeville grabbed the top two spots in a ranking of “Best Places to Retire in Louisiana.” The study ranked cities by tax burden; medical offices, recreation centers and retirement centers per 1,000 people; and the percentage of the city’s population that are seniors (18.6% for Covington and 18.3% for Mandeville).
Patrick Descant, partner and vice president of preconstruction services at DonahueFavret, a contractor that’s built multiple retirement communities on the Northshore, said the good news is that the supply of communities is starting to move to meet demand.
“Over the last 12 years, there’s been somewhat of a boom of retirement communities on the Northshore that serve independent living, assisted living and memory care, along with skilled nursing facilities as well,” said Descant. “And what these new facilities, the new models and designs that we’ve seen have really honed in on is trying to make the residents feel at home and extremely comfortable, which that lends to a real high quality product.”
Among those working to meet demand is the LSU Health Foundation, which last summer announced one of the largest economic development projects to happen on the Northshore: a $150 million private partner investment that aims to bring a state-of-the-art retirement community to Mandeville. The Al Copeland family gifted 29 acres of land to the LSU Health Foundation to build the project.
“This partnership with LSU Health Foundation is a long-standing one, and it is my honor to donate this land in our father’s name,” said Al Copeland Jr. at the announcement.
The need for this specialized type of housing has also increased as society has become more transient. Many families no longer remain in close proximity to one another across multiple generations. “The oldest of our population find themselves losing their independence at home and needing some help,” said Kerry Milton, chief nursing officer at St. Tammany Health System. “That is where the affordable retirement community is truly needed.”
Milton said socialization is really the key for residents of a retirement community, which needs to offer safety, structured schedules, social interactions, healthy activities, exercise, nutritional support, convenient access to healthy food and assisted food preparation, plus staff-hosted events and outings for the residents to stay engaged in daily life activities.
To facilitate socialization and create a more homelike environment, Descant said the design of modern retirement communities has shifted. Gone are the days of “institutional” style, dull buildings. Today’s facilities are structured with wings that have different colors and decor, so residents feel almost like they live in different “neighborhoods.”
“These communities, these neighborhoods, have central communal areas, with furniture and rugs and TVs that meet the needs and really make these residents feel like home when they’re not in their rooms. And we like to incorporate skylights and dormers that bring in natural light to the middle part of the building where the communal areas are. One of the biggest amenities is one of the simplest amenities that you can possibly think of, and that’s natural light, sunlight,” said Descant.
While the Northshore does have a wide variety of care settings — from centers for rehabilitation to skilled nursing, long-term acute care and custodial care — there remains a deep need that’s not being filled.
“What we really need to see in the future is truly affordable retirement and long-term care options,” said Paula Day, assistant vice president of care coordination at St. Tammany Health System. “Much education is needed for people who do not yet need these living arrangements to understand their cost and to plan for future needs.”
According to Caring.com’s 2022 Senior Living Report, the average cost for assisted living in Louisiana is $3,748 per month. And while that’s lower than the national average, it can still be well outside of the budget of many families in the state.
What’s more is that many Americans don’t have enough saved for retirement. A 2019 report from the Federal Reserve found that nearly one in every four adult Americans has no retirement savings at all — and this was before the pandemic hit.
Estimates say that a 65-year-old resident in Louisiana whose life expectancy aligns with the state average would need to save $914,844 to live out retirement in relative comfort. That’s why industry experts say planning and saving for retirement is key.
“It’s important for people to understand how much planning and saving is needed to be ready for retirement, aging and the health conditions that come with it,” said Day.
DID YOU KNOW? The 29 acres donated by the Al Copeland family for this project is valued at over $7 million, making it the largest gift ever received in the LSU Health Foundation’s 31-years of operation.