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The idea of making the move from the home you’ve built over a lifetime can come with a certain level of trepidation.

So a bit of nostalgia at the new place might seem a good option.

That’s the pitch being made by the team set to open The Knolls, one of three new retirement communities touting care services, amenities and location as they prepare to welcome residents over the next few months.

At The Knolls — its building rising from the front nine of the former country club of the same name — prospective residents, in many cases, are talking about their connection to the area.

Some were members of the club, or their kids spent summer days swimming at its pool, or they knew the founding Boosalis family.

“We love that there’s that connection,” said Sara Boardman, the marketing director. “History pulls people in, too.”

The Knolls is set to open in July, while two other projects are eyeing openings this spring. All are additions to the senior living landscape that is projected to continue expanding in Lincoln, thanks to an aging baby boomer population with certain expectations of what retirement should be like.

* In early April, 64 assisted living and 24 memory care units will open as part of the Woodlands at Hillcrest. Located adjacent to Hillcrest Country Club near 98th and O streets, the site was developed by Des Moines, Iowa-based Nelson Construction and Development.

* Also in April, locally owned Pemberly Place will open with 120 units divided among assisted living (60), independent living (40) and memory care (20). The project at Nebraska 2 and Pine Lake Road was developed by U.S. Property.

Management at both complexes set to open said the demand is there to support growth in the market, although Eastmont Towers in January said it would not go forward with its planned retirement facility along Yankee Hill Road.

In a competitive market, staff and amenities, of course, are key for seniors seeking a new place to call home. But so too is location. A familiar neighborhood. Somewhere close to family.

Mom or dad might be making the big move, but in many cases, it’s a family decision to go to a senior living community. In considering the prospects, Reed Davis of Dial Retirement Communities estimates about 95 percent of seniors involve an “influencer,” oftentimes a family member, in the decision.

“It’s a big investment, one of the last large purchases you’ll make,” said Davis, Dial’s corporate director of sales and marketing. “We really try to make it worth every penny you spend on it.”

Dial, an Omaha company, entered the senior living marketplace in 1997 and has built a family of retirement communities in the Omaha metro area, across Iowa and in suburban Kansas City.

It chose to enter the senior living market in Lincoln due in large part to the availability of the Knolls site, Davis said.

“Our goal is to find great pieces of property to build on that will serve the public well for years to come,” he added.

At the Knolls, Dial saw an opportunity to build a retirement community within a ready-made landscape. Mature trees will offer shade to a walking trail through the area and an intriguing view from large windows.

Set to open in July, the Knolls, located along Old Cheney Road between 16th and 27th streets, will include 60 assisted living units and 20 memory care units connected to a clubhouse with common space and amenities including a beauty salon and movie theater.

Once those units open, construction will shift to a building with 56 independent living units to the north of the shared clubhouse. That work should wrap up next year.

Retirement communities often look to provide different levels of care and amenities to accommodate the dynamics of each family’s situation — and changes likely to come.

For example, a husband or wife may currently require a high level of care, while their spouse is suited to live independently. The model of offering varied levels of care within a single facility allows for that, and when things change, no one is unnecessarily uprooted. They may simply move to another apartment in the same retirement community.

“You could move three more times, but you always have that comfort level of knowing the other residents, knowing the staff, being comfortable in the surroundings,” said Nicole Ellermeier, executive director of the Knolls. “That alone can take away a lot of the stress.”

Ellermeier is moving to Lincoln from Sioux City, Iowa, where she opened Whispering Creek in 2010. The Knolls, when fully staffed, will employ around 75 people.

New retirement communities, she said, reflect the changes in society and changing expectations of those considering senior living options.

For example, new complexes like the Knolls are built with modern technology in mind. There’s more emphasis on the common spaces.

To get to this point, the Knolls worked with neighbors to overcome opposition to plans to carve up the golf course view they enjoyed for decades.

Its buildings are designed as much as possible to blend into the neighborhood, and the project will allow Dial to jump into the Lincoln market, which is expected to grow as the city grows.

Boardman, the marketing director, said the retired parents of a young adult who came to Lincoln to work at a startup are considering moving to town to be closer to family.

Those in charge of sales for other retirement communities share similar stories. But "closer to family" means different things in different cases.

For Pemberly Place and Woodlands at Hillcrest, locations on the edge of the city might draw residents from rural communities nearby.

At some point in the sales pitch, talk inevitably turns to amenities — covered parking, shuttle service, quality meals — and activities.

And if you're lucky, a unit with Nebraska's equivalent of a million-dollar view.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7468 or


City editor

City editor for the Lincoln Journal Star.

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