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Waking up to development opportunities, at the right time for a ripe age

Raymond Chandler was in his early 50s when he published his first novel, "The Big Sleep." It had a major influence on the emerging hard-boiled detective genre and was made into a movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

Other notable examples of creativity from people even older are not difficult to find. Colonel Sanders launching Kentucky Fried Chicken at 66 and Grandma Moses committing completely to painting at 78 are oft-cited instances.

Nor is it only a few exceptional people who continue to have creative contributions to make later in life. Many, many seniors have this capacity and seek to develop it. And that is where an opportunity comes in for developers of senior housing.

Senior artists colonies

Here in the Los Angeles area, where Chandler set "The Big Sleep," developers are awakening to the business opportunities presented by seniors' desire to continue to engage in creative activities.

After all, traditional senior housing hasn't done much to stimulate the creative spirit. There may not be clichéd games of shuffleboard or endless games of bridge in such settings, but the overall atmosphere does little to nurture the artistic spirit either.

In recent years, developers in Southern California have been acting to respond to this void. They have done this in the form of senior artists colonies.

Like traditional senior housing, these apartment complexes tend to be age-restricted. But the buildings are designed to give seniors for artistic stimulation by including such features as art studios and theaters.

These are not studios and theaters to sit and passively consume culture created by others. They are venues for seniors themselves to make music, create artwork or engage in wellness-related programs.

Business opportunities

There are also business opportunities for bringing programs that encourage creativity into traditional senior housing.

But the newest powerful trend has been to build entirely new developments that embed the infrastructure for artistic expression right into the buildings themselves. This has already happened in North Hollywood, Long Beach, Burbank and elsewhere.

In a way, such communities can be compared to the coworking settings we wrote about last month. Coworking settings seek to draw in younger folks, especially Millennials, with a new, more collaborative workspace model. Senior artist colony-type developments seek to draw in older folks with a new, more creative housing model that will encourage ongoing creativity and wellness.

Making the right moves

Of course, recognizing the existence of a business opportunity is only half the battle. You've also got to act on it effectively.

That is where knowledgeable counsel about real estate, insurance and regulatory matters comes in. And for projects aimed at cultivating the creativity of older folks, the time may be right. Indeed, to use a line from "King Lear," one could say, on this subject, that "ripeness is all."

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