When Bob and Barbara Bonnell decided to downsize—to sell their five-bedroom home in Baltimore’s established residential neighborhood of Guilford—they found a smaller house about a mile away in the neighborhood of Roland Park. Built in 1874, the two-story, three-bedroom fieldstone house was originally a summer cottage for members of the Greenway family, from the wealthy neighborhood of Mt. Vernon to the south. The high Victorian gothic home, with its asymmetrical, peaked rooflines and gabled woodwork, was one of the only residential structures designed by the architect Charles Emmett Kassell, who was also responsible for the old Stewart’s Department Store and what is now the Greek Orthodox Church on Preston Street.
These details are important to Barbara Bonnell, whose work for the Charles Center Management office for more than 40 years put her at the forefront of Baltimore’s downtown urban renewal. And equally important was the fact that their new house came with all the services an older (but by no means elderly) couple could desire. The trash and recycling bins are emptied on a regular basis, bed linens are changed weekly, the yard is kept up, and, if the air conditioning acts up, a maintenance person is at their doorstep in a jiffy.
That’s because the Bonnells’ new home is on the grounds of Roland Park Place, a retirement community that serves a growing number of people who, like the Bonnells, decided to take an active role in where—and how—they would spend their twilight years.
One reason retirees opt for such communities is the growing number of available choices, including amenities that can give a retirement community the feel of a luxury hotel or townhome complex. Roland Park Place has a dining room, maid service, and a wellness center with a swimming pool, weights and cardio machines, fitness classes, and even a spa. These facilities offer levels of care that will cover everyone, from people like the Bonnells, who are active and mobile and appreciate the proximity to the Meyerhoff and downtown restaurants, to those who require more attention, from round-the-clock nurses to in-room meals.
This generation of adults can count on living longer and healthier lives. And even though they may not need care, many still-active Baby Boomers are looking for ways to cut back on bothersome tasks in order to enjoy their retirement. More than half of retiring people cite lower maintenance as a paramount issue in choosing a new home. And about 75 percent say they may, at some point, consider living in an active-adult community.
“Roland Park Place has all the amenities of an active-adult community,” says Betsy Willett, the facility’s marketing director. “But should you need healthcare down the road, we can provide it.” Along with the up-front expenses, residents pay a monthly fee that covers all the extras, including the health club, one meal a day, linen service, and annual house cleaning. Residents can also opt for complete meal plans and housekeeping services.
Bob Bonnell proudly walks around the small fenced yard that surrounds his house. Bushes are pruned and late-season flowers have just begun to bloom. In the spring, peonies, daffodils, and azaleas will grow in the raised beds, followed by summer blooms like irises, lilies, and roses. The fall brings a proliferation of chrysanthemums. And the best part, he says, is all the mowing, trimming, and weeding is taken care of by someone else.
Bob and Barbara began the process of looking for a new home about three years before actually moving into Roland Park Place. They researched other options, but, as Bob puts it, “There was no question. This is one mile from our old house. It was location, location, location.”