Senior Center Takes Over Strip Mall, Creating Customized Destination

Not content to be merely an oasis for seniors, a senior center in Des Plaines, Ill., is about to take over an entire strip mall and redevelop it along senior-friendly lines. Last week, the Des Plaines Community Senior Center obtained a building permit to renovate the mall, which it owns. When the process is over, the center will have new quarters, surrounded by a variety of stores picked by center members and other local seniors. The new mall will feature a bakery, a resale shop, a convenience store, a bank, a dry cleaner, a hair dresser and a barbershop, plus medical offices. The senior center itself will sport a café run by Mather LifeWays (see story, this page) along with space for the local area agency on aging in an old Jewel Osco grocery store.

Creating a Seamless Space

The architect used by Mather LifeWays was hired to design the café and blend it into the entire multipurpose space, so that café patrons feel comfortable using the aging support services and vice versa. The center raised $3 million to purchase the strip mall. The first million was donated by a member on behalf of her late husband. Center staff also received donations from a bank, an accounting firm, a funeral home, retirement communities and other health care providers, touting the concept of a “comprehensive senior commons.” “We hope to become a national model,” Executive Director Sharon Smith told OAR. “We are not your grandmother’s senior center.” Contact: Sharon Smith, Des Plaines, (847) 391-5717,