Aegis Living’s newest assisted living and memory care community opens today in Bellevue, WA, with a design that incorporates components of nature and with the pilot-testing of a wellness program for eventual rollout to the company’s 32 other communities.

Calling Aegis Living Bellevue Overlake an “oasis in the city,” Aegis Living founder, CEO and Chairman Dwayne Clark said the community’s opening comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated “just how important home is.”

The community — 122 units in a 106,000-square-foot building in the company’s headquarters city — is the first property that Aegis Living has designed to fully focus on biophilia and people’s innate connection to nature.

It’s a topic about which Clark is passionate.

“We don’t do enough in senior housing to get people connected back to nature. We put people in rooms, and they play bingo and they go to birthday parties, but they’re in the confines of an artificial environment,” he told McKnight’s Senior Living last year as planning for the community was underway. “What we’re trying to do is think, ‘What can we do to get people back in nature? What can we do to get people connected to the Earth? What can we do to improve people’s immune systems?’ We think that’s a real big idea.”

| See: Aegis Living sees personalized medicine as the future, CEO says |

Nature-oriented features of Bellevue Overlake include a glass solarium with natural wood, six-foot palm trees, and a waterfall and koi pond in the building’s lobby. Throughout the community, biophilic design elements include flooring, furnishings and fixtures. 

This wall is adorned with living plants.

Clark said last year that hospitals have found that biophilia improves people’s immune systems. “They originally discovered this by putting people, post-op, in rooms that overlook brick walls and other people in rooms that overlook gardens,” he said. “And they found that the people whose rooms overlooked the gardens were healing twice as fast as the people whose rooms overlooked the brick wall.”

Other features of Bellevue Overlake include indoor and outdoor gathering spaces, a living room, a juice bar, two lounges, a movie theater and activity center, a dining room with a private dining room option, and a salon and barber shop. A top floor lounge offers views of the city and Mount Rainier.

Wellness program tested

The senior living community also is pilot-testing a new wellness program designed to take a proactive approach to physical, emotional and mental wellness, including sleep, nutrition, movement, cognitive wellness and mindfulness.

Aegis Living plans to use the experience to help mold what will one day be a company-wide wellness program. A second pilot project is being planned for the company’s Kirkland Waterfront community set to open this summer.

“I spend one to two hours a day studying it,” Clark said last year about the company’s plans to make personalized medicine a cornerstone of future offerings.

“I spent the last five and a half years doing research and study and going to meetings and conferences, and even putting myself in my own kind of personalized health experiments, to create a book that came out this fall called “30 Summers More: Adding Time Back to Your Aging Clock.” It has become a bestseller on Amazon,” he said at the time. “And what I discovered during this journey was, there are so many things that we can do to improve the lives of our residents.”

Bellevue Overlake residents will have access to personalized wellness programming based on their health priorities. Another feature of the community is a wellness corridor with space for massages, a balance studio, and a saltwater pool under a canopy of greenery.

“If you think about it, no one grows up saying, ‘Man, I can’t wait to go into assisted living. It’s my dream in life.’ Right?,” Clark said in 2020. “But if you invent a company or a concept that says, ‘Hey, not only do I think I’m going to improve the quality of your life as you age, but I think I can extend your life expectancy through some very well-thought-out methodologies and science’ and so on, that’s significant. That’s really significant. We’re not at that point yet, but I think we have that capability.”

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