Hines’ latest state-of-the-art building is a surprise for seniors – your first real look inside MorningStar River Oaks


IThis is an upscale mid-rise lobby – modern, striking, full of comfortable places. And even a pizza oven. There is nothing outwardly telegraphing that this is a retirement home. Even though everyone who lives at MorningStar in River Oaks will be over 55. With a lot of 85 years or more.

What’s the point. This doesn’t sound like any typical retirement home idea, because who would want to live in a typical retirement home?

“I hope you are sitting in what we would call the anti-care retirement home,” says John Mooz, senior managing director of Hines. “This is supposed to be the opposite of what I think we all understood in childhood was care for the elderly.

“And cabinet (MorningStar CEO) Ken (Jaeger) has done a great job saying that’s not what seniors want. It is not what it should be.

Instead, it’s MorningStar River Oaks – an average six-story height in the heart of Upper Kirby (at 2315 Richmond Avenue) designed by renowned architectural firm Munoz + Albin. Yes, the same Munoz + Albin who designs the hippest and most interesting skyscrapers in Hines like The Victor in Dallas and The Residences in La Colombe d’Or and Brava in Houston.

What’s the point.

Hines is stepping into the lives of seniors in major ways – including this partnership with MorningStar, which also includes a new seniors community in Denver’s Cherry Creek neighborhood and likely one in Dallas relatively soon – for good reason. But it is anything but conventional.

“We keep trying to raise the bar,” Mooz said PaperCity.

This reporter was treated to an exclusive tour of the new building that many Houstonians (including those who wrote about it) never entered.

For Ken Jaeger, who founded MorningStar in 2003 and is somewhat of a pioneer and crusader for a different standard of senior living, his company’s first community in Texas is already showing signs of being several steps above. .

“It will not only be the best senior community in the state of Texas, but also America,” Jaeger said. “It will be a showcase.

It is high vision. The one that can be best seen on MorningStar at the Sky Terrace on the sixth floor of River Oaks. This elegant open-air space would be out of place in any of Hines’ other recent skyscrapers. It’s easy to imagine relaxing with a glass of wine with friends in this outdoor space.

If this is the future of seniors living in America – at least for those who can afford MorningStar’s $ 5,800 to $ 9,300 per month rental rates – it’s a frosty future. One that comes with its own team of skilled chefs, a full art studio, beauty salon, spa, and exercise room with stunning views of downtown.

This is moving forward for the silver fox crowd.

Hines’ senior moment

Seeing Hines moving into a retirement home in such a big way might seem surprising at first. After all, it’s a company known for cutting-edge towers in the heart of the world’s most attractive cities. But even a cursory look at the statistics of aging in America casts it in a much different light.

“Two numbers that are truly etched in our memories,” says Mooz. “The number of seniors will increase by 50% over the next 10 years. You go from $ 24 million to just under $ 36 million. And over the next 20 years, it doubles.

“You have almost 50 million seniors living in the United States at this time. And all of these older people are going to demand a higher level of life experience from older people. “

The MorningStar River Oaks Club Room is a retreat in its own right. (Photo by Mariella and Luis Ayala)

MorningStar is supposed to be part of the solution, one that keeps older people affluent in the parts of town they love rather than sending them to the suburbs.

“These seniors want to stay in the neighborhoods where they lived their lives,” says Meg Meliet, director of senior living development and healthcare at Hines.

Meliet saw firsthand how a family member moving into a good senior community can change family dynamics for the better.

“When you have a loved one moved into the community, the family can come back to family,” Meliet said. PaperCity. “Not the caregiver. Or the bad guy. Or the ruler. Or the one that will make you walk on the treadmill. Or take your medicine.

“When you come here you become the daughter, the granddaughter. That you can lose when you are at home.

MorningStar can be a place for seniors who need a little or a lot of extra help. It has 85 assisted living units and 27 memory care units for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

“It’s anyone from an independent resident who wants a maintenance free lifestyle to someone who needs all of these activities,” says Jaeger. “Activities of daily living.

The first couple who moved to MorningStar River Oaks consist of a completely independent husband and a wife in need of assisted living care. MorningStar is a place where they can both feel comfortable. With all the advantages of a high-end setting almost similar to that of a resort.

“Over the years, we’ve learned a lot of lessons from multi-family,” says Mooz. “High ceilings. Huge amount of light. They’re all going to demand this. Because everyone wants to live like this now.

“So why don’t you make it awesome?” “

MorningStar’s serious mission

Beyond the courtyard with a fireplace and outdoor kitchen, the movie theater and the Club Room chillout area, MorningStar River Oaks brings a serious mission. Mainly on the memory care floor where residents with dementia live.

MorningStar places keepsake boxes outside of each memory care resident’s room. These small, transparent boxes are filled with images and other meaningful keepsakes that help bring back memories to people with dementia.

“People with dementia have better long-term memory than short-term memory,” Jaeger notes. “So we will have pictures of their entry into the Air Force, pictures of the children when they were younger. . . it kind of triggers them.

The memory care floor also has its own dedicated outdoor area with glass walls for protection. There are serious concerns in a MorningStar community.

“We hire for the compassionate heart,” Jaeger says. “Someone who will hold their hand. Someone who will look them in the eye and tell them they are beautiful. It’s so calming for a memory resident.

“It will not only be the best senior community in the state of Texas, but also in the United States. It will be a showcase. ” – MorningStar Founder Ken Jaeger

For Jaeger, it must be more than just a building. This deeply religious founder and CEO is very proud of the MorningStar Foundation’s work in places like Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cambodia and Nicaragua, where it has turned an orphanage into a sterile warehouse (with a bathroom for 60 people) into a fully modern and clean campus built by teams of volunteers.

Ken Jaeger founded MorningStar in 2003.
Ken Jaeger founded MorningStar in 2003.

Standing in the lobby of MorningStar River Oaks, looking at a photo from one of those humanitarian trips, Jaeger gets a little emotional. It clearly means something to him. Jaeger lives in Denver, but his two daughters went to Baylor University and he feels tied to Texas.

Building on this theme of giving back, the director of each MorningStar senior citizen community – and Houston becomes the 30th city to have one – chooses a nonprofit that that community can help support.

Every community needs a heart – and MorningStar’s approach centers on trying to empower its residences. A residents’ council is formed which decides such things as which movies to show on movie night and where to go on excursions. Whether it’s an evening at the Houston Opera, a trip to the Galleria, or a trip to the art museum.

Activities – and staying active – are key. Many of MorningStar’s future residents have been travelers from all over the world. These are not people who just want to sit in a room, almost in storage like in some more traditional retreat centers.

“When a loved one moves into the community, the family can become family again. Not the caregiver. Or the bad guy. Or the ruler. – Meg Meliet from Hines

To foster more regular natural interactions, each residential floor of MorningStar River Oaks includes its own themed lounge. An open space with chairs and items like games, books or a fireplace. And comfortable chairs to sit on. Just another place where residents can sit and talk or play bridge.

“I really think Hines’ next step should be to build a cruise ship,” Jaeger laughs. “That’s what they built here. It’s a cruise ship that you don’t want to stop. You want to get on with it and continue to eat, live, drink and dine with a life full of activity.

Old notions of what a retiree community is are being pushed back. MorningStar River Oaks is part of something new. With serious real estate power behind it.

“There are a lot more old people,” Mooz says. “And a lot more need for extremely well thought out retirement homes.”

This place is definitely a distinctive start.


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