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July 21, 2009

The facts of (senior) life

Aging population keeps builders of age-restricted condos busy

Pepper Rodriguez

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Bob and Sue Russell, both 55, are fast approaching retirement age, and with their children grown and moved out of the house, their two-storey home in Sandstone in the northwest seems a little too big for them already.

Like many of the baby boomer generation, Bob and Sue are caught in that age where they are becoming too old to take care of a home that is largely too empty, and still too young for a nursing home.

“My idea of growing old was being put up in a nursing home and that was a scary thought,” Sue says. “It’s good to know that today we have more options that allow us to have an independent life without having to worry about taking care of a big lawn or shoveling snow.”

The maintenance-free lifestyle offered by condos and townhomes appeals to a significant portion of this market, many of whom end up as snowbirds traveling south for the winter.

“They love the fact that they can go anywhere and leave their home for any length of time and have the confidence that everything will be taken care of and they don’t have to worry about their lawn or exterior maintenance stuff,” says Tony Trutina of Urban Escapes by Truman, whose Georgian Villas townhomes for mature homeowners in Rainbow Falls has done good business with the empty-nesters.

It is retaining their freedom and independence that remain important to this age group, who grew up in the social upheaval of the 1960s and ‘70s and whose idea of aging differs from how their parents may have thought of it.

“My father held on to the farm in Saskatchewan where we grew up right up until he was too old to look after it by himself, and that’s not the road I wanted for myself,” Bob says. “I want to be able to travel with as few things to hold me back as possible.”

The aging of Alberta
Projections by the provincial government have Alberta remaining one of the youngest provinces in the coming years, but it is estimated that between 2011 and 2021, the number of seniors over the age of 65 will increase from approximately 410,000 to 627,200. In that time, the percent of seniors in the population will increase from approximately 12 per cent to approximately 16 per cent of the total population. By 2031, it is projected that there will be more than 880,000 seniors in Alberta, or about one in five Albertans, the study says.

For many baby boomers who listened to The Who’s “My Generation” and shouted out its famous phrase “hope I die before I get old,” aging might seem an unpleasant reality that needs to be faced. A major concern is housing, as their lifestyles change and the need arrises for housing accommodations that will fit their new needs.

Not only is a maintenance-free lifestyle important, but you get to enjoy your time at home. Many opt for the age-restricted residences where they know their neighbours will roughly be of their same age and quite possibly have the same likes and dislikes as they do.

Calgary has several age-restricted condos, and there are even more in the surrounding towns of Okotoks, Strathmore and Chestermere.

Calvanna Village in Okotoks is one of them. This 50+ project (meaning occupancy is restricted to owners over 50 years of age) offers everything people of advancing age are likely to look for in a home that will fit their new lifestyle needs, from extra soundproof walls and ceilings, spacious floor plans, and a friendly atmosphere that is designed to enhance the social lives of residents.

“Promoting an active social life is one of the most important details in the designs of our buildings, especially so in Calvanna Village where residents can gather and relax at the clubhouse to enjoy a warm fireplace, a big screen TV, and a wet bar,” says Calvanna Developments marketing director Paul Funk.

Maintaining an active social life is essential for us as we grow older, he adds, and age-restricted condos provide just the sort of environment that encourages these activities.

“What makes this even better is that we are just next door to the Okotoks recreation centre, which has its own seniors club. Here, residents can play billiards and shuffle board. Calvanna Village is a great place to make new friends.”

The Ranch Estates in Strathmore is a gated community for mobile homes with 117 sites for exclusive adult living. “All the tenants take great pride in their homes and some of the best gardens in the entire town can be found within its boundaries,” says Aztec Realty’s Lorna Phibbs.

The beauty of an adult community

One of the biggest advantages of age-restricted condos is that you’re assured that you won’t be interrupted by loud music and late parties from the youthful neighbours in the suites next to you.
“Everybody has similar lifestyles and everyone mostly gets along because of this,” says Phyllis Cooper, sales manager at Pointe of View’s The Chaparral, a 45+ development in a quiet cul de sac in the southeast community of Lake Chaparral.

“Chances are good that you’ll have something in common with your neighbour in this set-up,” says Georgian Villas’ Trutina.

“Generally, because our homeowners are older, they know how to take care of their properties and tend to respect their neighbours properties as well,” Cooper adds.

Affordability is also key, as most seniors do have a fixed income, and The Chaparral certainly fits the bill. “Prices of units range from $199,000 to $247,000 so we are pretty affordable, in fact it’s not just retirees that we attract, but single professionals as well,” she adds.

Age-restricted condos do limit the length of visits from grandkids and other relatives, but the beauty of that is you have an excuse to shoo visitors who have overstayed their welcome. Many seniors’ condos, though, do have a guest suite where owners can put up their visitors for a few days.

Caring units
On the other end of the spectrum are assisted-living retirement facilities that can accommodate independent living for seniors, as well as offering in-house assistance in the daily life of those who need it. Most, however, are run on a rental basis rather than ownership, and certainly one of the more unique ones that offer this service is Masterpiece in Evergreen.

In Masterpiece facilities — there are four in Alberta and two in Montreal — they take the idea of the all-inclusive vacation and turn it into a concept for elderly care.

“We have adopted this all-inclusive concept in caring for our residents, where we take care of everything for them from cooking their meals, to cleaning their suites and even do their laundry if they so choose,” says Masterpiece’s Tamara Gibson. “It is the next step in the evolution of retirement living.”

The concept has worked, as the four-storey, 15-unit Masterpiece in Evergreen is almost full. “We have 142 residents right now and a growing waiting list,” Gibson says.

Masterpiece divides their care levels into three components: independent living, assisted living and “Expression” level for those with slight to moderate dementia. “Here, we customize your care to a very personal level to suit your particular needs,” she adds.

All we can really ask for is aging gracefully and with dignity, and Calgary and other towns in the area seem to offer a wide range of choices where seniors have the opportunity to do just that, whether through independent or assisted living.  CL

Following is a list of some age-restricted condos in Calgary and area:

•    Las Brisas del Sur by Gran Sabana Development
•    The Chaparral by Pointe of View
•    The Winchester by Prairie Dog Development
•    Calvanna Village (Okotoks, Whitehorn) by Calvanna Development
•    Georgian Villas by Urban Escapes by Truman

A list of some retirement homes in Calgary

•    Masterpiece Evergreen
•    McKenzie Towne Retirement Residence
•    The Bow River Manor
•    The Renoir Retirement Residence
•    Scenic Acres Retirement ResidenceLake Bonavista Village
•    The Manor Village at Rocky Ridge

More info at

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