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February 17, 2005

Young at heart

Seniors embrace active lifestyle

Colleen Seto

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After making the move from the small village of Rawdon, Quebec, to big-city Calgary almost seven years ago, Shirley and Harold have had little trouble making themselves at home here. No strangers to a thriving metropolis with Rawdon a mere 45 minutes north of Montreal, Shirley, 79, and Harold, 80, have jumped right into Calgary’s active lifestyle. They are possibly one of this city’s most active couples; never mind that they are seniors. Both avid golfers and involved with a church seniors group, the two take part in more pastimes and social events than most folks half their age.

Much of their easy transition has to do with finding a living arrangement that accommodates their independence but also relieves them of some of the responsibilities of owning a home. Enter condo living, which they have found to be the best option for them.

The 839 square foot condo Shirley and Harold live in is centrally located in the southwest community of Southwood. Their building, built in 1976, is one of several within a large complex with 288 units in total. While the majority are rental properties, all of the units are privately owned, but most are investment properties administered by the on-site management group. Shirley and Harold make up part of the roughly 30 per cent of owners, and they are loving it.

“I really like the layout [of our condo],” says Shirley. “I like that the living quarters are in the front, while the bedrooms and bathroom are in the back.” While it doesn’t have the open plan that you find in many new home floor plans, their condo is quite spacious with all of the rooms being a good size. Their condo is a two-bedroom unit on the second floor of their three-floor building. Since they didn’t need a second bedroom, they converted it into a den, perfect for when they can’t agree what to watch on the telly.

There are also one- and three-bedroom units available in their complex, with 12 units per building. That is another key feature they enjoy. “We’re only sharing our hallways with a few other occupants, so it’s less busy and cleaner,” says Harold. “Also, we like everything being located on one floor — everything is together, and we’re not always going up and down stairs.”

“Even the laundry is right out our door,” adds Shirley, referring to how each of the buildings in their complex has its own laundry room. “We’re lucky because it’s right there for us; others have to carry their laundry from another floor.

“It’s also so nice and warm here, and it’s quiet,” continues Shirley. “It’s close to all the stores too; I can walk to Southcentre in 20 minutes, which is something I’ve done many a time.” While Harold currently enjoys driving his Buick, he knows that eventually, he’ll have to give it up. That’s why easy access from their home to public transportation and amenities is essential. They’ve learned through their neighbours who walk and take the bus, that getting around is very easy. “Even the bus is right out the door,” Shirley points out.

Their complex is not only close to most amenities, it’s also equipped with tennis courts, a gym, and everyone has their own parking stall. As well, their management company is one they feel really listens, something that is important to them.

Another major plus for the couple is that the complex has 24-hour security. “Even if I wake up at three in the morning, I’ve seen the security guards roaming about. It’s good to feel secure,” affirms Shirley. Living in a condo also meant meeting new people; sharing a living space results in an instant community. Their community is made up of a huge mix of people of all ages, and is by no means a seniors’ residence. “We’ve had all nice neighbours,” she says. “All young mind you, but nice!”

Within their condo, it’s clear that the space has been designed with storage in mind. Having enough storage space is often a major concern with condos, but Shirley and Harold’s has plenty. The large bathroom has a built-in linen closet, and their master bedroom includes a hefty walk-in closet. On top of that, their roomy balcony houses a big storage room while their kitchen holds many cabinets as well as storage space above the cabinets.

Even though their condo was built in the ’70s, it doesn’t have any orange carpet or psychedelic wallpaper that keeps it from looking modern day. In fact, the condo is neutral-toned with clean elements, leaving it open to any décor. While Shirley and Harold haven’t taken any particular theme or style — their place is a mix of traditional with a hint of colonial — they’ve made their condo their own cozy and comfortable nest. “Everybody has their own style and this is mine,” Shirley says.

They also have plans to change the carpet and lino to give it a fresh look. They’ve already changed their kitchen countertops to update the space.

While some of their friends are living in houses or duplexes, they knew it would be the best route for them to go with a condo, where things like shovelling the snow or mowing the grass would be taken care of. “I knew we could never keep up with all the maintenance of a self-contained home,” explains Harold. “We’ve never lived in a condo or apartment in our lives so it’s a switch, but we really like condo living. We like to go out the door and have no worries.”

Having taken care of home repairs, renovations and upkeep for the better part of 60 years, including a summer cottage and a city home in Quebec, the couple decided they’d had their fill of home maintenance, and the condo route has worked out ideally for them. As with many seniors, a condo lifestyle allows them the freedom of independent living without all the effort. “We didn’t want all the work — we’ve been there, done that.

Everything is done here for us,” comments Shirley. “Only, we’d like it if they took out our garbage too!”  

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