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November 01, 2017

Comfort & Care

There are a growing number of choices in and around Calgary for elderly care

Pepper Rodriguez

Age may be just a number, but aging is something else entirely. Getting old does have its challenges, and, despite the saying, not everything gets better with age.


Like in every stage of the home-buying cycle, finding a home that fits your needs as you age is paramount. Changing health may make it more difficult to stay in the home where one has lived the majority of their adult lives in — stairs may be more difficult to negotiate, unmodified baths may present more risks, failing mental health opens a Pandora’s box of bigger problems.

The provincial government estimates that there are more than 540,000 seniors in Alberta and that number is climbing. Housing them is a critical endeavour for the government, and everyone else in the province.

Mike and Kathy Ratuski are active seniors who are coming to the realization that they will likely have to find a new home. But they hasten to remind us that “seniors” is a very broad term that describes everyone from 65 to 100.

“That is such a wide range of ages, needs, and abilities. It needs to be broken down more,” Kathy says. She points out that people who just turned 65 are likely to be living in a their own single-family home, more active, and are spending their retirement travelling, involved in volunteering and keeping as busy as they did when they were younger.

This changes, obviously, as one gets older; and Mike, 84, and Kathy, 77, does recognize the need now. They still live in their single-family home in Shawnee, but they are now actively searching for new accommodations more suited to their needs.

“At the present, we are not looking for a definite ‘care’ facility. We are looking at the possibilities for the future. The reason we are looking now is that in the past five years or so out of our bridge group of 12 people about a third have died, and another third have decreased mental or physical capacity,” Kathy says.

“As we have observed friends our own age, we noticed that mental and physical health conditions can deteriorate rather quickly,” she adds. “Some of our acquaintances were forced by rapid health changes to move into an assisted living complex in a crisis situation which meant selling their home quickly, getting rid of their things in a crisis situation, and often having family members make the decision where they would go, and which possessions they would keep.”

The Ratuskis says they would like to make their own decisions in this regard and prepare themselves by doing research into what is out there in terms of what kind of care they could possibly need in the future.

“In our case, we have talked about our explorations with some of our middle aged adult kids and they know our preferences. We believe it is just as important to preplan and discuss your senior care facility choices, as it is to discuss your funeral plans. Maybe more so, as you won’t be there for your funeral, so it won’t matter what happens, whereas you could be in a seniors’ residence for years,” Kathy says.

“We are also thinking that if one of us dies, would the other one wish to live alone in a big home and yard with the upkeep and maintenance responsibilities. Also, we are aware of a decrease in our physical abilities. When we are no longer able, or do not wish to do some of the things we do at home now, we want to be knowledgeable of the choices out there,” Mike says.

Their ideal condo is at least 1,100 square-feet in an unassisted senior living facility, with assisted living available on the site, as well as “memory care” living. “Doesn’t have to be in the same building, but at least within walking distance for the (healthier) spouse to visit. The reason is that we have friends who have had to drive across town to visit their spouse in ‘memory care’ or nursing home. We feel if we moved into a complex now while we are independent and if one of us becomes incapacitated in the future — either physically or mentally — the other one could stay in the condo and visit several times a day, if desired,” Kathy says.

“Right now we would want condo style living, a small, but complete kitchen, two bedrooms. Shower, not tub as they are tricky for seniors, storage room in our condo, our own laundry facilities, underground parking and extra storage space,” she says.

“We definitely want a deck so that we will at least be able to step out to see what kind of day it is,” Kathy says, relating that she is surprised how many places they checked out had no decks.

“We are used to sun decks, back yards, and large windows. The prices of the places we have looked at (some of them only 600 to 700 square feet) are around $5,000 to $7,000 per month. We think that if people can afford that kind of monthly fee, they are probably coming from a fairly large home, as we are,” she says.

“We would want a place where we could go on walks, not necessarily in a park like setting (although that would be nice) but we would like to at least get out, maybe walk somewhere for coffee, etcetera,” she adds.

They have checked out seven retirement facilities so far. One of the latest was the Journey Club in the new Westman Village that Jayman BUILT is building in Mahogany in the southeast.

“We are seriously interested in Journey Club in Mahogany and will keep an eye on the construction as it progresses,” Kathy says.

There are more developments coming up that should fit their criteria. There is Cambridge Manor in University District in the northwest that is being built by the West Campus Development Trust in tandem with The Brenda Strafford Foundation.

There is also Origin at Spring Creek, a 65+ facility already built and operating in Canmore that offers a mix of independent living condominiums with assisted support as well as luxury all-inclusive rental suites.

Further down the road is the Bingham Crossing senior lifestyle community in Springbank, near the new community of Harmony that has also just been announced.

The Journey Club is composed of three five story buildings with suites ranging from a 365-square-foot studio suite, to a 1,343-square-foot two-bedroom.

“We have 21 memory care studio suites, 30 assisted living studio suites, nine two-bedroom assisted living suites, and 77 two-bedroom independent living suites,” says Nicky Zeimann, sales manager at Westman Village.

“All of these are available for rent or life lease. For purchase, we have 75 in the first phase and 75 to be released in the second phase,” she adds. Homes at The Journey Club start from $330,000 to $740,000, including GST.

Cambridge Manor is a state-of-the-art senior living facility within Calgary’s University District. The 217,000 square-foot building breaks ground in early 2018 and is set to open in 2020. It will have 240 units to be built and operated by The Brenda Strafford Foundation as an important part of Calgary’s University District, a comprehensive 200-acre community with a bold new vision for urban life in Calgary.

Origin at Spring Creek is a mountain-lodge inspired, modern senior living facility with 110 suites in total (56 condominiums, 42 rental units and 12 specialized memory care suites).

The residence is located in the unique Spring Creek master-planned community, with the Rockies as a fantastic backdrop, and it is within walking distance of downtown Canmore, and 30 minutes to Banff. The location alone is well worth it.

While Bingham Crossing is just in the initial stages of development, but it is going to have a care building with about 90 units which include ground floor common facilities and shared community facilities. An independent living building attached to the care building with about 53 units.

Right now, the Ratuskis still like the lifestyle they live, going to Hawaii in the winter, and Palm Springs in the spring. “But we are slowing down and we are not fond of waiting at the airports,” Kathy says.

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