Independent-living facilities ready for growth

A growing market may soon be underserved

America’s older population is growing, but they are also healthier and living more active lives. A growing number of retirees want to give up a home that may be too big and difficult to maintain but don’t need or want the cost of an assisted-living or nursing home. As a result, demand is growing for facilities that cater to the retired crowd but foster an independent lifestyle.

These communities are popping up in Clark County as investors realize 77 million baby boomers on the verge or retirement will have housing needs that will include independent living facilities.

Courtyard Village Vancouver and Orchards Village are examples of this growing trend.

"Demand will continue to grow because baby boomers will begin turning 70 in 10 years," said David Camp, general manager of Courtyard Village.

Camp said the average age of an independent-living community is about 82. In about 20 years, by the time boomers reach that age, there will not be enough facilities to accommodate the need, said Larry Draper, one of several owners of Courtyard Village. Mentalities have changed, as well, said Draper, who has been involved in the industry since the late 70s. Residing in an independent-living community is no longer associated with being sent off to a "home," he said.

Courtyard Village began leasing units Jan. 31 of this year and is nearly 60 percent occupied. It features 100 apartments, including studio and one- and two-bedroom units. The seven-acre location also has 26 cottages in 13 duplex units, which have been extremely popular, said Camp. The cottages are still under construction and half are already occupied or reserved. Residents must be 62 years old to live in the apartments and 55 to live in the cottages. Apartment residents must be 62 because financing for that portion of the project was provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Rents range from $1000 to $2,250 per month for apartments and $3,000 for a cottage. As an independent-living facility, residents are not provided medical care or assistance with everyday tasks such as dressing and eating. Residents may arrange for their own in-home care.

Rooms are designed with the older population in mind. Living quarters include emergency calls in living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms that alert around-the-clock staff. Bathrooms feature grab bars and walk-in showers with seats. And the facility’s hallways are lined with handrails. Walls are more heavily insulated, because TVs tend to be louder for ears that don’t hear as well as they used to.

Residents also have access to optional, flexible meal plans at the dining hall that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. On and off-site activities are arranged, and the facility has a beauty salon, fitness center and other entertainment.

Farmington Centers operates 16 senior-living properties in the Northwest, including Orchards Village, which is expected to be completed this fall. The $11.6 million project includes duplex cottages and one- and two-bedroom units for independent-living residents. But Orchards Village also offers assisted care and includes a memory-care center. The campus is more than seven acres and features gardens and other areas that seniors can tend themselves.

Linda Gibson, spokesperson for Farmington Centers, said the company’s occupancy rate is about 82 percent, compared to 70 to 80 percent occupancy for similar facilities nationwide. The market has begun to stabilize following saturation in the past, she said. There are still more apartments than there are people to fill them, but Gibson expects that to change.

"The growth in communities is based on projections," she said.

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