Dee Stevens, Pleasant Grove resident and grocery store manager, had always planned on being in the business world. He had planned to provide for his family, which grew larger through the years, and he had planned on a good life as he grew older. However, he didn’t plan on making senior living decisions for his grandmother, Eva Wright.
Wright didn’t plan to live to 100 years old. She buried her husband in the early ‘40s, watched as four of her five children passed away and has seen her posterity increase dramatically — she’s even met a few great-great grandchildren.
Along with the surprise of living longer than she expected, she also did not plan on experiencing so many different living arrangements in her senior years. She currently lives with Stevens, but Wright previously lived at the Seville in Orem, by herself in Springville, and with a grown daughter in a maintenance-free community in Salt Lake City.
“There are advantages to all arrangements,” Wright says.
Wright has also learned more than she wanted to know about the financial, medical and legal aspects of golden living. And Stevens has learned lessons on retirement planning long before he planned to, although he is also a grandfather, reminding him that someday he, too, will face senior living decisions.
TRENDS IN POPULATION
Senior living decisions are facing a record number of Americans every year.
An unprecedented 13 percent of the population, or 33 million Americans, are over 65. Their ranks will more than double by 2030.
And Utahns, with generally healthy lifestyles, will see an even larger growth in their senior population. But the growth isn’t all from inside.
“Nearly 23 percent of people living in retirement communities in Utah are coming from outside of Utah,” says David Vienes, national expert on senior issues and special consultant to the Courtyard at Jamestown in Provo. “They are returning back home because their kids are here now and they want to be closer to their roots.”
One of the fastest growing industries in Utah and around the country is assisted living.
“Consumers have created this industry because they have simply demanded it,” Vienes says, “People wanted an alternative to institutionalized care. That’s how this whole niche was created.”
The key word is “assist.”
“We can accommodate seniors as much or as little as they need us to,” says Mindy Hill, director of marketing. “We provide care in a way that utilizes skills seniors still have.”
Residents at Courtyard at Jamestown range in age from 62 to 101.
“Clients often come here for the socialization,” Hill says. “We also have convenient services, such as meals and religious services that make everyday living easier.”
Hill emphasizes the importance of seniors maintaining their ability to make choices. Assisted living should not eliminate options, it should offer appropriate alternatives for seniors.
“Seniors who come to the Courtyard from the home they’ve had for years have a harder transition than those who make the change gradually — such as if moving from a condo,” Hill says.
Assisted living centers aren’t just for seniors, but also for family members.
“We want to help families enjoy quality of life on all levels,” Hill says.
Services at the Courtyard include financial planning and moving services.
“When Mom is 90, it can be difficult for her 70-year-old daughter to help her pack up and move,” Hill says.
The Seville Retirement Home in Orem also specializes in high-class living for seniors. With a busy activity calendar and classes such as “Current Events,” residents can keep their minds, bodies and spirits sharp.
Assisted living centers differ in the level of care they can provide. Most centers are becoming more willing to keep patients whose health fluctuates. The Courtyard at Jamestown has a memory support program for those in the mid- to end-stages of Alzheimer’s.
The Cottages, which is part of a custom-home community in Cedar Hills, makes sense for seniors looking for something beyond the home they’ve raised their family in yet not quite an assisted living situation.
“The advantage to living in a community like the Cottages is that seniors get the privacy they’re looking for, yet it’s part of a custom-home community,” says Martha Thornhill, sales representative for The Cottages at Canyon Heights.
The over-65 crowd has specific needs in housing, and Thornhill says it’s important to find a developer that will cater to clients’ wish lists.
“We are happy to accommodate customers in fulfilling their specific needs,” Thornhill says.
The Cottages, located on the east bench overlooking the Mt. Timpanogos Temple, are just one of the options.
“There is a great market for this type of housing in Utah County,” Thornhill says. Seniors enjoy the maintenance-free living, which includes snow removal and landscaping services.
A variety of communities are springing up in Utah County catering to the senior crowd. But for some, the winter climate here is not ideal.
St. George developers are capitalizing on this fact, and places such as Sun River are seeking Wasatch Front seniors to come enjoy a warmer climate and year-round golfing.