CLT Boomer

First big retirement decision: Where do you want to live?

Melinda Johnston

Chester Reeves, from left, Jenky Brooks and Glenn Monteith watch Chef Joe (Joseph Unrue) make his OSG (Oh So Good) chicken salad wrap at Aldersgate.
Chester Reeves, from left, Jenky Brooks and Glenn Monteith watch Chef Joe (Joseph Unrue) make his OSG (Oh So Good) chicken salad wrap at Aldersgate.

Driving around the Charlotte area, you can’t help but notice the proliferation of senior housing. Still, even with all the new construction, Centralina Area Agency on Aging’s Debi Lee says the city could use more.

“Ten thousand people a day turn 65 in the United States. It’s a fast moving train that won’t slow down anytime soon. You can build brick and mortar all day long but you will never keep up with those numbers,” said Lee.

Granted, all those people don’t live in Charlotte, but the number of seniors already living here is growing with each birthday, and even more are moving here for the moderate climate, the proximity to the mountains and the coast, and to be near family.

All the new construction means the 55 and better crowd (a new term for those age 55 years and older) has more living choices than ever before. It’s easier than ever to ditch the yard work and gutter cleaning and move into a place that’s maintenance free, allowing more time, and more access, to the things you love to do.

The first step in starting a housing search is to decide what kind of community you are looking for.

Thanks to the federal Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995, developers are allowed to build communities and restrict residency to those age 55 and above. Some communities set even higher age limits. Many of these developments consist of single-family detached homes. These communities offer a whole slew of amenities such as indoor and outdoor pools, golf courses, boat access, walking trails, fitness centers, fine dining and much more.

In these developments, you own your own home, build equity, and can sell when you are ready, as long as the next resident living there is 55 years of age or older.

If you aren’t interesting buying, there are a number of age restricted apartment complexes that offer two or three meals a day and many other amenities.

If you or your parent need a little extra help, say with dressing or other daily activities, you may want to investigate one of the dozens of assisted living facilities in the area. Many of the independent living senior apartments also contract with services that can provide residents with assisted living help a few hours a day.

Numerous nursing homes are also located throughout the county to serve seniors who need skilled nursing care around the clock.

Some facilities, such as the Pines in Davidson and Plantation Estates in Matthews, are Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) or Life Plan Communities. These communities offer independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing care on the same site allowing residents to transition through the levels of care when needed without leaving home.

If you are looking for a compilation of all the senior housing options in the Charlotte area, you are out of luck. An exhaustive list does not exist. Various state agencies license assisted living centers and nursing homes, and senior developments are approved on the municipality level and governed by the individual homeowners association.

For an overview of what’s available, Dahn Jenkins, executive director of the Levine Senior Center in Matthews, recommends picking up a copy of All About Seniors, a free quarterly publication that lists many, but not all, senior housing opportunities, and explains what to look for in your housing search. Copies of the magazine may be obtained at the Levine Senior Center, or you may order one online.

To give you an idea of what the senior market has to offer, we’ve gathered a sampling of senior housing across the Mecklenburg County area. A Senior Real Estate Specialist (see sidebar) and other senior oriented agencies can help you with your search and provide you with more details.

55 and Over Communities

A number of active lifestyle senior communities with single family, detached homes are under construction in the area, with Sun City Carolina Lakes in Indian Land, SC already built out with over 3,400 units. Nearby Carolina Orchards by Del Webb, located in Fort Mill, is still under construction and will hold 1,000 units at build out. For more information visit www.Delwebb.com

On the outskirts of Mint Hill, Cresswind Charlotte, a senior community that will feature 800 homes, has a grand opening scheduled for September. The development is adjacent to Larkhaven Golf Club, and sits near the new Novant Medical Center Mint Hill currently under construction. Prices start in the upper $200,000. For more information visit www.kolterhomes.com.

Though designed on a much smaller scale than Cresswind or Sun City, there are five new senior developments approved for Cornelius, for a total of 367 homes. Wayne Herron, Cornelius planning director, says the town would welcome even more.

“We have a lot of people aging out who are living on larger lots. They want to move and we want to keep them in Cornelius,” said Herron.

“They are our volunteer base, they have they most disposable income, and they have a lot of wisdom. They are very valuable to us.”

Herron says, from a resource standpoint, senior developments are preferable to regular family subdivisions as the residents have no children in school so there is no school impact, and they generally drive in off-peak hours so they don’t contribute to traffic congestion.

Just across the county line in Denver, Shea Homes is building Trilogy at Lake Norman. The homes range in size from 1,345 to 3,000+ square feet and are priced from $240,000-$660,000. In addition to being just minutes away from the lake, residents have access to the Freedom Boat Club where they can charter a boat for the day, and can enjoy the 30,000 square foot Twin Mills Club complete with a yoga studio, bike shop, fine dining and much more. Almost 40 percent of Trilogy residents have family (mostly children and grandchildren) living in the area, some in the Killian’s Pointe community, an all-ages neighborhood located in front of Trilogy. For more information visit www.trilogylife.com/communities/northcarolina/lakenorman/

Senior Apartments

If you want to downsize in space or responsibility from your existing home but don’t want the commitment of a mortgage, or aren’t sure where you will want to live next year, consider leasing in a senior apartment complex. Most don’t require a long-term commitment, and rent usually includes some meals, utilities and other amenities.

Providence Meadows, on Providence Road near the Arboretum, doesn’t open until June, but the 133 units are already 70 percent rented. Rent starts at $2,195 a month and includes three meals a day, utilities, housekeeping, movie theater, full-time activities director, full-time bus driver and more.

Providence Meadow’s Becky Leaf says if a resident needs extra help to remain independent, she can recommend folks that can provide the needed assistance, allowing the resident to age in place. For more information visit www.seniorlivinginstyle.com

Waltonwood Providence, also located on Providence Road in South Charlotte, features a 165 unit complex that offers independent living (starting at $4,195 per month), assisted living (starting at $4,795 a month) and and memory care (starting at $5,595 per month). Waltonwood Cotswold, on Randolph Road, features 91 assisted living units (starting at $4,995) and 26 memory care units (starting at $5,895). For more information visit www.waltonwood.com.

Overture Cotswold, a 159-unit restricted age apartment complex, is being developed on Randolph Road on the former Scottish Rite Masonic Temple site. The project, which is expected to be completed summer of 2018, comes with 11,000 square feet of amenity space. Developer Greystar also plans to build Overture Providence, 171 senior units, on Providence Road just past I-485. Those apartments are scheduled to open in winter 2018. For more information visit www.liveoverture.com

Willow Grove, an age-restricted apartment complex located in Mint Hill, on Idlewild Road near the intersection of Idlewild and Margaret Wallace Roads, features 118 units. For more information visit www.holidaytouch.com/our-communities/willow-grove

Structured as a rental enterprise, Brightmore of South Charlotte is a full service retirement community where residents can move through different levels of care when necessary, without the large entrance fees associated with many other full service communities.

Monthly rental is comprehensive including some meals, activities, most utilities and other amenities.

Brightmore currently offers 178 living units including independent living (starting at $3,585 per month), assisted living (starting at $4,920 per month), memory care, skilled nursing care, and rehab.

Brightmore spokesperson Brigitte Rinaldi says the variety of living options means residents do not have to worry about relocating should they ever need a higher level of care, as all options are available on the same campus.

The facility’s location on Old Ardrey Kell Road is also a draw as, located adjacent to the Ballantyne area, it is close to some of the best shopping and dining in Charlotte.

For more information visit www.brightmoreofsouthcharlotte.com or call 704-557-0511.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities/Life Plan Communities

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), or Life Plan Communities, are another alternative for those considering a move, but residents are generally older than those in the 55 and up active lifestyle developments. With a Life Plan Community, residents pay a substantial entry fee (sometimes partially refundable depending on the community) and then a monthly fee that covers most all living expenses including some meals, utilities, housekeeping, activities, transportation and healthcare. The monthly fee may or may not increase as residents move through different levels of care depending on the community.

The Pines at Davidson sits on 140 acres in the college town and offers 250 residences for independent living, and 81 residences for assisted living and skilled nursing care. They even have an estate home located on 30 acres adjacent to their campus for a resident interested in a large house that comes with all the amenities of a Life Plan community.

Entrance fees begin at $42,800 with a $2,228 fee each month. The monthly fee will increase as the resident moves through the different levels of care. For more information visit www.thepinesatdavidson.org

Carolyn Picton, The Pine Director of Sales and Marketing, advises planning early if you are considering moving to a life plan community

“My greatest advice for someone considering a life plan community is to plan well before they are ready to move, even 5-10 years. Most of the finer communities enjoy robust waiting lists, and if someone visits when they are ready to move, their choices are limited,” said Picton.

She also encourages future residents to tour as many communities as possible to find the best fit.

“Once you’ve seen one life plan community, you’ve seen one. They are all different,” said Picton.

Aldersgate, another CCRC, is located on Shamrock Drive in East Charlotte. The facility has been recently upgraded, with more improvements coming. They currently have 249 independent living units and 107 assisted living and memory care units. A new addition, to open next summer, will add 62 apartments and villas. Entrance fees start at $82,374 with monthly fees beginning at $1,893. The monthly fee will increase if residents move up in level of care. For more information visit www.aldersgateccrc.com

Plantation Estates, a CCRC in Matthews, has been around since 1988, but has renovated several times to keep the 361 apartments up-to-date. The company just opened a new addition, expanding their campus across Fullwood Lane with 126 additional apartments and 20 villas.

Entrance fees vary from $125,000-$475,000 depending on the type and size of unit. Monthly fees range from $2,180-$4,020 for a single individual and do not increase as a resident transitions through various levels of care. Plantation Estates’ Executive Director Steve Messer says the entrance fee and monthly fee will be less if a resident selects a modified contract due to having a long-term care insurance policy. For more information visit www.actsretirement.org/communities/north-carolina/plantation-estates-matthews/

Just down the road from Plantation Estates, on McKee Road, is Windsor Run, another CCRC currently under construction. The community will open in spring of 2018 and 65 percent of the 216 units have already been reserved. Entrance deposits are 90 percent refundable and begin at $189,000. Monthly service packages start at $2,025 and will increase if a resident needs to move to a higher level of care. For more information visit www.ericksonliving.com/windsor-run/

Remember, these are just a few of the senior living options available in the area. There are many others to choose from and more are being built everyday. But whether you decide to age in place or move to a new home, Lee recommends that you consult with a financial advisor to make sure your housing choice makes financial sense.

“We urge people to make sure they are communicating with a financial advisor during this process. A lot of seniors get in trouble with reverse mortgages or selling short because they want to get out of their home fast,” said Lee.

And whatever choice you make, she says it’s important to get involved in what’s going on around you.

“Engage in your community. Know what services and resources are available so you can access what you need to stay as close to where you want to be as you can for as long as you can,” said Lee.

“In aging, it’s not the number of years that counts, it’s the process of how well we will age. Some people need a lot of support at forty. Others are ninety and are still ice-skating or running marathons.”

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