Living Here Guide

A housing boom for boomers

The Balsam, a 2,505 square foot model home, is in Trilogy Lake Norman, a large retirement community with up to 1,600 homes planned.
The Balsam, a 2,505 square foot model home, is in Trilogy Lake Norman, a large retirement community with up to 1,600 homes planned. OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Youth is wasted on the young, George Bernard Shaw quipped. Children don’t appreciate summer days that seem to drag on forever, mandatory naps and loads of leisure time.

When seniors get their second chance at everything they took for granted as kids, they enjoy it.

All across the Charlotte area, new communities aimed at providing boomers a carefree lifestyle – and assistance, when and if the time comes – are popping up. And cities and towns are getting interested in making their infrastructure safer and more attractive to an aging populace. (Move over, millennials. There’s a new demographic everyone wants to woo.)

The AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities started in 2012 to help participating communities appeal to all ages by adopting or creating walkable streets, plentiful and appropriate housing, easy access to public transit and human services and opportunities to join in community activities. In North Carolina, the Town of Matthews and Wake and Orange counties have joined the network.

“As the U.S. population ages and people stay healthy and active longer, communities must adapt,” said Steve Hahn, AARP North Carolina’s associate state director. “Well-designed, livable communities promote health and sustain economic growth, and they make for happier, healthier residents – of all ages.”

Consider sidewalks

In June 2016, Forbes named Charlotte one of the top 10 U.S. cities people are moving to now – and among the people relocating are older adults. Says Hahn: “A study by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research finds that North Carolina’s older population is expected to double by 2030 … to 2.2 million.”

Thinking about where to live in your 60s and 70s should happen well in advance. Hahn suggests people start the process by asking themselves:

▪ “If I lost mobility, would I be still be able to get around?”

▪ “If changes need to be made to my home, are they minor changes I can afford?”

▪  “Or would I need expensive or complex home modifications?”

They’re tough, but crucial, questions.

Consider how close you are to public transit, should the day come when you stop driving. Is your neighborhood connected to the services and amenities you’ll need as you age?

You might not consider the importance of sidewalks until you have to walk to the grocery store. Charlotte has 2,000 miles of streets without sidewalks, Hahn said.

More seniors; more housing

The surge in communities catering to seniors mirrors the growing number of area retirees. Proposals for “active adult communities” have been submitted to almost every county around Charlotte. (Move over, Florida.)

Construction is underway on Windsor Run, a Matthews community by Erickson Living. The first phase, set to open in 2017, will include independent living apartments and a community clubhouse. Windsor Run will be a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), offering residents a continuum of care from fully independent to skilled nursing and memory care.

Many seniors like the idea of CCRCs because they guarantee lifetime housing, social activities and an increasing level of care, if that becomes necessary. With independent living, assisted living and skilled care options all on-site, residents needn’t worry about moving again once they’re in a CCRC.

Long-established CCRCs in the area include The Pines in Davidson, Southminster and The Cypress in south Charlotte, Sharon Towers in SouthPark and Aldersgate in east Charlotte.

The late Del Webb practically invented the concept of the active adult community. There’s a Del Webb Sun City development in the area: Carolina Lakes is in Lancaster County, S.C.

But many seniors reject anything that segregates them by age. For them, downsizing (and saying farewell to yard work) may be the right path. The Towers at Mattie Rose, an 18-unit development in historic Elizabeth, is not aimed exclusively at boomers, but the location and size are a draw for the demographic.

The project will include “duets” and “triets” – a newfangled way of saying duplexes and triplexes. Homes, starting in the low $600s, will range from 2,200 to 2,800 square feet.

At Shea Homes’ Trilogy Lake Norman – an “active lifestyle community” – homes start in the $240s. The community offers walking and biking trails, proximity to the lake and what it calls a “resort club” coming in 2017.

Many seniors are concerned about limitations they’ll face as they age. But housing doesn’t have to be one of those concerns. There are almost limitless options. Age-restricted senior housing developments are underway in Fort Mill, S.C. (Del Webb’s Carolina Orchards), Mint Hill (Cresswind Charlotte, planned for up to 850 homes) and Indian Land, S.C. (Tree Tops).

Youth may be wasted on the young. But for the senior set, a second chance at childhood – including field trips, cultural outings, someone else to do the cooking and cleaning, plenty of free time – is less likely to go unappreciated.

Page Leggett is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

Resources for the senior set

Mecklenburg County’s population of 65-and-over residents is projected to increase by 431,881 people between 2010 and 2030, according to a UNC Population Center study.

All those seniors need places to live. To help you assess options, AARP offers a free AARP Livability Index, which lets you compare up to three street addresses at a time and see how they rank in walkability, social inclusion, civic participation, affordability and more. livabilityindex.aarp.org

Keeping the mind engaged is a priority for many seniors. Charlotte-area seniors can check out:

▪ The Shepherd’s Center, which provides services to seniors, has an “Adventures in Learning” program featuring classes on a variety of topics. Classes are held Mondays. Check shepherdscharlotte.org for fees and details.

▪ Davidson Learns. While not affiliated with the college, the program does benefit from having Davidson (and a few UNC Charlotte) professors teach courses. While close to 75 percent of its students are retirees, it’s open to anyone over 18. For courses, costs and locations: davidsonlearns.org.

▪ Aldersgate’s learning series. The retirement community offers free monthly classes to residents and the public. aldersgateccrc.com.

▪ Queens University’s Senior Scholars. The group, which began in 1973, weekly on an academic calendar. They take summers and December off. There’s a fee of $30 for the first year, and dues go down to $20 for subsequent years. A different speaker - 70 percent from academia - visits each week for a 45-minute lecture generally followed by a 30-minute Q&A. seniorscholars.net.

▪ Central Piedmont Community College. A rich resource for the whole community, including retirees. There are courses geared to people considering a career transition and seeking additional skills or certifications, as well as enrichment classes that range from flower arranging to astronomy, said Mona Rabon, CPCC's director of Leadership, Management and Professional Development. cpcc.edu.

Also: For seniors who want to use Charlotte as home base and hit the road, the Road Scholar (roadscholar.org) program goes on far-flung adventures. A little closer to home, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville (olliasheville.com) offers seniors non-credit courses in everything from Stephen Sondheim to sports history.

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