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As demographics shift to increasingly independent and astute seniors whose demands are more realized and specific than their predecessors, Canadian retirement residence developers are responding. No longer do seniors choose simply which city or neighbourhood they wish to retire in. “There is no limit to the choices that can be created as more builders, owners and operators of retirement residences compete to meet the particular wants and needs of seniors,” says Gord White, chief executive of the Ontario Retirement Communities Association. “People are looking for a more individualized experience and the sector is changing, as a whole, to accommodate this.”

Gone are the days when moving into a retirement residence meant checking into an institution. Today many residences offer elegant and spacious accommodation and high-quality amenities, which appeal to a more worldly and active group of seniors. “These seniors and their adult children do a lot more shopping around and are looking for a specific space that accommodates their needs,” explains Stuart Robinson, president of the British Columbia Seniors Living Association. “They may take longer to make their decision because they understand the competitive market and are interested in comparing one residence’s offerings to another’s.”

With so many choices, and even more on the way, research is necessary before an informed decision can be made. In order to avoid the stress often associated with making this life-changing move, White recommends starting the search long before the need is apparent. “I believe that anyone over 70 should look at retirement communities—before they need to—to determine what style of residence appeals to them,” he says. “Maybe you won’t need to make the move, but creating ‘what if’ scenarios and planning for the future will eliminate a lot of stress and pressure, if and when the time comes.”

Wide Open Spaces

According to industry experts, one of the most recognized trends in retirement living is the growth in the size of accommodations. “We’ve experienced a shift in the people living in retirement residences,” says White. “Previously those seniors who lived in these communities had been directly impacted by World War II and the Great Depression and were more willing to share living spaces, do things as a group and conform to communal expectations.” No longer is this the case.

Today’s seniors were adults during the 1950s and 1960s—for the most part, parents of the Baby Boomers—and are more individualistic, demanding personal space. “People tend to want to bring their own furniture, and this furniture usually comes from homes, so the suites have to be spacious enough to accommodate it,” White says.

For the Riverside Court Retirement Residence in Woodstock, New Brunswick, this demand for more space choices has been met with seven private apartment styles that range in size from 400 square feet to 800 square feet.

In Amica Mature Lifestyles communities across the country, rental suites range from self-contained studios to one- or two-bedroom and a den models, all offering a private bathroom and kitchenette, some with full kitchens. “People want kitchens and eating spaces even if they don’t plan to do much cooking,” White says. “They also want space to entertain their guests comfortably.”

Read part two of Pick Your Flavour of Retirement.

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