Spokane Journal of Business

Retirement complexes report high occupancy

Couple of operators report being near, at full capacity

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At 82, Maxine Shorter continues to embrace her independence. The former Florida resident, now living at Bestland Senior Living in Coeur d’Alene, says the community is a perfect fit.

Shorter is quick to point out that retirement living is not what most might envision. “It’s not assisted living,” she says. “It’s independent living with people my age and with so much to do.”

From bingo, to exercise classes to dancing and music—and even transportation to festive spots such as the Coeur d’Alene Casino near Worley, Idaho—Shorter says there is rarely a dull moment.

Shorter is part of a growing population that’s creating more demand for senior living options.

Across the country, the number of senior living facilities is on the rise, with construction of new senior housing up by 25 percent in the past decade, according to the AARP Public Institute.

And the market is growing, with Americans over age 80 accounting for 13 percent of the population, up from 11 percent in 2010. Currently, nearly 5 million people nationwide are over 80 years old, according to AARP.

Bestland Executive Director Dana Klaas says the facility’s 78-apartment community is full and she expects a continued at-capacity status.

“It is a growing market,” Klaas says. “Because the Coeur d’Alene area is growing, we’re definitely seeing more seniors as baby boomers age.”

Other facilities in the region have similar, high occupancy rates. 

For example, on Spokane’s North Side, Fairwinds Spokane, at 520 E. Holland, is near capacity. 

“We have been very full and consistently at full occupancy,” says Fairwinds sales manager Christa Clarke. “We’ve been especially busy lately, and it’s a trend I expect to continue.”

Statistics show the average resident of an assisted living community is 85 years or older, female, and widowed, according to the National Center for Health.

Klaas, who has been in the senior living business for 10 years and at Bestland, located at 606 E. Best in eastern Coeur d’Alene, for the past seven years, says it’s a demographic she likes to work with.

“I love the seniors,” she says. “They are just amazing people. When you listen to their stories, they are so humble and reflect about what they’ve gone through in their lives; it’s truly to me a great experience to hear their stories.”

Clarke says Fairwinds has made significant strides to accommodate its residents, making extensive renovations last year—with upgrades to the commons area, lobby, gym, bistro, and bar.

“It’s important that we provide an atmosphere that is not only comfortable to our residents, but modern, convenient and fun,” Clarke says.

However, with population growth occurring among seniors, Clarke and Klaas say it’s important for seniors to plan ahead.

“The availability in all these communities is dwindling,” Clarke says. “Thousands of baby boomers are reaching retirement age every day and looking for (assisted residency) facilities.”

She adds, “We encourage people to start looking into (senior living) sooner rather than later; and not wait until something happens and they have to move without preparation from their own home environment.”

Klaas says there is a tendency to procrastinate as seniors consider giving up their homes.

 “They try to hold on to their home as long as they can because the social aspect of community living is not necessarily appealing at first,” she says.

Fairwinds ran a series of well-attended programs this summer designed to outline the importance of planning for retirement living.

“We covered everything from the hesitance of moving into a senior living environment to downsizing to financial concerns and health care,” Klaas says.

“It really is a whole new lifestyle and opportunity for seniors to spend their time doing the things they enjoy most,” she says.

  • Keith Erickson

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