Spokane Journal of Business

Rockwood Lane’s resident demographics trend younger

More active clientele evolves at complex on lower South Hill

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-Virginia Thomas
Jason Finley, property manager at Rockwood Lane Retirement Community, says its activities often cater to more active seniors.

Rockwood Lane Retirement Community residents have trended younger and more active in recent years, says Jason Finley, property manager and marketing representative.

Finley says the demographics of residents at Rockwood Lane, located at 221 E. Rockwood Blvd. on Spokane’s lower South Hill, have changed in the years he’s worked at the retirement complex.

“I started 15 years ago, when the average age was probably in the 90s, and now it’s probably in the low to mid-70s,” Finley says. “When I started here, we had six people over 100 (years old). Then, it was probably 70% single women. We have a lot of couples now, which is fun to see.”

A younger average resident age has meant more residents are active, he says. Some residents have jobs. Many play tennis or golf or go hiking.

“Several residents, we have to take the shovel away from them, because they’ll try to go out and shovel snow,” Finley says. “It’s like, we appreciate the help, but we don’t want you falling down.”

Finley says Rockwood Lane offers activities such as tai chi, thrift store trips, tours of Spokane’s older homes and barns, and swim aerobics in Rockwood Lane’s pool.  

About 140 residents live in 103 independent-living units in the five-story main building and in 16 detached homes in an adjacent development considered part of Rockwood Lane, called The Villas at The Lane. Founded in 1987, the independent-living facility is owned by Catholic Charities of Spokane.

Prices start at $140,000 for a 572-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit. Finley says one of the 3,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom houses in The Villas recently sold for $450,000. The organization doesn’t receive subsidies, Finley says.

The retirement community doesn’t offer short-term leases or assisted-living services.

“It’s a leasehold, so basically, you’re purchasing the right to live here for as long as you can take care of yourself,” Finley says. “There’s no title, so there’s no escrow or anything like that. You put money down to hold the unit, and you have 90 days to pay it off.”

Under the leasehold model, a resident who decides to move out sells the unit back to Rockwood Lane, which lists the unit, and the resident receives 90% of the sale price. 

“We keep 10% to restore the unit,” Finley says. “We try to make the units look brand new, or as nice as possible.”

While prices at Rockwood Lane have increased, Finley says the increase hasn’t been as drastic as that of the overall real estate market.

“Rockwood is always a little behind on the market because it’s a cash transaction,” he says. “Our prices haven’t escalated as quickly as they have in the real world. Our buying pool is smaller, too, because you have to be 55 or older, and you have to pay in cash.”

In addition to the one-time purchase, residents pay a monthly fee to cover utilities, a daily meal, activities, weekly nurse visits, and access to amenities. 

“It’s interesting when people walk in, because their first reaction is, ‘Okay, you want me to pay $300,000 cash, and then I have to pay $700 a month? Are you crazy?”’ Finley says. “It takes about a month, and then they’re back, asking, ‘How do I get on your list? Because I can’t afford $6,000 a month (elsewhere).’”

Monthly maintenance fees at Rockwood Lane range from $702 to $1,503, Finley says. 

Rockwood Lane also offers an optional evening meal for $15. Finley says many people prefer to cook for themselves, and each unit has a full kitchen.

“They’ve been enjoying their own cooking for 60 years, and they’ll come down here and eat something the cook has made, and say, ‘This isn’t how I make my meatloaf,’” Finley says. “It keeps us on the affordable side, because a lot of places charge for three meals a day. Regardless of whether you eat them or not, you’re paying for them.” 

Finley says that as residents age and face more health concerns, it can be difficult to convince the family of a resident that the resident needs to be moved to an assisted-living facility.

“We can only do so much,” Finley says. “There reaches a point where you have to be like, ‘You really need to move Mom or Dad, because this is what’s happening, and it’s happening on a consistent basis, and we’re just not prepared to take care of that.’”

Finley says the departure of a resident can be difficult, and the death of a resident more so.

“I was in the lobby one day five or six years ago, talking to a gentleman about fly fishing, because I was just getting into it, and he made his own flies and reel,” Finley recalls. “I came in on Monday, and he’d passed over the weekend. That was really hard. That was the first time I cried over a resident, because it was so close.”

Finley, who has been working at Rockwood Lane since 2008, says his children also have developed bonds with some of the community’s residents.

“My youngest is really into farming, and we have a ton of people here who have moved up from the Wilbur area, so I’ve had them go down there for harvest,” he says. “My daughter became friends with one resident here, a World War II guy. She’d go up to his place and talk to him. He passed away, and we both cried over that. That was pretty hard.”

A total of 11 employees keep Rockwood Lane running.

“I’m fortunate to have a staff where everyone gets along and works together, and everyone’s invested in the residents,” he says.

In addition to the pool and hot tub, Rockwood Lane’s amenities include a fitness center, library, game room, and movie room. Finley says Rockwood Lane has a hair salon space but hasn’t been able to offer services in the space for many months because he’s been unable to find a hairdresser to work in the salon.

“It’s really hard to find someone, because the tendency right now is to work in a trendy salon, charge a lot of money for a haircut, and make money in tips,” Finley says. “With this population, this age, $25 is pushing it. It’s hard to find people who want to work with seniors, and it’s hard to find people who want to cut hair at that price.”

Finley says one hairdresser he’s spoken to might move into the space. However, if he’s unable to hire her, he’s not sure what the fate of the salon space will be.

“I’ve had one response come back, and she said, the first thing I have to do is double the price of a haircut,” Finley says. “I spoke with my supervisor. If we could ease up on the rent, maybe we could get someone in here to cut hair, but I just don’t know if that’s going to happen or not.”

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Virginia Thomas
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Reporter Virginia Thomas has worked at the Journal since 2017 and covers the health care industry. As a reporter, she loves learning about Spokane's many growing industries. She enjoys traveling with her husband, snuggling with her cats, and cross stitching.

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