As the U.S. population ages, providing an appropriate mix of assisted-living facilities and affordable housing for residents age 65 and older is becoming increasingly difficult for Cary.
But a new addition to Glenaire, a retirement community off West Cornwall Road, brings the town one step closer – albeit a small step – to meeting the growing need for the next 10 years and beyond.
Glenaire, a non-profit affiliate of The Presbyterian Homes Inc., now houses about 400 residents on its 32-acre campus at 4000 Glenaire Circle. But the continuing care retirement community is investing $5.6 million in a new apartment building to be located on the corner of Kildaire Farm and West Cornwall roads.
The addition comes when the town has been trying to respond to the need for senior housing.
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Earlier this year, the Aging Issues Task Force, a group of Cary officials and residents appointed by the town, completed a five-month-long study into how well Cary serves residents who are 65 and older. While the town serves seniors well, the report showed that the community may lack adequate housing for the growing population.
“We have some great senior neighborhoods, and we’re getting more, but we’re going to need a lot more than what we’re getting,” Cary Town Councilman Ed Yerha said.
While Glenaire’s new addition ceremoniously broke ground on Aug. 18, construction won’t begin until the final building permit is received from the Town of Cary. The building is expected to be completed 14 months later.
The apartment complex, which filled up in only three weeks, will provide 12 apartments ranging in size from 1,400 to 2,100 square feet. Their costs start at about $230,000 for the entrance fee plus a monthly service fee starting at $3,253. This fee includes a variety of services, including daily dining credit, weekly housekeeping and all utilities except telephone.
This is the latest in a long line of expansions that Glenaire has experienced since 1993 in light of steady growth to the senior housing need. During that time, Glenaire has added a 53-unit apartment building, a 40-room assisted living building, a 14-cottage expansion and more.
Long waiting lists for assisted-living facilities and access to affordable housing are some of the challenges many Cary seniors face. For example, the Glenaire retirement community has about 300 households on a wait list of three to 10 years, depending on the type of unit requested.
About 15 other senior housing facilities and retirement communities in Cary range from having no wait time to having a three-year waiting period for some units. The senior living options throughout Cary provide different levels of care.
The report stated that the current housing challenge will become even more acute in the next 10 years as the number of residents ages 65 and older with disabilities increases in conjunction with the aging population overall. In addition, survey data indicates a significant number of adults think they are not financially prepared for retirement in the next decade.
“I really think it’s going to hit us pretty hard,” Yerha said. “People don’t want to leave Cary. They retire and stay here, and they don’t want to go anywhere, and I don’t blame them.”
The task force recommended a number of measures in response to its findings, including encouraging the construction of more affordable housing; helping seniors stay in their homes by considering property tax relief for those with limited means; and examining existing codes to determine whether restrictions on multi-family housing are significantly limiting housing choices for low-income seniors.
Yerha also recommended having a standing committee on senior issues.
“The neighborhoods themselves are wonderful, and a few more coming in will really help,” he said. “I really think we need to stay ahead of the curve, and this is a start.”
But while additional senior housing construction can be encouraged, it can’t be rushed.
Glenaire Executive Director Paul Gregg said in addition to breaking ground on the new apartment complex, the retirement community had purchased additional land at 906 Kildaire Farm Road and 111 West Cornwall Road, but there are no immediate plans to build more units.
“I think the board is thinking about the right timing,” he said. “We’ll just see what makes the most sense for Glenaire and for the community.”
In terms of affordability, former Cary Town Councilwoman Regina McLaurin, a member of Glenaire’s board of directors, said she believes Glenaire was reasonably priced.
“It’s not overpriced,” she said. “But it’s not something that you go in without thinking about.”
McLaurin said Cary also offers rental properties for seniors who are interested in other types of housing options.
Cary residents Pat and Bernie Hyman, who will be moving into one of the new Glenaire apartments upon completion, believe there are enough senior housing options in Cary. They say the wait is worth it when finding the perfect retirement community.
After researching every retirement community within 15 miles of Cary, Bernie Hyman said he and his wife still decided on Glenaire.
“It just always stayed on the top of the list, so we made the commitment,” he said.
Even though they looked elsewhere, ultimately, Cary was home.
“The population across the country is aging, and not only is it aging, but they’ll be spending more years being elderly,” Bernie Hyman said. “I think Cary is paying attention to it. Cary is responding, and we have every reason to believe that they will continue to respond.”
Kathryn Trogdon; 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon