For 40 years Chuck and Elaine Schmitz lived in their house in Texas City near Galveston.
But as they grew older they said they found upkeep of their home growing more troublesome and decided to move to Cedar Park to be closer to their daughter, Nancy LaSpina, a teacher in Leander ISD. In 2014 the Schmitzes settled into their new apartment at Lakeline Oaks, a luxury retirement community located about 2 miles from their daughter.
“She’s the reason we’re here,” Elaine Schmitz said.
The Schmitzes are part of a trend in the fastest-growing population segment in Central Texas—seniors age 65 and older who move to the state, often to be nearer to younger family members.
Williamson County’s senior population grew from 37,681 residents in 2010 to 44,991 residents in 2014, a growth rate of about 19.4 percent, according to the Texas State Data Center. The office projects Williamson County will have more than 70,000 senior residents by 2025 and almost 99,000 senior residents by 2035—which would be more than double the county’s current senior population.
In response to demand, developers are planning more senior luxury apartment communities and memory-care facilities in Cedar Park and Leander. But some senior residents said they are finding fewer non-luxury living options, such as apartments that do not have on-site health care options and allow residents independent living.
In Cedar Park, Mayor Matt Powell said city leaders can welcome new senior residents.
“As we’re watching our demographics shift here in Cedar Park, you can’t offer this sort of quality of life and not expect people to want to move here,” Powell said July 9.
Few apartments available
Skye Senior Living Executive Director Brad Rowe said the builder is one of many developers that are anticipating the region’s multiplying demands for senior housing.
“We’re seeing a lot of residential growth, especially around Crystal Falls, in all of the [SH] 29 corridor west of Georgetown,” he said. “Central Texas is obviously one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States due to the strong economy here. I think this naturally means as more and more people move here, they’re also going to bring their senior loved ones for care.”[polldaddy poll=9031201]
Nichole Gess, assistant property manager with The Ranch at Cedar Park Senior Apartments—an age-restricted affordable housing apartment complex with staffers who organize activities—said she sees higher demand than the apartment complex can meet.
“If I could invest in one thing right now in this area, it would be senior housing,” Gess said. “[Because of demand] we do no marketing—zero. And people are coming in, in droves, wanting affordable housing.”
Some seniors said they had unexpected difficulty affording luxury apartment living because of rising rent or medical bills. They might wait for months to find a non-luxury apartment they can afford in an age-restricted community.
For example, at The Ranch at Cedar Park all apartments are full and the interest list is seven pages long, Gess said.
“There’s about 40 to 45 names on each page,” Gess said. “We’re looking at a minimum of 12 to 14 months out, and that’s almost a best-case scenario. I am shocked at how in-demand this is and by the lack [of availability]in the area. And there are other communities in surrounding areas just like our property, or very similar to our property, and they all have waiting lists, too.”
Austin resident Nancy Coconate said she and her mother had to wait about four months before her mother could rent an apartment at The Ranch. In 2008, Coconate and her husband retired and moved from Hawaii to a house in the Avery Ranch neighborhood. Her mother lived in Arizona, but Coconate said she wanted to move her mother closer.
They considered several luxury housing options in Central Texas, but they found the rental rates to be too high—sometimes $5,000 to $6,000 a month, Coconate said. Now Coconate is able to visit her mother each day at the less-expensive apartment, she said.
“The Ranch here for mom is like a 10-minute drive for me, so if she needs anything, I’m close by,” Coconate said.
Senior community perks
Seniors in luxury apartments may not need to venture outside their communities for amenities. Lakeline Oaks, for example, has on-site meals, an in-house hairstylist, a movie theater and on-site health care.
Chuck Schmitz said he and his wife have all they need in the community, but they occasionally shop for groceries or drive to doctors’ offices in Cedar Park.
“We have a car, and we go out maybe twice a week,” Chuck Schmitz said.
Sometimes the couple samples nearby restaurants. They said they have also attended a church as well as found shopping opportunities in Cedar Park and at Lakeline Mall in Austin. Their daughter has helped introduce them to their new community, they said.
Bret and Julie Cain, resident managers with Lakeline Oaks parent company Resort Lifestyle Communities, said they estimate about 80 percent of their residents moved to Cedar Park from outside of Texas.
“When we moved here I expected everyone to say, ‘We’re Texans!’” Bret Cain said. “[But] a lot of our folks moved here from other states because their kids [were here]and because of the business growth of the area.”
US Memory Care
Cedar Park has four memory-care facilities designed for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. A fifth memory-care center, U.S. Memory Care, will hold a grand opening Sept. 24.
Sales and Marketing Director Patricia Bardole said the facility is modeled after memory-care communities in The Netherlands, including a common area for residents to gather for activities.
“We will offer more vibrant, active hobbies for them to engage in, such as flower arrangement, sculpting and non-baking cooking classes,” Bardole said.
The new facility is located at 800 C-Bar Ranch Trail and will host 75 residents divided into three building wings of 25 residents each, with each wing servicing a different level of memory care, Bardole said. The sections have identical or similar layouts of hallways as well as a common dining and living areas so residents can be moved comfortably from one wing to the next level of care, she said.
“It’s more like a home,” Bardole said. “We don’t have a big cafeteria or dining area. … Our residents can go outside freely [to the courtyard]. There’s no code or lock [on the doors]. It’s more of a home setting.”
Executive Director Beth Bunch said memory-care centers support an increasing local need. Residents are not only drawn to family in the area or low living expenses, but also to the health care available in Austin and increasingly available in Cedar Park and other areas north of Austin.
Three residents—one from Cedar Park and two from Round Rock—moved to U.S. Memory Care in late July. After receiving a state license, the facility will add more new residents, Bardole said.[polldaddy poll=9031201]