Like many other Central Texas residents, Lake Travis-area job seeker “Lillian” attended a local job fair Feb. 21 hoping to gain employment in the data entry field.
However, the event differed from most other area job fairs because the 55+ in ATX Job Fair matched available job opportunities with workers who are at least age 55.
“[Lillian] had just gone back to school to be able to do data entry and got that certification at [age] 71,” said Cindy Cummings, an AustinUP board member and the fair’s organizer. “She said, ‘I don’t want to sit at home. I want to keep my mind going.’”
AustinUP is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “keep the momentum going for making Austin a great place for seniors,” she said.
Between 2000 and 2010, the overall population in the Austin metropolitan area grew nearly 40 percent, but the segment of its population older than age 55 grew by 80 percent during that same time period, AustinUP Executive Director Teresa Sansone Ferguson said. In 2010, the Austin area topped the nation for the fastest-growing population between ages 55-64, and it tallied the second fastest-growing population in the country for people age 65 or older, she said.
“Already about 30 percent of our [Austin] residents are over age 55,” she said. “Soon, we will have more older adults than children in Central Texas.”
But aging today is not the same as it was two or three decades ago, said Dr. Mark Carlson, geriatrician and founder of Be Well MD, a concierge medicine service based in Cedar Park that focuses on senior health.
“Improvements in medicine, meaning treatments of chronic diseases, help [seniors] function better and lead to longer lives,” he said. “They have learned the importance of lifestyle, diet and socialization; incorporated [those things] into their lives; and demand that lifestyle in retirement.”
Seniors boost local workforce
AustinUP will host eight job fairs restricted to the senior workforce in 2017, including two in Lake Travis.
“The world is focused on chronological age to determine where we fit in society,” Ferguson said. “You can have two 80-year-olds who are vastly different. We shouldn’t judge people by an age group.”
Cummings said the low unemployment rate in the Austin area contributed to employers’ interest in hiring senior employees.
“It’s really an interesting phenomenon,” she said. “[Employers] are starting to look at this age group—really 65 and older, retirees—as an awesome group of people who don’t need to necessarily have insurance because they already have insurance. So they could be contract employees, part-time employees and even some full-time employees. [It’s] this great kismet—a matching of employers with people who still want to make a difference and are on the second part of their lives.”
The Lake Travis/Westlake area in particular is in need of employees because the region lacks a bus system, and housing costs are high, Cummings said.
“So, consequently, you have to look at your hyperlocal person who needs to work or wants to work and the employer who is looking for that employee,” she said.
In general, Ferguson said society needs to do more to provide accessibility and affordability for area seniors—criteria that can be at least aided by a senior job market.
“We’re living longer, more healthy lives,” she said. “To supplement their retirement income, [seniors] are going to have to stay engaged in the community.”
Senior housing options expand
Bill Hayes, Legend Communities chief operating officer, said Lakeway’s Tuscan Village was created in 2008 at what may have been the worst possible economic time to embark on the California developer’s first age-restricted venture in Central Texas. Following an uptick in the housing market in 2014, the company finished the development’s amenities—including its clubhouse, water feature, trail system, pickle ball court and bocce ball surface—and sales “kicked into gear from a velocity and pricing standpoint,” he said.
From 2014-15, closings in the 196-homesite project increased 50 percent, and from 2015-16, sales increased another 50 percent, Hayes said.
“The draw of Tuscan Village is this really interesting and incredible community of people,” he said. “Most, or about 80 percent, of the people are from Texas, in some form or fashion. About 40 percent are [from] either Lakeway or Austin. Houston is probably our next biggest market. A lot of these people have kids and grandchildren in the Lake Travis school system. The [grandparents] want to be close to them where they can visit them but they also want to have their own thing going on and not just live here as sort of stand-in babysitters.”
Hayes admits the demographics of buyers in the Tuscan Village community are unlike many other buyers of age-restricted housing.
“This is sort of the top of the market,” he said of the $400,000-$800,000 villa home price range before selling out the units. “Our group, because of the price point, has the money to spend to buy what they want and do what they want. And they don’t want to be encumbered by some house that they have to worry about taking care of the yard, taking care of the sprinkler system. All of that is taken care of.”
As of March 6, only two of the original 68 townhomes remain available, and most of the condominiums in the project’s first building—25 of 32 units—are sold even though construction has not yet finished, Hayes said. Two additional condominium buildings are also planned for the site.
The average age of a Tuscan Village resident is 70, and the demographics skew “a little more female than male,” he said. Most of the couples live in villas, and most of the single residents live in the townhomes, with an average net worth across the board estimated at about $1 million, he said. About half of the development’s residents paid cash for their home, with the average sales price for closings at $500,000 in 2016, he said.
The project has a full-time activities director on staff, Linda Michael, who coordinates resident activities that run the gamut from a Super Bowl potluck chili party and Mardi Gras festivities to dance classes and yoga.
“There’s such a sense of community there—[residents] can all walk to the clubhouse,” Hayes said. “They have their activities. They want to learn; they are very hungry to learn new things. We have someone who couldn’t swim. She wanted to learn all four swimming strokes by the time she was 75. And now she has.”
The success of Tuscan Village Lakeway has spurred the build-out of Tuscan Village Horseshoe Bay (see Page 21), which will begin presales of its homes this summer, Hayes said.
In February, Legend Communities presented plans to Lakeway City Council for Lakeway City Center (see Page 21), a mixed-use urban development with at least one age-restricted, community within its neighborhoods.
Thomas Ranch, a 3,300-home community poised to break ground off West Hwy. 71 along the Pedernales River, may also draw potential buyers age 55 and older, said Tom D'Alesandro, president of Blake-Field LLC, the project’s lead developer.
“[Lake Travis] has been popular for second or retirement homes,” he said. “We certainly expect that trend to continue."
D'Alesandro said the project is mixed-use, with the convenience of dining, shopping and events as opportunities for a senior demographic.
“Of course there’s a risk,” Hayes said of limiting a development to one age group. “I’ve tried to do communities that are age-targeted, which is different, where anyone can buy, versus age-restricted. What you find is the people who truly don’t want to worry about some kid in a bicycle as they are driving down the street, the people who truly want that lifestyle, they want to know that everybody will be 55-plus, and there isn’t that chance of the mix of the different types. The risk is you are narrowing down your [pool of potential] buyers, but the buyers who truly want that [lifestyle]—that’s what they want.”
Hayes said the trend toward an increase in age-restricted residential communities will continue.
“There’s 10,000 people every day turning 65, and that goes on until 2025,” he said. “That’s eight more years, so there’s a huge pool of people to pull from who are asking for this type of [housing].”
Vibrant lifestyle wanted
Experts agree that several requirements are needed to allow a senior-focused community to be successful, especially in the Central Texas area.
“We know there’s a rising senior population out there [in the Lake Travis area],” said licensed social worker Amy Temperley, owner of Aging is Cool, a Driftwood-based business focused on active aging. “There’s a huge number of adults here who don’t need [assisted living or medical] care. They need to find ways to stay engaged in their community, to have fun, to keep their minds and bodies active, and to contribute—to volunteer, mentor or serve on a [governing] board.”
Temperley said successful seniors need financial stability, a healthy environment, mobility and socialization—the ability to connect with others.
“People are retiring here [in Central Texas] to be closer to family,” she said. “As this area grows, people return.”
Legend Communities founder Haythem Dawlett said there is a movement that is well-documented in California but taking hold in Central Texas in which multigenerational communities are created.
“The parents are living longer, the grandparents are living longer,” he said. “They all want to live close together, but they want to be segregated. They want their own lives. They want to have their own space.”
Dawlett said he built Tuscan Village on 40 acres and credits the community’s success to its density.
“[Density] is the key because to make the vibrancy and the curriculum work, you have to have an affordable component [as well as] the [good] quality of the club and its activities,” he said. “If you have the density, your monthly fees become low enough and affordable so that it is practical.”
Dawlett said the Lakeway City Center age-restricted residences will be luxurious and active.
“There’s not enough of those places [with active lifestyles],” he said. “People are living longer. People want to have vibrancy in their day-to-day life.”