Senior housing on the rise in local communities

As Williamson and Travis counties experience a surge in their senior populations the area is also seeing a rise in senior housing options—particularly upscale and memory care facilities.

By 2020, Williamson County is expected to see one of the fastest regional growth rates in the age 65 and older population and the fastest regional growth in the age 85 and older population, according to the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area Council of Governments. By 2020, there will be approximately 206,400 residents age 65 and older living in Williamson and Travis counties, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

These growth projections are reflected in the increasing number of independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care facilities opening in the area.

There are more than 150 nursing and assisted living homes in Travis and Williamson counties, according to the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, and at least seven facilities have applied for permits or been constructed in the Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto areas within the past five years.

Falcon Ridge Rehabilitation, a skilled nursing facility on the outskirts of Hutto, opened in April and is receiving inquiries from seniors who used to live in Hutto or who want to be closer to family in the area, Falcon Ridge Administrator Christopher Nicholas said.

“What you’re seeing is a lot of people in their 40s and 50s moving their parents here, planning for them to age,” Nicholas said.

Increasing specialized care

Memory care facilities—or senior homes designed to assist individuals diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease—are becoming more popular in Central Texas, said Hector Rodriguez, program director of the Caregiver Information and Resources Program at AGE of Central Texas, a nonprofit dedicated to helping seniors.

“Ninety percent of the calls I get at the Caregiver Resource Center from any caregiver not being able to care for an older adult, they’re mostly looking for memory care,” he said.

Dementia patients have a special set of needs, and as more is discovered about the disease, long-term care facilities are starting to cater to those needs, said Amelia Frank, a program specialist with the Capital of Texas chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

“The buildings are designed with the needs of a person with Alzheimer’s in mind,” she said. “People with Alzheimer’s don’t do well with a lot of sensory stimulation, and their visual processing is impaired as well. Something as simple as a vibrant design on a carpet can be confusing.”

Frank said she sees the interest in memory care facilities increasing.

“As we begin to understand more effective ways to help a person with Alzheimer’s, I think people are changing their approaches to care,” she said.

Darrell Smith is the president of Round Rock-based Oakbrook Builders, which specializes in senior living facilities, and he confirmed there is a “boom” in the market for senior living facilities in the area—particularly memory care.

“We’ve really seen an expansion of memory care facilities,” Smith said. “Stand-alone buildings totally dedicated to memory care, that’s something that’s kind of unique now.”

Senior housing on the rise in local communitiesThe need for affordability

The cost of senior housing in Texas is slightly above the national average, with monthly, unsubsidized rental rates ranging from $2,000 for a basic retirement community unit to $7,000 for some of the most expensive memory care options, according to Seattle-based senior care referral service A Place for Mom.

Nancy Kind, a volunteer at the Allen R. Baca Senior Center in Round Rock who has provided benefits counseling for seniors for the past 16 years, said she has counseled an increasing number of seniors concerned about the affordability of housing in the area.

“There are lots of nice places [to live in the area] if you have money and means,” Kind said. “But if you don’t, it’s a problem. We are in dire need of lowcost senior housing in Round Rock.”

Kind said seniors who ask her about local housing options are generally looking for independent living options, which average $3,500 per month locally.

In Hutto, City Planner Erika Ragsdale said there is also a need to increase housing options for seniors.

“We have fewer seniors proportionally than our neighboring communities, and I think that goes back to what we have to offer them,” she said. “People outgrow the options we have now, and without other options [they] are forced to look at other communities.”

Ragsdale said a planned senior independent living complex at the incoming Caramel Creek development near the intersection of SH 130 and Hwy. 79 in Hutto is one step closer to that goal.

The Trails at Caramel Creek senior complex is in the beginning stages of construction and is scheduled to include 61 apartments, primarily income-restricted, she said. The facility is slated to open late this year, according to the developer’s website.

“The key to being a strong and resilient community to be able to accommodate people of all ages,” she said.

Community response

Giving Hutto seniors the option to affordably downsize without moving out of the city will benefit the community in several ways, Ragsdale said.

“You want people to feel like this is their home forever instead of just a stepping stone,” she said. “It’s crucial to the health of our community and the health of our economy.”

In Pflugerville, approximately eight assisted living, skilled nursing and retirement communities help build that social capital, Planning Director Emily Barron said.

“Retirement communities within a city can provide a number of benefits,” Barron said. “One of which [is] the ability for your community to age in place—allowing for your citizens to grow up here, retire here and everything in between.”

Round Rock Planning Director Brad Wiseman said Round Rock’s assisted living facilities, nursing homes and health care resources are all important parts of the community’s ecosystem.

“You want to [place] your senior facilities near the types of uses that they’re going to be frequenting,” he said. “Obviously you’ve got retail and grocery, but also doctors’ offices and hospitals and those types of things, so having them located in that general area is a good thing.”

View a map of local health care providers