The ever-growing population in Central Texas is causing a surge of senior living facilities in North and Northwest Austin. But many of the communities, which do not accept basic medical insurance, are more expensive than seniors can afford, according to local experts.
An April report from the Capital Area Council of Governments stated the number of residents in Central Texas ages 65-69 increased by 111.5 percent—from 37,200 to 78,676—from 2004-14.
“Knowing what the population is going to do in the next 15 years, you can make the assumption that there’s not enough [senior housing],” said CAPCOG Aging Services Director Jennifer Scott.
Sarah Boone, district director of sales for the central division of Brookdale Senior Living Solutions, said countless senior living facilities have opened in the Austin metro area since 2014.
“New competition has come up all over Austin,” Boone said. “I think there’s been a need for it.”
Virginia Larson, a liaison for Austin nonprofit Family Eldercare, said young families moving to the Austin metro area are bringing senior family members.
“Since we’ve had that huge influx, the housing community just can’t keep up with it,” she said.
‘The demand is very high’
Tennessee-based Brookdale provides independent living, assisted-living, memory care, skilled nursing and other facilities for seniors at a dozen Austin metro locations, including three in Northwest Austin.
Brookdale has had a presence in Austin since 1999, and its North and Northwest Austin facilities have consistently stayed full, she said.
Boone said the Austin area has no shortage of seniors, and “influencers,” or younger adults who move to the area and bring their aging parents, are boosting the senior population.
“Our occupancy, especially in our memory care, is very high, ” she said.
Brookdale offers 24-hour nursing staff at its Parmer and Northwest Hills locations, she said. The Spicewood Springs location offers skilled nursing—the only senior living service that accepts Medicare—for seniors who need short-term physical or occupational therapy or have recently been in a hospital, she said.
Brookdale is also an age-in-place community, in which residents can receive different levels of care—all the way to hospice—without having to relocate, Boone said.
Kay Adkins is director of development for the La Salle Group, which operates Autumn Leaves of Austin, a memory care facility on Anderson Mill Road. The company has a location in Georgetown and another under construction in South Austin scheduled for an early 2017 opening.
Autumn Leaves’ Northwest Austin location, which opened in summer 2015, caters specifically to those who have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
“The majority of our residents are seniors, but we do accept everyone,” she said. “We are not age-restricted; it’s memory care-restricted.”
Adkins said the area demand for senior housing will only continue to grow.
“Northwest Austin in general is a very established area,” she said. “The demand is very high in that area for senior care.”
Need for affordability
Although senior housing options are growing, Scott said the Austin area lacks affordable options, according to CAPCOG’s research.
Boone said most senior living is an out-of-pocket expense, although Brookdale does accept long-term care insurance. Brookdale residents pay from $2,250-$5,000 per month, she said.
Adkins said senior living facilities in the Northwest Austin area typically charge between $4,500 and $6,500; Autumn Leaves’ rates are comparable, she said.
Hector Rodriguez is caregiver information and resources program director at AGE of Central Texas, which provides adult day health care and education for caregivers. He said many older residents need assistance but are taken aback when they realize the cost, which is especially difficult for seniors to afford on a fixed income, such as Social Security.
“I do get at least five calls a week from folks trying to find a sort of retirement community where they can be in a living community where there’s other older adults,” he said. “There are some, but they have extensive waitlists for affordable housing.”
AGE Executive Director Joyce Lauck said the organization refers seniors seeking affordable housing to Foundation Communities, a nonprofit that owns 15 affordable housing properties in Austin. She said the nonprofit will contact AGE of Central Texas when it has an opening, but usually the properties are full.
Lauck said residents with resources find a way to afford the expense, but lower- and middle-income residents are typically unable to afford the appropriate care.