According to July 2015 U.S. census data, approximately 66,119 county residents, or 12.3 percent, were 65 or older. This figure is an increase from the 47,399 residents, or 10.4 percent, recorded in the April 2010 census, meaning that in just five years, roughly 20,000 additional seniors are in need of services.
With a growing population, age-restrictive active adult living facilities like Bonterra at Woodforest, assisted-living and memory care facilities like Avanti Senior Living and organizations like Aging in Place The Woodlands, are striving to meet the needs of a booming senior population in The Woodlands.
Longtime Woodlands resident Bruce Cunningham founded Aging in Place-The Woodlands in May. Cunningham, 80, founded the nonprofit organization with the idea of creating a village network to provide services that can help seniors safely stay in their homes as long as possible.
“Studies have shown that the biggest problems [seniors] have are loneliness and a lack of purpose,” Cunningham said. “Aging in Place is designed to do a couple of things, one of which is to prepare people psychologically to be alone. We’ve also done a survey on [seniors] in The Woodlands, and we found that the biggest obstacles for them are transportation, home repair and a lack of information.”
The survey was conducted last December with 100 local seniors from eight villages in The Woodlands. The survey looked at what the biggest barriers are for seniors in Montgomery County, what their priorities are and what types of services they would be willing to participate in and/or pay for.
The survey revealed that 45 percent of participants saw a lack of transportation options as a barrier, 41 percent said a lack of information on available services was an issue and 41 percent said home maintenance and cleaning was a problem.
“What we’re trying to do is set up what you may call a baby-sitting co-op for seniors in which we take care of each other,” Cunningham said. “People who can use cellphones can teach those who don’t know how, and people who are able to drive can drive those who can’t. It’s needed because we have a
tsunami of people growing older, and the government’s not going to be able to take care of them.”
Aging In Place-The Woodlands will not only serve as a network of information and connections, but Cunningham said the group also plans to hold seminars for organization members to teach them everything from how to get their affairs in order to how to work certain technologies.
“I would encourage people to get involved with Aging in Place because it can provide services that can help meet your needs and just talking to somebody else can improve your own quality of life,” Cunningham said. “So it has a practical purpose as well as a psychological purpose.”
Senior living demand
To meet the needs of a growing senior population that is unable to live at home, senior living communities and facilities are establishing themselves in and around The Woodlands.
Bonterra at Woodforest is an age-restrictive, active adult living community tucked within the master-planned community neighboring The Woodlands. Bonterra was built with the intention of catering to residents of The Woodlands, said Jonathan White, division president for Taylor Morrison Houston.
“I would say probably 90 percent of our buyers are from that area, and now they are wanting to downsize while still staying plugged into The Woodlands community where they are already established,” White said. “The idea of Bonterra is that it’s a little bit farther north, but our residents can still use the amenities and be affiliated with the churches and organizations they’ve aged with in The Woodlands.”
Avanti Senior Living, headquartered in The Woodlands, provides assisted living and memory care in Texas and Louisiana. The company opened a new location on Vision Park in August, and officials plan to break ground on another in Augusta Pines soon.
“We have [seen an increase in the demand for senior living facilities in Montgomery County],” said Lori Alford, Avanti Senior Living chief operation officer. “There’s two basic things in life that you know are always going to happen—paying taxes and getting older. So as people age, there’s a need and obviously with the baby boomers, there’s just a huge tidal wave of people coming that need senior housing.”
Both living communities provide several benefits in an effort to meet the needs of their residents. Avanti eliminates chores, such as housekeeping, yard maintenance, cooking and transportation. Bonterra likewise meets the needs of its residents by eliminating front yard maintenance, providing pet-sitting services for travelers and building one-story homes.
“A lot of it is just a lifestyle change for them,” Alford said. “Seniors typically just need a little more help or a reminder and rightfully so; they’ve paid their dues in life, and now they need to be pampered and taken care of—that’s what we’re here for.”
Alford and White both agreed that one of the biggest needs of their residents is to be around people their own age. Both communities strive to meet this need through a variety of clubs and group activities.
“My guess is that as the baby boomers begin to age, we’re going to see more assisted-living facilities increasing to meet the demand,” White said. “I don’t envision us leaving Montgomery County anytime soon because The Woodlands is made up of 35,000 homes—maybe more, and we’ve got 700 lots. There’s going to be plenty of opportunity, and the demand will continue to grow as time goes on.”