City responds to senior trends Options expand to serve a growing population[/caption]

The senior population is increasing throughout the region, state and nation, and Plano development and social service organizations are responding to the trend.

In 2013, seniors age 65 and older made up nearly 10 percent of the Dallas-Fort Worth area population—a figure that is expected to grow to 17.3 percent by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The fastest-growing age group through 2050 is expected to be seniors ages 70-79.

In Plano, the senior population is expressing a growing need for expanded housing, social services and recreational options. According to city planners, Plano experienced a senior housing boom from 2004 through 2008 that mostly disappeared during the Great Recession; however, new projects are underway once again.

“[With the] baby-boomer generation, their expectations of customer service [are] completely different from where it’s always been in the past,” said Steven Kunz, executive director of the Healthcare Resort of Plano. “They really are the trendsetters; it’s a true paradigm shift.”

The Plano Senior Recreation Center has also seen an increase in visitors over the past two years as it has become a popular meeting spot for many elderly Plano residents, said Karen Williams, recreation center director.

Williams and her staff attribute this increased traffic to an improved national health care system and the overall active nature of today’s senior citizens, who are becoming more interested in working out, learning foreign languages and traveling.

City responds to senior trends Options expand to serve a growing population[/caption]

“The fitness room that we have is always busy in the morning. Nearly every piece of equipment that we have is in use around 9 a.m.,” Williams said. “There’s a group of people who think that when you come in here you’re going to see a lot of walkers, canes and wheelchairs. Not so.”

More active participants

Seats also fill up quickly for group outings to places, such as the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Ham’s Peach Orchard in Terrell. For seniors, these trips allow them to tour the Dallas-Fort Worth area without worrying about the hassle of getting there, Williams said.

The center also offers workshops to assist in money management, legal issues and understanding Social Security benefits. Other educational programs include an introduction to the Internet,  video chatting and file management classes.

“It’s all these different groups and it’s a constant motion,” she said. “The seniors I see here just amaze me. There are a lot of people in their 90s [who] are here. I think people are living healthier lives and therefore living longer.”

Located in the Plano Senior Recreation Center is the Wellness Center for Older Adults, which has offered a variety of services, such as support groups, preventive health screenings and clinical counseling, since 1980. Executive Director Stephen Hood said the organization has seen a 175 percent increase in counseling services to caregivers since 2014 and has assisted 425 new clients since January. The wellness center is funded by contributions and municipal grants and serves on average 1,500 people each year.

“People say we’re one of the best kept secrets but we don’t want to be a secret,” Hood said. “What makes us unique is the fact that we’re geared toward serving seniors, whatever the need is. We have to raise awareness and funding to help maintain ongoing support [in the community].”

Affordable housing

The lack of affordable housing in Plano for seniors age 55 and older is also an ongoing concern since the demand is greater than the supply for the aging middle-class population, said Jean Brown, executive director of the Plano Housing Corporation.

The nonprofit is building a 292-unit independent living facility called Villas at Plano Gateway on Shiloh Road near the Richardson border. The project qualified for a 4 percent housing tax credit from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, and is the first Plano housing development that has been funded by federal grant funds in the past 15 years, Brown said.

Ninety of the units will be reserved for veterans, retired veterans and surviving spouses. Eligibility will require seniors to be 55 years of age or older and meet various income guidelines. Brown said the units will also feature energy-efficient amenities.

“We find that a third of the people that live in these [retirement] communities come from out of the area as their children and grandchildren are moving to the Dallas-Plano area.”

— Richard Shaw, Lifestyle Development

“The best part of my job is providing homes for people in need,” Brown said. “Only 9 percent of land in Plano is undeveloped so we have a minimal amount of land left to develop. Because of that, the city is trying to be very strategic on how that remaining land is developed.”

Responding to demand

In July, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the site plan for Bridgemoor, an independent living facility to be built at Park Vista Road and 14th Street. The developer, Lifestyle Development, has built similar facilities in Denton and Little Elm with positive results, general partner Richard Shaw said.

With 318 units that range from single-story cottages to apartment homes with various layouts, Shaw said the mix of amenities at Bridgemoor would provide options that most seniors look for in housing.

The facility will also include a clubhouse, a 50-seat movie theater, dining options, a fitness room and library. Construction for Bridgemoor will begin in August and is expected to be complete by next spring, Shaw said.

“Plano really doesn’t have anything similar to this,” Shaw said.  “There are a lot of folks over 55 [years of age] who can live on their own but don’t want to take care of their home.”

With employees transferring to Plano with companies like Toyota Motor North America Inc., the timing for the development could not be better, Shaw said.

“We find that a third of the people that live in these [retirement] communities come from out of the area as their children and grandchildren are moving to the Dallas-Plano area,” he said.

Another development that has recently opened is the Healthcare Resort of Plano, a 100-bed medical facility. Located at 3325 W. Plano Parkway, the resort offers 70 short-term transitional beds and 30 assisted living suites, Kunz said. The facility will also feature amenities, such as walking trails, pubs, a putting green and a movie theater.

“The aging population may need recovery after perhaps an elective surgery, such as a knee replacement or unexpected hospital stay,” he said. “It is really the complete opposite of what you hear the term nursing home, as this is a new concept in skilled nursing care never before seen.”

Krista Wadsworth contributed to this story.