Riverbend a different kind of senior's complex

As a concept, retirement living is nothing new.

There are ever-increasing numbers of complexes and facilities catering to the needs and desires of seniors, especially those who want a little extra help to get by.

Most work the same way, offering monthly rentals in high-end suites, complete with an array of support services - from meals to laundry and housekeeping - at a resident's fingertips. Others also provide so-called assisted living, which adds a degree of supervision and medical aid to the mix.

Some seniors don't like the feel of the places, saying they seem too much like "the home," in the sense of the word that relates to every elderly person's nightmare.

A planned retirement community on the old Desmond farm in Brocklehurst, however, aims to put a slightly different spin on the formula.

The Riverbend Seniors Community, a 165-unit complex under construction along the Thompson River, will offer seniors a chance to ease into the idea they might need a little extra help someday, without taking away any of their independence.

Sixty-six of the units will be managed by the Thrupp Manor Association, a not-for-profit agency that provides housing for low-income seniors. Riverbend Manor will be a replacement for the 35-unit Thrupp Manor currently located on Royal Avenue. (More on that later.)

Kate Calhoun is sales manager for the privately owned part of the project. The biggest difference between Riverbend and other local complexes is the fact people own their suites - they do not rent them month-to-month.

As well, they only pay for services such as meals, laundry and housekeeping if they want them, when they want them. That might be for a day here and there, she said, or full time seven days a week. The choice will be up to residents to make, depending on what is going on in their lives.

People will be able to come and go as they please. They can leave their suites for as long as they like when they travel, knowing their place is secure and looked after.

"There is someone there all the time," she said.

There are four floor plans available in the complex, Calhoun said, ranging from one-bedroom units with about 600 square feet to two bedrooms with 930 square feet. All are self-sufficient with kitchens, bathrooms, washer and dryers. Each unit has climate controls. Residents will pay for their telephone, hydro, cable television, strata fees and property taxes. There will also be a common area for all residents, as well as gardens and maintained outdoor areas.

Prices start at $167,500 and top out at $280,000, Calhoun said. A number of units have already sold. The complex is scheduled to complete in July 2011.

Dora and Frank Sherbo were the first to buy into Riverbend. Dora, who is 61 (her husband is 71), said the time just felt right to downsize, give up the work associated with owning a home and choose an easier option.

People have suggested they could just pay others to do the work for them and stay in their home, but she said that creates its own headaches.

"We just said to heck with it," Dora said, referring to yard work and home maintenance. "We're just ready for it."

She and her husband were also good friends with Humphrey Desmond and his family, who owned the property for decades. The site was once an apple orchard. Many of the trees were moved last year from the orchard to the Dunes in Westsyde, to save them as the development got underway.

"It's a beautiful location."

Dora said moving from a house to a suite will be an adjustment, as the couple realizes they need to get rid of some of the things they have accumulated over a lifetime.

"A lot of things you find you find you just don't need," she said. "It won't be too much of an adjustment."

For more information about the project, call 250-682-4378 or visit the website at www.theriverbend.ca.

Don Craff, a project co-ordinator with the Thrupp Manor Association, said the 66 units offered at Riverbend will be managed the same as Thrupp.

Those units will be rented month-to-month to seniors with limited incomes. The society currently has a wait list for admission into Thrupp Manor. All current Thrupp residents will be offered space at Riverbend Manor first, he said, followed by those on the waiting list.

Rental rates are tied to income levels, he noted. Those who have less than $14,000 a year in income will pay about $1,200 a month for rent, meals, laundry and housekeeping services. Similar plans in other private complexes typically cost as much as $2,800 a month.

Craff said there is a huge demand for low-income senior's housing, especially as life expectancies increase. More and more, people are finding their health outlives their bank accounts and they need help.

Riverbend Manor will not provide medical assistance to residents, he said. People who need more care than just meals and laundry need to find other arrangements.

He said the wait list for the Royal Avenue Thrupp Manor currently averages about six months. People who want in to the new complex will have to join the wait list for Thrupp Manor, and be prepared to move in there if a space opens up before the new building is ready.

For more information about Riverbend Manor, call the Thrupp Manor Association at (250) 376-6536.

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