A golden standard
Welcome to the new breed of luxury retirement residences, where service and food are both top notch
Brockville’s new chic resort is situated in the perfect spot — downtown shopping out one door and breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River out the other. Inside, you’ll find a bright lobby with a sweeping staircase facing the King Street side entrance, where the final touches are being put on Aquala, the 2,010-square-foot $500,000 day spa. A seating area with modern furniture is found on the Market Street East side, where you can watch the resort’s Mercedes R-Class limousine pull up to the curb.
Nearby, a giant “W” glows on the wall behind the reception desk, where cheery staff are eager to help.
Past reception, a peek through an open door reveals a cinema with a large screen and seating designed with comfortable movie-watching in mind. Further along, beyond the library, wall-to-wall windows facing the river invite the visitor to pull up an armchair to soak up the afternoon sun. Nearby, a bar with a sleek granite top beckons.
Welcome to The Wedgewood, the new breed of luxury retirement residence popping up at a furious pace across Canada.
And little wonder: One in four Canadians is projected to be over age 65 by 2031, and developers are eager to cash in on a generation of seniors — encouraged by their aging boomer children — to live the good life.
“We’re trying to raise the bar for seniors accommodation,” says Sabby Duthie, who owns the residence and spa with her husband, Madhu, who sold the Empress retirement home in Kanata to build his dream project in Brockville. “It’s all about choice. Others talk about it — we give it.”
Gord White, CEO of the Ontario Retirement Communities Association, says there are currently about 41,000 retirement home beds in this province. And based on the number of people now over 75, that figure should jump to 120,000 spaces by 2025.
The expectations of today’s seniors are different than in previous decades, thus the trend toward ever more luxurious “five-star” residences — The Wedgewood refers to its home as a resort; others liken themselves to hotels, says Mr. White.
The generation that went to war and lived through the Depression was happy to do things as a group and didn’t have high expectations of luxury or service, he adds. Which is why retirement homes of 15 years ago had small, single rooms, few amenities and little in the way of choice.
“Now, people want larger rooms, more amenities,” Mr. White says. “People are starting to want a more individualized experience. They want a bedroom, a kitchen.”
And they also want to be able to step out the door and interact in the community, rather than doing everything as a group in the retirement residence.
That’s the luxury and choice lifestyle that Ms. Duthie says is offered at The Wedgewood. And it’s driving the multi-city Royalton Retirement Residence project, which is described as “a retirement residence with all the grandeur of a fine hotel, but with the warmth and comfort of your own home.”
The first Royalton, a project by Liberty Assisted Living and The Coram Construction Group, is scheduled to open in Kingston this fall. Marketing has area begun on the larger, $54-million Kanata Royalton, which is scheduled to open in 2009, along with a similar project in London. Royaltons in Peterborough and St. Catharines will soon follow.
A virtual tour of the Kingston Royalton, with its images of modern architecture and luxury hotel elements, such as a water wall feature in the grand lobby, is proof that developers are listening to the changing demands of today’s seniors. Check it out at http://www.theroyaltonresidence.com/kingston_virtual.htm for an idea of what the Kanata residence on Campeau Drive, in the new Town Centre development, will be like — but on a larger scale.
“It’s like a luxury condo, it’s like a luxury hotel,” says Keith Gabriel, director of marketing for Royalton Retirement Residence. “It’s a new model that will become the standard in the industry.” But how much does all this luxury cost? In Kanata, monthly rents will be $3,800 for a studio for assisted living care, and $3,600 for a one-bedroom “independent” apartment without the extra health care. That includes meals, housekeeping, laundry, limousine service and all the amenities, including a pool and licensed bar.
The decision to put out that much money on rent can make financial sense when a senior needs help caring for his home — and for himself. “If you look at the costs (of hiring help), there may not be a big difference,” he says.
The Royalton fees compare to $3,895 for a one-bedroom apartment at Governor’s Walk, according to rates posted on the website of the New Edinburgh residence. On the other end of the scale, a private suite at Sandy Hill Retirement Residence rents for $1,695, according to the Ontario Retirement Communities Association website, which lists about three dozen accredited retirement residences in Ottawa.
For George Topping, who was the first resident to move into the $23.5million Wedgewod in December, moving from his Brockville house was worth every penny. And while he loves the view of the river from his 6th-floor one-bedroom apartment, it’s the food — and the menu choices — that really has him smiling.
“I’ve never eaten so good in my life,” says the 83-year-old widower, who moved in when the dining room was still a construction zone. “And if you don’t like what’s on the menu, you can ask for something else and they’ll get it for you.”
Mr. Topping, who likes his independence, hasn’t tried the limo shuttle yet — he still drives his own car. But he has taken advantage of The Wedgewood’s location, walking his dog several times a day on the city’s many waterfront trails.
“I wouldn’t move out unless they kicked me out,” he jokes, adding, “I can’t take my money with me, so I’ll spend it now.”
The smallest suites at The Wedgewood, about 300 square feet, cost $2,695 a month. The largest apartments, about 580 square feet, are priced at $4,355 a month. The rental fee includes three meals a day and snacks, housekeeping, personal laundry, physiotherapy and satellite TV. The suites are wired for high-speed Internet, which is extra.
Ms. Duthie points out that Wedgewood’s smallest suite is very similarly priced to that of the competition in Brockville. At Bridlewood Manor, for example, the ORCA website lists rates there as $1,685 for a semi-private room and $2,630 for a private suite.
While most residents are independent, a “wellness” floor has been set aside at the Wedgewood for assisted living — the preferred name in retirement residences for nursing care.
It’s knowing that help is available if needed that makes Vera Jones glad she chose The Wedgewood. “This is just like having a small apartment, but with the care if I need it,” says Miss Jones, who said she suffered “a couple” of falling accidents when she lived in her house.
The Wedgewood has put the emphasis on staying active, which is why the residence includes a fitness studio and an endless pool for water therapy and aquatic exercises. Ms. Duthie, who is the resort’s director of operations, says the secret to creating independence “is to surround yourself with the things you love.”
For Miss Jones, 83, that meant having her one-bedroom suite painted her favourite green. That the widower can have all her own furnishings around her, and use the limo to go to familiar places, is what makes The Wedgewood home. “You don’t feel like it’s the end of the line.”
While Mr. White says the average retirement home age is 83, Mr. Gabriel says the Royalton expects to attract a “much younger” senior — 75-plus. In Kingston, seniors as young as 70 are signing up for the “five-star” lifestyle offered at the Royalton.
“The opinion of seniors of retirement residences are changing,” Mr. Gabriel says. Back in 1988, when Rideau Placeon-the-River opened its doors, it was considered the first luxury retirement home in Ottawa. Twenty years later, it is still home to prominent residents such as judges, senators and business executives — attracted by the residence’s waterfront location, beautiful gardens and elegant furnishings and artwork.
Rental fees range from $2,895 a month for a small studio, to $5,375 for a large “capital” suite.
While administrator Snjezana Kulic considers the Royalton to be competition in that it is trying to attract the same age demographic, she doesn’t see the new luxury retirement residences as a threat.
“The newer places are a nice addition, but they can’t compete with what we have,” she says. “We have antique furniture, original paintings. You simply can’t buy that anymore.”
Ms. Kulic also doesn’t believe that today’s 80-plus seniors are looking for modern decor.
“They want traditional,” she says. “They want it to be more homey, more refined, more elegant.”
So what will the future bring?
According to Mr. White, it won’t just be about size and luxury, but more about the people seniors share their home with. He sees niche retirement residences — along cultural and religious lines — becoming popular. White points to a Vancouver retirement residence for gays and lesbians as another example of a niche market that could grow in the future.
Mr. Gabriel agrees that the retirement home industry will have to catch up with the fact the face of Canada is changing, with immigrants making up a greater proportion of the population.
While changes to the Royalton would need to be made to accommodate the needs of ethnic groups — including new decor, amenities, menus and recreation — he says the building has strong enough bones to withstand cosmetic change.