Active seniors can look to Wellings of Calgary for independent living

‘Active 55 living’ development near Winsport Canada Olympic Park respects independence while building community from within.

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A new 55-plus development in Trinity Hills, set to welcome its first residents in July, will fill the gap for older adults who aren’t ready for life in a retirement community.

Wellings of Calgary by Nautical Lands Group is a two-tower for-lease apartment development on Na’a Drive S.W. that offers everything an independent senior could possibly need in a location near walking trails, bike paths and the facilities at Winsport Canada Olympic Park. There is one exception. There are no health services onsite.

“Our leasing rates are up to 30 per cent less than living in a retirement home because there’s no care involved,” says Natalie Tommy, vice-president of marketing and community growth for the Ottawa-based company that has built more than 20 retirement communities in Eastern Canada.

The Wellings model of senior living without in-house medical services evolved as a response to a new demographic category termed “active 55 living.” Somewhere between older buyers purchasing maintenance-free condos and increasingly dependent seniors needing retirement homes lay active and independent seniors searching for both home and community.

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Kevin Pidgeon, Nautical Lands partner, president and COO, says they identified three things that the active 55-plus person wanted in a home. A full kitchen, a place to park their car (preferably underground) and independence to do what they want to do, when they want to do it. Wellings has fitness facilities, games and movie rooms and restaurants, but unlike a retirement home, activities are resident-inspired and loosely programmed.

“The primary advantage to living in Wellings is socialization with like-minded people. We know that by keeping people mentally engaged and socialized, they don’t age as quickly. They tend to be healthier, longer,” he says.

Tommy admits that “active 55” is a misnomer.

“Most of us at the age of 55 hope we’re making decent money to allow us to retire some point in our lives,” she says. But conversations about retirement and thinking about how to keep one’s social life lively is paramount.

“We do know that as you age, your social circles get smaller and smaller. Every single human being needs some type of connection. That’s where we shine,” she says.

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Wellings offers studio, one-bedroom, one-bedroom plus den and two-bedroom, two-bathroom floor plans, some with balconies, some with terraces. Suites range from 529 to 1,080 square feet with full appliance packages. Each unit has its own heating and cooling system. Lease rates range from $3,320 to $6,220 per month.

With the tremendous pressure on long-term care facilities, Pidgeon says retirement homes are becoming unaffordable for many Canadians, costing anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 a month just for a one-bedroom unit.

“We did some analysis and figure that only 10 to 15 per cent of Canadians can afford traditional retirement. If you take out care but supply amenities, activities, maintenance and a 24-hour concierge, now 30 to 40 per cent of Canadians can afford it,” he says.

The monthly lease includes a food credit for any of the four restaurants in Wellings.

“It’s not by accident that we designed the declining balance food card so people can get together for dinner every night. More than 90 per cent of people in our buildings, although they have the capacity to cook, come down for social hour or to engage with the community. The worse thing is when people fall into loneliness and isolation. That’s how people deteriorate very quickly,” he says.

Wellings leasing centre is at 1021 Na’a Dr. S.W. in Trinity Hills, just east of Winsport Canada Olympic Park. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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