Athens’ Senior Living Facilities Adapt To Increasing Elderly Population

Based on the population estimates from 2010 to 2017, there was a 34 percent increase in the number of people in Clarke County 65 years of age or older. (Graph/Kristen Adaway, Data Source: U.S. Census)

“New apartment communities [in Athens] such as Columbia Brookside and Lakewood Hills Senior Village have been built with units that accommodate needs of older adults, such as roll-in showers, grab bars and widened doorways,” said Vogt about two communities that offer affordable senior living for people 62 years or older, and 55 years and older, respectively.

Columbia Brookside, which is described on its website as a “mixed-income community,” has varying rates based on a resident’s level of income and provides housing for low-income families as well as seniors.

Lakewood Hills Senior Village offers 1 bedroom/1 bathroom units from $550 and 2 bedroom/1 bathroom units starting at $627, according to the facility’s website.

Shown above is the exterior of Lakewood Hills Senior Village in Athens, Georgia. This picture was taken on Sept. 8, 2018. (Photo/Kristen Adaway, kristen.adaway@gmail.com)

Courtney Haney, the marketing and support services manager at St. Mary’s Highland Hills Village, a senior living facility in Watkinsville, said the staff has seen an increase in need throughout all three levels of care the facility offers. These levels include independent living services, memory care and assisted living.

We tend to maintain 98 percent to 100 percent occupancy month to month, which has increased our waiting lists substantially,” Haney said. “With Clarke and Oconee becoming even more popular places to retire, we imagine the need will continue to increase.”

The waiting list Haney referred to is for prospective residents who are looking to live at Highland Hills Village, but are unable to move in immediately due to full occupancy. Some residential facilities require a refundable or nonrefundable deposit to be put on their waiting list, but Highland Hills Village does not.

“All we require is a contact name and number. There are no fees or contractual agreements associated with our waiting list,” Haney explained. “We place a courtesy call to the listed contact when we have a room coming available, providing them time to think about a final decision, and an invitation for an additional tour and dinner to follow.”

The facility does not offer emergency housing for seniors however, due to a “full census and lengthy waiting list,” according to Haney.

Nationwide Waiting List Issue

The 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Survey of Residential Care Facilities said 29 percent of senior housing communities reported having an active waiting list, with seven being the average number of people who were waiting for beds.

Haney also said a brand new memory care unit with 34 beds was built in 2010, which allowed the facility to expand not only in the number of beds, but also the quality of care.

“We continue to address the growth by expanding services on our current campus in order to maintain the small-community feel that has made us so successful since opening in 1985,” Haney added.

According to the Highland Hills Village website, one and two-bedroom units are available for residents. Each unit has fully equipped kitchens, personal balconies, patios and controls for heating and air conditioning.

“62 percent of residents are with us in the independent living portion of our community, which is also where we provide the largest number of rentable units,” Haney said.

In total, Highland Hills Village has 76 independent living apartments, 18 assisted living units and 34 memory care units.

“Builders and developers build housing based on the demands of the market,” Vogt said. “In a college town, builders and developers focus on student housing.”

However, she added the Georgia Department of Community Affairs makes efforts and provides incentives to builders and developers to build affordable housing, such as the Housing Tax Credit Program, which gives federal and state tax credit to rental property owners who designate all or a portion of their units for low-income residents.

Kristen Adaway is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

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