What’s an empty-nester baby boomer to do? There are plenty of options for group and assisted living. But up to now, downsizing boomers who want to continue to live independently and age gracefully in place in their own house have had little to choose from.
“When people talk about going on to ‘the next stage,’ they usually go to assisted living, which is typically a six-storey-high apartment building with very large floor areas,” says interior designer Cynthia Henderson, co-founder at Toronto-based Culver & Henderson Building Design Inc. “The units may have a full kitchen, but there will be a big dining room and other communal services downstairs.”
She and developer Trillium Global Humanitarian Developments saw a gap in the housing market. Culver & Henderson Building Design Inc. and their team did the master planning, architecture and interior design for North Street Greens in Stayner, a planned, five-acre community of 36 affordable, energy-efficient contemporary homes that has just broken ground in the southern Ontario town of Stayner, with occupancy slated for Spring 2018. “We worked out how many houses we could fit on the site so it still feels comfortable,” she says.
“They’re freehold, so you buy it and do your own thing,” she says. “There are no amenities; nothing is shared. You won’t get monthly bills from a condominium board. North Street Greens addresses the needs of the growing downsizing market. I’m not familiar with other developments like it,” she says, “and I’ve focused over the past 10 years on people living in place in accessible environments.”
Residences are available in detached, semi-detached and townhome configurations, trimmed in wood and stone, in an updated Arts-and-Crafts aesthetic. The 1,000-square-foot bungalow, with two bedrooms, two baths, driveway and garage, starts at $339,900; the 1,800-square-foot two-storey at $450,000.
As for sustainability, “We’re focusing on making it as green as possible,” Ms. Henderson says, “with energy-efficient appliances, low-e windows, and super-insulated roof and walls.” There will be no more drafty electric-outlet boxes, with winter winds whipping through breaks in the vapour barrier, thanks to the innovative sandwich-panel walls with integral wiring tracks.
Doorways and corridors are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. In the two-storey houses, closets on the two floors align, making it easy to install a personal elevator should the need arise. “Building a barrier-free house isn’t necessarily more expensive, but you have to keep it in mind throughout the design process,” she says.
“If you weren’t aware of it, you wouldn’t think that the house was designed with aging in mind,” she says. No visual cues scream “An older [or not fully abled-bodied] occupant lives here.” Indeed, a few young families have bought houses, which will make for a more diverse and interesting community.
Once you have removed physical barriers to aging in place, another issue remains: loneliness and isolation. “Loneliness is a big part of growing older and isolation does not help improve one’s attitude,” she says.
Fortunately, communal gathering places are nearby. The site plan includes a meditation garden at the stormwater retention pond, which will serve as a place to meet or to enjoy a few moments’ privacy outdoors.
People buy neighbourhood as well as house. North Street Greens will rise on former farmland near Stayner’s Main Street business district. The location will be convenient for those without cars. A community centre adjoins the site, Tim Horton’s is around the corner and the main shopping street is a walk away. By car, recreation areas, dining and entertainment attractions abound, as well as Home Depot and Wal-Mart, at the regional centres of Collingwood (15 minutes) and Barrie (35 minutes).
Of course, within the development, the close proximity of all the houses will encourage frequent spontaneous, serendipitous meetings and conversations, the kind that engender lasting friendships.
Cynthia Henderson will be moderator at the Accessibility Summit at IIDEXCanada at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Wednesday, Nov. 29, from 11:00 a.m. to 1.pm. For more information, please visit https://www.thebuildingsshow.com/en/seminars/seminar-program.html?seminar=accessibility-summit.