Demand for retirement residences on the rise

by Neil Sharma on 28 Jul 2021

To be clear, there’s a paramount difference between a retirement residence and a long-term care home.

“I would say the major difference is that living in a retirement residence is a lifestyle choice and long-term care homes are care needs-based,” said Karen Kotanko, national director of sales and marketing at Verve Senior Living.

“Retirement residences offer a greater level of independence but can provide care services if a resident’s health changes over time. Also, each resident has their own private accommodation, exceptional dining experiences and many opportunities to join in with activities or just socialize with friends in the bistro/bar over a cocktail.”

Verve Senior Living operates 30 retirement residences across Canada with many under construction, and while its residents are independent, Verve offers medication management and mobility support, as well as assistant living and memory care for residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s. The residents’ living quarters are a mix of studios, one-bedrooms, one-bedroom-plus-dens, and two-bedrooms.

Said the daughter of a Verve resident: “My mother has lived with Verve for almost nine years. She has only good things to say about the staff, the food, the building, and the atmosphere. I have appreciated everything about her experience right from the beginning, especially the quality of staff. As I write this today, with COVID-19 a huge concern in Canada, my appreciation for the team has deepened. The management has created an environment that has resulted in a high retention rate of caring, skilled staff. Now that I cannot be there, I am even more thankful to know the staff who are with my mom each day.”

The pandemic ravaged long-term care homes, but retirement residences were spared lethal outbreaks because of diligent planning. While COVID-19 was spreading through Europe, and before mandated lockdowns in March 2020, Verve Senior Living began implementing protocols to ensure it wasn’t caught flatfooted, including temperature checks and sending nurses to check on residents twice daily, and stringently cleaning its buildings. However, because social contact was proscribed, Kotanko says keeping residents’ spirits high became a priority.

“The pandemic has taken a toll on residents, in terms of socialization, but the life enrichment and other team members would go to the residents’ suites to do activities or exercises with them,” she said. “Now that we’re coming out of the pandemic, residents are dining together and can join up for activities again. Our teams continue to keep everyone safe by cleaning constantly, wearing masks and other PPE as required.”

Verve has wellness programs that, as Kotanko says, focus on residents’ minds, bodies, and souls. In addition to fitness rooms, Verve Senior Living runs walking clubs, swimming programs, brings in musical entertainment, and for residents who crave more independent activities, there’s an on-site bistro where they can go for meals or happy hour drinks.

“It’s like going on a cruise ship, where you have your suite, but outside is where all the action is happening,” said Kotanko.

Verve Senior Living also offers real estate agents referrals, which it recently raised to $2,000 per qualified move-in, if they refer a permanent resident who is new to the database. And with Canada’s population rapidly aging, there’s going to be growing demand for retirement residences in the years ahead.

“That’s why there are so many seniors’ residences going up all over Canada—we’re anticipating a high volume of seniors moving into retirement residences within the next 10-15 years, and we’re planning for that. We’re noticing right now there’s an increase in inquiries coming in across Canada, because while COVID slowed down the inquiries a bit, now that we’re all vaccinated and opening up for tours, we’re getting a high number of people wanting to move in again.”

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