Living senior style
June 25, 2008 · Updated 2:47 PM
When senior citizens get to the point at which taking care of a house and yard on their own becomes too much work, the decision to move is one of the most difficult they have to make.
They look for a place that is comfortable and easy to care for, and that will provide them with security and peace of mind.
South Whidbey residents have not had much of a choice before now but to move to North Whidbey or off the island to find senior housing.
But a new development in Freeland is offering independent, low-maintenance living to people ages 55 and over. The Village at Maple Ridge, a planned residential development at the intersection of Scott and Newman roads, is a tract of condominiums marketed specifically toward senior citizens who want or need to downsize.
Construction on the development started last year, when Freeland businessman Erl Bangston broke ground. Just two months into the new year, about a dozen of the 41 condominiums are occupied
Helgard and Bob Fridell moved into one of the condos in December. Prior to the move, they had lived in Freeland, in the same house, for over 20 years. That house had a large garden and yard. Last year, the work to maintain the house and yard became too much. Maple Ridge, they decided, was the place to go.
With Bangston's property management company, Tara Properties, taking care of the lawns and landscaping at Maple Ridge, the Fridells -- who are in their 80s -- knew they had found the right place.
"Based on my health, I couldn't continue to care for my garden," Helgard Fridell said. "It is wonderful to know the lawn will be cared for -- and they even blow the dirt and leaves away from the front entrances."
The development also sports sidewalks and paved streets convenient for walking. Bob Fridell, who enjoyed walking to downtown Freeland from his previous home, will still be able to do that from Maple Ridge.
"This was a good decision we made for ourselves, before our kids had to do it for us," he said. "We're able to enjoy the move."
Bangston said he began thinking about building a retirement community six years ago, when some of his friends began searching for a place to retire.
"My friends traveled all over the West looking at different developments before settling in Oregon," he said. "I began envisioning a project for South Whidbey, and came up with Maple Ridge."
The homes in the development come in three sizes, ranging from 1,040 to 1,390 square feet. All share common walls in the garages. Sale prices generally range from $162,500 to $186,000, Bangston said, although one couple spent $193,000 to make sure their townhouse had the options they wanted.
In addition to the price of the home, Maple Ridge residents pay monthly condo fees of $215 to $225, depending on the size of their home. Homebuyers are able to choose from a selection of exterior colors, rock wainscoting, roof colors, interior paint, millwork, cabinets and carpet. The condos use propane gas furnaces, fireplaces and appliances.
The designs of the condos are as much a selling point for some as are the maintenance issues. Emily Seaman moved in with her dog Dolly in early December.
"As soon as I heard about the development, I put my name in," she said. "My daughter told me I would never be able to move my baby grand piano in, but I did and it looks wonderful in my living room."
Seaman also had a wall placed between the living room and dining room to accommodate her oil paintings.
The condos are built on one-story plans for ease of movement by residents. Lucy Lundquist, who at 95 is Maple Ridge's oldest resident, likes the absence of stairs. Her old two-story home of 43 years was on 10 acres and was too large for her. Forced to use a walker after hip surgery, she had her new house built with lower counters and a wheelchair-accessible shower.
"I'm happier here and am independent up to a point," she said. "This home suits me well."
Maple Ridge is not finished. Later this year, Langley's H &H Properties expects to begin construction of an assisted care facility at the site. The 78-unit development will cater to seniors who need help with daily activities such as preparing meals and keeping medical conditions in check.
Maple Ridge is served by its own sewer system, which uses a processing plant to recycle waste water. Recycled water will be used to flush toilets in the assisted care facility and to water plants and lawns. Drinking water is provided by the Freeland Water District.
Though building the development cost more than Bangston predicted -- the sewer system came in at $160,000 over budget -- he said he will make a profit from his venture. Bangston is satisfied with the results of his concept on all levels.
"The buyers are customers and friends. I feel very responsible," Bangston said.
He said he expects construction of all the condos to be finished by April 1.