HOMEFINDER: Catering to seniors at various stages

Company tries to maintain residents’ independence as long as possible

The planned Cherish at Central Park development will bring ownership and rental living spaces for seniors to the central location at the corner of Jacklin and Jenkins roads in Langford.

Asked what The Cherish Way means to her, Micky Fleming doesn’t hesitate.

The president and CEO of Cherish Community Living Ltd., whose seniors-focused property management and trading company is in the process of trademarking the slogan, says it “really is about personal freedom.”

Giving the mature adults in its buildings the freedom to make personal decisions, about everything from deciding whether to buy or rent living space, to determining when more care might be needed and how it will be delivered, sets Cherish apart.

Cherish cut its teeth on seniors housing by building – and operating since 2006 – the 126-unit Alexander Mackie Lodge on Station Avenue for the Royal Canadian Legion.

It is well into the pre-construction phase for its newest project, Cherish at Central Park. It’s an ambitious combination of owned condominiums and independent living rental apartments aimed at the 55 and up crowd, to be built on property Cherish is buying from the Redeemer Lutheran Church of Victoria at the corner of Jacklin and Jenkins roads in Langford.

While the new project is not being built by the church, it is nonetheless a partnership with the congregation. In fact, their new place of worship and related rooms and facilities will take up a large part of the ground floor of the building, a consideration that will see the church retain ownership of what is known as an “airspace parcel.”

Fleming, an accountant by trade and a Langford girl who is steeped in the history of seniors living in this country, spoke with 400 seniors before taking on the Mackie project to find out what was important to them and how they felt the industry should be run. That knowledge produced a philosophy that Fleming and business partner Dana Adams, her sister, have incorporated into Cherish’s business plan.

The split of owned to rented suites at the new residence will see 39 market-based condos starting at about $225,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit of about 600 square feet, and 130 rental units that Fleming says go for slightly less than the industry average for independent living with available in-house amenities.

The beauty of having both types of suite available in one building is people can move from owned space to a rental unit where everything is taken care of, whenever they feel ready, she says. Cherish at Central Park won’t operate under the auspices of Island Health, but will facilitate home support for residents who need more care. For example, Cherish provides space at the Mackie Lodge for Beacon Community Services staff for home health care visits.

Some prospective clients have appreciated the options at the facility. One man, upon doing the math for the cost of a rental suite and services compared to his pension, found he’d be in the hole at the end of the month. Fleming showed him how he could purchase a condo in the building for $100,000 down and have money leftover come month’s end, even after paying the modest strata fees.

“It’s an opportunity to be preserving your estate for your family and living in an environment that meets your needs,” she says.

“We like to say we create human habitat. Our job is to help them help themselves and to keep that independence as long as possible. It’s that whole human approach and treating people with respect. It’s giving them a voice.”

The commitment to creating community has also led to some tough decisions, such as when Fleming felt compelled to turn down an offer to buy a block of condos as an investment.

In the end, the goal, Fleming says, is to help residents avoid the “three plagues of aging”: loneliness, helplessness and boredom. By having in-house amenities such as a coffee house/bistro, fitness facility, hair salon, esthetics area, open courtyard and scooter parking, and being centrally located in a shopping and recreation amenity area, residents will have plenty of opportunities to thrive and be social if they wish,  Fleming says.

Q: WHAT SHOULD SENIORS LOOK FOR WHEN DOWNSIZING?

Find a real estate agent knowledgeable about the needs of seniors. Agents should be familiar with a variety of senior housing options, scams and possible schemes affecting seniors in your area and offer their expertise in these areas.

Those that live in their homes for many years may not know the current value so be careful not to overvalue or undervalue your home. Review comparative market analysis and the MLS listings to keep an eye on what homes are selling for in your area and compare.

If you have a financial adviser, seek help from them about the financial implications of selling your home and what it may mean to the rest of your finances, taxes or investments.

Less is more, take time to remove excess furniture, family photos or anything that could help declutter the home and make it appear more spacious. This helps potential buys see their lives on the mantle and not yours. Take the time to look at what you want to keep, what you may want to sell, and what you may want to donate as you downsize.

GREATER VICTORIA MARKET UPDATE » AS OF OCT. 20/14 COURTESY VICTORIA REAL ESTATE BOARD

» 356 / 512 — NET UNCONDITIONAL SALES/ TOTAL,  OCT. 2013

» 556 / 979 –NEW LISTINGS / TOTAL,  OCT. 2013

» 3,988 / 4,322 –ACTIVE RESIDENTIAL LISTINGS / TOTAL,  OCT. 2013