'Aging in place' options scarce in metro Atlanta
The concept of aging in place is a hot-button topic, however, the path to finding viable options for healthy and active Atlantans who are over 55 is elusive.
According to a report by the Office of Policy Development and Research entitled “Aging in Place: Facilitating Choice and Independence,” a combination of demographics and economic shifts is “creating a large and growing need for affordable and age-appropriate housing opportunities.”
“The coming decades, increasing life expectancy, a declining birth rate and the aging of the baby boom generation will dramatically increase the number and proportion of the U.S. population over the age of 65,” the report said. “This aging of the population presents a number of challenges and unanswered questions, including where people will live and how they will obtain the support and care they will need as they age while retaining as much independence as possible.”
Demographers, according to the report, estimate that by 2040, the U.S. population of those age 65 and older will double to 80 million, and their share of the total population will rise from 13 to 20 percent, partly because of greater life expectancy along with the trend in reduced birth rates across the nation.
The trend is reflected in census numbers in Georgia, Atlanta and its outlying communities. The United States Census Bureau 2022 figures show that 17.7 percent of all Georgians are over the age of 65, while in Atlanta, that figure hovers around 12 percent. DeKalb County over-65 residents comprise almost 14 percent of its 762,000 citizens, while Fulton County’s older population is around 12 percent. Most of those statistics reflect three-to-four percent increases over 2010 figures, according to the bureau.
The Aging in Place report also discussed the concept of “compression of morbidity,” meaning that people are increasingly able to live actively and largely free of disease until shortly before death.
The report said that most older adults prefer to age in place, either in their own homes or in nearby housing that can be adapted to their changing needs. The report discussed “lifelong neighborhoods that can accommodate residents of all ages by incorporating connectivity, pedestrian access and transit, neighborhood retail and services, and public spaces for social interaction.”
Options like the report discussed for healthy older citizens in the Atlanta area, however, appear to be few and far between. While it seems that senior living facilities for those with medical needs are on every corner in Atlanta and its outlying suburbs, few communities tout themselves as viable having “aging-in-place” amenities for adults with no immediate medical needs.
Many communities, like Belmont Buckhead Village and Mount Vernon Towers in Sandy Springs, focus on options and amenities for seniors who need assistance with activities of daily living, including those suffering with dementia or memory loss, as well as seniors needing an escalating level of care.
Ty White of Peachland Homes said the demand for what he terms “lifestyle-targeted” communities for active, older buyers is “tremendous,” but the supply is extremely limited.
White is building a 13-home community in Dunwoody on Roberts Drive called Swancy that is targeted for empty nesters “looking for as much living space on the main floor as possible in the same geographic area where they have been living.”
“Our buyers want open concept, sophisticated but casual, and as little outside maintenance as possible because they travel and have other interests,” White said. “The outside living space is as important as a great kitchen and the master on the main.”
White said his company has received more than 100 inquiries about Swancy, with about 50 percent of them seriously interested in the community. The pandemic, however, and the resultant economic uncertainties, like supply chain issues and labor shortages, has put a serious wrench in the process.
“I’ve been doing this for 32 years, and the last two or three years are the most complicated I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “COVID has caused a lot of stress and uncertainty.”
One development that appears to be successfully serving the demand for over-55 active lifestyle clients is Signal House near Ponce City Market in downtown Atlanta, a 21-story, 162-unit multifamily apartment community that is currently under construction.
According to a press release from developer Jamestown, Signal House is “designed for active adults and the 55+ community with a focus on health and wellness.”
“Signal House will provide a digitally integrated and socially supporting living experience for a non-digitally native demographic,” the release said. “Signal House will cater to a 55+ community that wants the convenience of technology-enabled living without the friction points.”
According to Jamestown officials, pre-leasing has begun with one, two and three-bedroom apartments expected to be available for tenants by late this year. Amenities will include access to a property app that will allow residents to book a suite of services, including housekeeping, plant watering, dry cleaning, food delivery and dining reservations and massage and personal trainer appointments,
The high-rise community will include a pool terrace with a shaded grotto lounge and outdoor shower, a multipurpose fitness room with connected outdoor fitness areas, co-working space, wellness rooms for personal treatments, a clubhouse lounge, an onsite lifestyle director and a dining room with a full commercial chef’s kitchen and connected outdoor seating.
Jamestown representatives did not return calls regarding rental rates for the units, referring all inquiries to the company’s press release regarding the development, which does not list any financial information.
Canterbury Court is also nearing completion on a 105-unit independent living expansion at its Peachtree Road location, with a projected opening date this fall.
Touted as a “Life Plan Community,” the new units include studios, one-bedroom, 831-square feet options starting at $312,000, as well as other floor plans, most under 1,000 square feet.
While Signal House and Canterbury Court appear to be headed for successful conclusions, a similar concept in Dunwoody seems to be unable to get off the ground.
In March of 2021, the Dunwoody City Council, in a split vote, approved a zoning change at 84 Perimeter Center East from C-1 Conditional (Commercial) to PC-2 (Perimeter Center District) that would allow for the construction of a mixed-use development that would contain 40,000 square feet of retail and 225 over-55 apartments on the 2.9 acre-site.
The property was formerly slated for a 13,746-square foot, 160-room hotel, but those plans were scrapped in 2019, when developer JSJ Perimeter LLC ditched the idea, citing the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the hospitality industry.
At the March 2021 meeting, the council spent a considerable amount of time passing amendments and special conditions that would ensure that over-55 age restrictions could not be circumvented, including possibly rescinding a $7 million “inducement resolution” passed by the Dunwoody Development Authority earlier that year.
The council also put into place a condition that JSJ Perimeter LLC had to apply for a land disturbance permit within two years of the change in zoning or the land would revert to its original use.
As that deadline approaches, there is no sign that the project is moving forward. On the property, the site of a former bank, a sign says, “Coming soon – 84 Perimeter,” but there is no clear indication that construction is imminent. The bank building, while empty, is still standing.
The website listed on the sign contains information about the now-abandoned hotel project, and nothing about the over-55 housing community.
City of Dunwoody officials said there has been no movement in the project since the rezoning approval, but that JSJ has not withdrawn its application either. A call from to John DiGiovanni with JSJ was not returned.
This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Rough Draft Atlanta.