Cliff and Lynda Collins love their home of 38 years. The two-story ranch-style house in Kalispell has nearly four decades of memories.
But in recent years, said Lynda, “it’s getting harder to get everything done.” Yardwork and housekeeping tasks pile up, as do errands and grocery shopping. It’s getting more difficult for Cliff to get around. The Collinses were looking to make a change, but not leave behind the convenience or socialization of living in Kalispell. “We wanted to move in while we could still physically do it,” Lynda said.
The Collinses say they’ve found their balance of independence and preparation for the future with The Villas at Buffalo Hill, a new retirement home that is part of the Immanuel Lutheran communities. On Nov. 19, they will move into their new home on the second floor of The Villas, as one of the community’s inaugural tenants.
The Villas is part of a multi-year expansion effort on behalf of Immanuel Lutheran to offer more senior-living options to the Flathead’s aging community. The 58,000-square-foot structure on a hill that overlooks Kalispell offers a collection of 36 independent living apartments, between 900 and 1,600 square feet. The Villas will mark the most independent of Immanuel Lutheran’s senior-living options, which include nursing care, assisted living and a memory-care center.
According to Immanuel Lutheran Chief Executive Officer Jason Cronk, The Villas’ design — stylish apartments with ample natural light and access to Immanuel’s dining, worship and social offerings — is one of several strategies to address the region’s aging population.
“There are 10,000 Americans turning 70 every day. One in five Montanans are going to be over 65 by the year 2020...this large wave of older people who are turning 70 in the next 10 years are going to need a comfortable place to live,” Cronk said.
The Villas will open, along with a swimming pool, hot tub and multipurpose chapel, to residents on Nov. 1, with a grand opening celebration on Nov. 3. Cronk estimated the project cost at around $20 million, part of a five-year expansion plan funded by a $65 million bond issue.
The Villas began as a series of questions, Cronk said. Immanuel Lutheran was looking to see what seniors were hoping for in their “third third” of life — the time of reprioritization for the sunset years. Staff interviewed around 100 age- and income-qualified people in person for The Villas to gather feedback on desired amenities, pricing and programming. A survey of 500 more people validated, according to Cronk, Immanuel Lutheran’s plan to build a series of apartments that could serve both as seniors’ independent homes and an extension of a larger retirement community.
They gathered preferences from people such as the Collinses, who were looking for both socialization and easy access to care and support as the years go by.
“We didn’t want to move away from town,” Cliff said. “We wanted to be close to the hospital and all the medical stuff,” Lynda added. “We really like to be close to everything, people and shopping and everything.”
Cliff’s difficulty moving was another factor, Lynda noted. “I wanted to make sure that, for instance, if I were to get injured or something, I wouldn’t want to worry about where would we get food, where would we get everything. Everything we could possibly need is up there,” she said.
These amenities include rides to their church in Whitefish, several dining options and a constant stream of activities and social events such as card games and exercise classes.
Immanuel Lutheran began accepting refundable deposits of either $15,000 or $30,000 just over three years ago. All 36 apartments were spoken for, Cronk said, though a few have changed plans due to health issues or unforeseen circumstances. There will be a few open apartments come November, but Cronk said there’s a list of prospective tenants who are planning to move to the Villas in a few years, when they’re ready to downsize.
The pricing scheme is new to Montana, according to Cronk, but common for senior-living facilities — a one-time entrance fee that, depending on the size, ranges from $198,450 to $381,600 for a 90 percent refundable contract, and from $119,070 to $228,960 for a zero refundable contract. Monthly fees range from $2,820 to $4,225.
For Cliff and Lynda Collins, the effort of moving and associated costs of The Villas is worth it for numerous reasons — better positioning for future health-care issues and assisted living, dining options that rule out trips to the grocery store and fewer household chores.
But most important, according to Lynda, is the social aspect.
“We are very sociable people,” she emphasized. “One of the biggest concerns we’ve heard from our parents when they got older and our friends is that they hate eating alone. They don’t have anyone to talk to, they don’t have anyone to share things with, and they don’t want to be on the phone bothering people who are busy. Here are others — as you would say, kids our own age — to communicate with.”
Reporter Adrian Horton can be reached at 758-4439 or at firstname.lastname@example.org