By Kim Steele
Killeen Daily Herald
When 69-year-old Janice Baker moved from her Killeen home into Stoney Brook of Copperas Cove in September 2011, her overwhelming emotion was relief.
"One of the reasons I moved in was because I'm almost deaf and I was scared being alone," said Baker. "I was a nervous wreck at home, because I had to take my hearing aids out at night and I couldn't hear anything. I feel a lot safer, and I'm very glad I came here."
Since relocating to the assisted-living facility, Baker has blossomed, filling the volunteer position of new resident greeter. She is working on her second baby quilt with other residents, and she plays dominoes and works on puzzles. Baker also helps another resident care for her dog.
"I love it here, and it's an absolutely wonderful place for me," said Baker. "I don't have to worry about anything. I didn't want to have to live with my family. I wanted to be independent."
Baker is one of an increasing number of aging senior citizens opting for a retirement community offering a variety of personal care and social services.
The increase comes from a growing number of people living longer; men and women reaching age 65 now have an average life expectancy of an additional 18.8 years.
Senior population growing quickly
The nation's 65- to 79-year-old population numbered 40 million in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging, and is expected to jump to 55 million in 2020. The 85-plus population is projected to rise from 5.5 million in 2010 to 6.6 million in 2020.
A 2012 Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey showed that nationally, assisted living is more affordable than skilled nursing care. The report found that the median cost of a room in an assisted-living community is less than half the median cost of a private room in a skilled nursing facility.
The report noted the median annual rate nationally in 2012 for an assisted-living room is $39,600, compared to $73,000 for a semi-private room or $81,030 for a private room at a nursing home.
In Texas, the annual cost in 2012 of an assisted-living room is $38,400, while a semi-private room in a nursing home costs $47,450 and a private room is $61,503.
About Stoney Brook
Stoney Brook opened in February 2011 and offers 40 assisted-living apartments and 20 secured memory care apartments for residents with Alzheimer's.
Elyse Cruz, community marketing director, said the new facility is about 50 percent full. Rent ranges from about $2,500 to $4,500 monthly, depending on the type of care provided, and pets are allowed.
Stoney Brook also has assisted living facilities in Belton and Hewitt.
"The purpose of assisted living is to cater to the residents' needs as they age," said Cruz. "We don't want to take anything away from them. We want to be there so they can have the assistance they need when it's time. Stoney Brook takes the things that are burdens and frees people to have fun."
Those burdens, which are paid for as part of the rent, include three daily meals, all utilities and cable television, Internet and telephone, taking medication, housekeeping, laundry services, transportation and activities.
Residents have access to a fitness room, computer stations, beauty and spa services, and indoor/outdoor dining and lounging.
Activities include morning stretch sessions, senior fit classes, Wii bowling and olympics, arts and crafts, culinary classes, book clubs and gardening.
The facility features a large community fireplace, a bistro area for snacks and wine tastings, a large shared television for games, a spa with a hydrotub and a chapel area for services and Bible studies.
A peek at a recent activity calendar shows a busy schedule of exercise, trivia, bingo, movies and popcorn; drives to Wal-Mart and the Dollar Store; puzzles, arts and crafts; and other activities.
Residents can attend seminars on health, wellness and senior benefits; family members are invited to an Alzheimer's support group.
"Our goal is to help residents have fun and keep their minds and bodies active," said Cruz. "I have noticed that the more active they are, the more they stay happy and healthy. They have a better quality of life with more activities."
Centers in Killeen
In Killeen, Linda Person manages three senior living communities owned by Lankford Interests in Houston. The properties - Tremont Apartment Homes, Stone Ranch and The Veranda at Twin Creek - cater to active senior citizens who need some assistance. Residents must be 55 or older at Tremont and Stone Ranch, and 60 or older at Veranda.
The properties, which consist of four-plexes, qualify for tax credits from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs and offer government-controlled rents ranging from $267 to $740 a month.
Veranda, with 88 apartments, was built in 2000, Stone Ranch was constructed in 2005 and has 152 apartments, and Tremont opened in January with 112 apartments.
"The residents are living independently here, but a lot of them have some type of home health care to help them with their daily needs," said Person. "It gives them the chance to have their own homes, and that's important to the elderly."
Person said the area's retired military and widowed women have boosted occupancy rates at Veranda, which is 98 percent full, and Stone Ranch, with 95 percent occupancy. Because Tremont is so new, only 52 percent of the apartments there are rented. Person said each location offers similar amenities to its residents.
They include a business center, beauty salon, fitness facility, clubhouse, clothes care center, swimming pool, jacuzzi, gourmet kitchens, outside storage, 24-hour maintenance, covered private patios, 24-hour maintenance, Internet lab and separate dining areas. Each property is fenced and has security gates that close at night.
Recently, residents participated in compiling and donating Easter baskets to the children of Families in Crisis, and they enjoyed a "Luck of the Irish" potluck brunch. Other activities included a Sit and Be Fit Exercise Time, ladies luncheon, educational hospice seminar and bingo games.
"These day-to-day activities allow the residents to interact with their neighbors," said Person. "All three properties are a community within themselves. Most of the residents really enjoy being here. They love coming to the luncheons and meetings, and they just feel comfortable together."
Contact Kim Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7567.