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What will the retirement home of tomorrow look like?

Seniors housing is in the midst of a transition as retiring baby boomers drive up demand for 'age in place' alternatives

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Chartwell Retirement Residences, Canada’s largest seniors housing provider, opened the Westmount Retirement Residence in Kitchener, Ont., along with a 161-bed long-term care facility on the same site, in 2012.

Jennifer Lewington/The Globe and Mail

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Residents Don and Betty Allgeier look out from a balcony to the Laurentian Wetland. After Mr. Allgeier required hip replacement surgery last year, the eighty-something couple decided it was time to look for a retirement home that offered services to make life a bit easier. Mrs. Allgeier was pleasantly surprised by the freedom and privacy. “No one comes in unless we say you can.”

Jennifer Lewington/The Globe and Mail

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A living room at the Westmount Retirement Residence in Kitchener. The seniors housing sector is attracting a mix of players. Some are real estate investment trusts that focus on generating cash distributions to investors from owning and managing a complete range of seniors housing facilities. Others are pension funds attracted to asset-backed investments with a stable cash flow. A few are private equity firms.

Jennifer Lewington/The Globe and Mail

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Another view of a one-bedroom and den suite. In April, RBC Dominion Securities Inc. forecast the potential nationwide demand for an additional 4,000 to 5,000 private-pay suites annually for the next 15 years. RBC analysts singled out boomers as “likely to be demanding in terms of their desire for hotel or resort-like settings and higher levels of service.”

Jennifer Lewington/The Globe and Mail

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Anna Hosie, left, Rita Coxson and Betty Brown outside the main door of Westmount Retirement Residence, with general manager Lina Frijio. (Visiting Yorkshire Terrier belongs to a Westmount staff person.) By 2025, Statistics Canada expects that Canadians over the age of 75 will account for 9.1 per cent of the population, up from 6.7 per cent currently.

Jennifer Lewington/The Globe and Mail

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This property overlooks the Laurentian Wetland. Chartwell and other retirement home operators are gearing up for the greying tsunami, analysts say. “If you are spending $30- to $40-million on a project, you are developing it for the longer term,” says Colin Johnston, president of research, valuation and advisory in Canada at Altus Group Ltd., a global real estate consulting firm with a seniors housing practice group. “So you are attracting the seniors of today but you are also trying to win over the influencers – the children of seniors.”

Jennifer Lewington/The Globe and Mail

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