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Newest retirement homes reflect changing demographics

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HarborChase of Wilmington is the latest retirement community to crop up on Shipley Road.


By Ken Mammarella
Special to Delaware Business Times

This fall, a total of three retirement facilities will operate along a single 1.5-mile stretch of Shipley Road in North Wilmington. They were built decades apart, but taken together they demonstrate the shifting demographics of Delaware.

In 1990, the U.S. Census counted 80,735 Delawareans age 65 and older, or 12 percent of the population. Its latest estimate is 174,000 Delawareans in that age range, or 18 percent of the population.

HarborChase of Wilmington is opening this fall, joining Sunrise of Wilmington, which opened in 2004, and Shipley Manor, which opened in 1984.

All three operate under nationwide for-profit companies.

“If they succeed, seniors who live in Brandywine Hundred will be the better for it,” said Yrene Waldron, executive director of the Delaware Health Care Facilities Association, which represents almost all of the state’s assisted-living and nursing homes. “They all have a different flavor or culture.”

HarborChase has 64 independent-living and 32 memory-care apartments, featuring “social, devotional, fitness and recreational opportunities” and a concierge service that make for “luxury senior living.”

“This is not your mother’s senior living community,” said Tim Smick, chairman of Harbor Retirement Associates, the Florida firm behind the $31.5 million project.

His father, Frank, was a pastor between 1970-87 at Faith Presbyterian Church, two miles away. Building
a business that could serve the same families his father served “is very gratifying. It’s coming full circle.”

Shipley Manor has 63 independent-living apartments and suites, 15 assisted-living apartments and suites and 82 skilled nursing units.

Sunrise has 69 assisted-living and memory-care units in a 54,000 square-foot Victorian-style mansion. Features include tablet technology that marries residents’ dietary needs and preferences with Sunrise menus, “making each meal a personalized dining experience.”

Delaware regulates nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, but not independent-living facilities. The rules for nursing home require a certificate of public review, which includes a look at occupancy rates and potential needs. When Dover’s Center at Eden Hill this year opened the state’s first nursing home in a half-dozen years, nursing homes were 91 to 97 percent occupied.

“We’re looking at assisted-living regulations and will be expanding them, such as establishing staffing standards, clarifying regulations for memory care and separately regulating memory care,” whether in assisted-living or nursing homes, said Mary Peterson, director of the state Division of Health Care Quality.

Of course, Shipley Road is not the only growth area. Ivy Gables, an assisted-living facility in Ardentown, in April sought approval for a 22,000-square-foot addition, doubling its size. Owner George Loudon said the addition would include 20 assisted apartments and nine dementia-care rooms.

The industry’s biggest challenge is staffing, according to Waldron, whose association includes 34 assisted living homes with 2,195 beds and 50 nursing homes with 5,118 beds. “We need to attract more young people to this very worthy and rewarding  field. They’re aren’t just enough folks.”

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