Meeting the Needs of the Baby Boomer Generation with Style, Dignity and Grace
~By Cheryl Long
In the year 2030, the youngest of the baby boomer generation will reach the age of 65. At the same time, Statistics Canada reports that one in four people in Canada will be 65 or older, representing a steady two-decade increase in the proportion of seniors making up the country’s population.
That evolution in demographics will undoubtedly have an impact on services and industries across Canada. One that is poised to feel the effect of an aging population is the housing market with predictions of increased demand for low-maintenance homes and a potential decrease in price for single-family homes as that group gives up their family residences in favour of less time spent shovelling snow and mowing grass.
Christenson Developments, located in Edmonton, Alberta, is part of the Christenson Group of Companies. Founded in the early 1970s, the business is owned by partners Greg Christenson and Peter Dirksen. They’ve built thousands of multi-family homes in the Edmonton and surrounding areas over the years but the most recent focus has been on the needs of the baby boomer generation. Today, they’re not just building homes; they’re developing well-planned urban communities designed to meet the needs of the “young senior” with style, dignity and grace.
A home in a Christenson community is more than four walls and a roof. It’s a new way of living that offers residents the kind of amenities that bring people together, whether it’s a stroll along the walking trails, a visit to one of the local restaurants or a quick trip to the nearby shops. The concept encourages an active lifestyle where people can socialize as much or as little as they like, and become part of a larger, sustainable community.
Bard Golightly is the chief operating officer for Christenson Developments and the national president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association. He’s been with Christenson since the early 2000s, specializing in residential real estate development or as it’s known in the industry, “pre-shovel work”. The company has put their efforts into three streams of business — a four-storey wood frame condominium, senior-oriented assisted living in multi-storey structures and, in the last five years, a duplex bungalow that is proving to be especially appealing to the 45 to 70 age group who enjoy the option of a finished basement and a layout that’s conducive to entertaining.
Duplex bungalow is a popular option
“We target what we call an active adult market; our niche has been to target the adult buyer. We’re not targeting young families,” Golightly said. “To a large degree, our buyers are making a lifestyle decision. They want to live in nice home, whether it’s in a four-storey, condo-style building or whether it’s in a bungalow. They want the comfort of knowing it’s secure and it’s going to be looked after when they travel or when they’re spending time with their grandchildren.
“We’re very big on creating community. It’s actually a good part of our core values, regardless if it’s our condo product or our seniors’ product,” Golightly said. “Underlying everything we do is all about creating community but we try to do it in a way that allows people to create community on their terms. We don’t force it.”
Their developments cater to a wide age range, beginning with the active adult lifestyle residences that often attract empty nesters determined to downsize so they can spend more time travelling or enjoying recreational activities. These homes offer the architectural features and premium finishing’s sought by discerning homeowners, located in a vibrant urban atmosphere. The luxury retirement lifestyle draws an older group who still enjoy independent living but know that assisted living is available in their community when the time comes for extra care. Quality rental lifestyle accommodations combine affordability and amenities ideal for mature couples and singles.
Communities bring people together naturally
One of the communities’ most attractive features is the natural way they draw people together. It’s reminiscent of the days when people lived in a village setting and met their neighbours while out for an early evening walk or during a quick trip to the local store. Knowing your neighbours not only provides an opportunity to socialize but it creates an added sense of security, particularly for those who enjoy regular travel.
“We’ve always believed that there’s a sense of security that comes with the community … eyes on the street, neighbours looking out for neighbours,” he explained.
“There are reasons that the folks that live there get together, whether it’s about running their corporation or they plan their own barbecues or social activities. We try to lay the foundation, as part of the building plan, to allow people to start to get to know each other. It’s our belief that they will slowly but surely gravitate to that.”
Christenson Developments’ first leap into the integrated Urban Village market began with a project in downtown Edmonton known as Railtown, which reclaimed the downtown rail yards and turned the space into an area comprised of condominium units and apartments, a new downtown park and easy access to the area’s entertainment and cultural amenities.
Over the next few years, Christenson Developments increased development of the duplex bungalow product, Golightly said. He also expects to see “a good deal of enthusiasm and energy” go into seniors’ housing with care. Their markets are at two ends of the spectrum — the younger, more active adult looking for a well-designed condo and the aging senior who wants to settle in a community where more extensive care is available as time goes by.
Christenson Developments is catering to an educated buyer who isn’t afraid to research online before approaching the builders. “They know what they want and they’re well-informed and so it’s actually very good,” Golightly said.” They come to us to a large degree with an informed view of what they want, they’ve spent time researching, and that changes the way that we approach things. It’s not their first time in the purchasing process.”
Industry awards serve as great motivators
Clearly, the builders are doing something that people like. Not only do their new communities gain widespread attention, but they’ve been honoured multiple times with industry awards and recognition. Christenson Developments has received multiple Builder of the Year awards, which not only confirms that they’re headed in the right direction but serves as a great motivator for the company’s staff and leadership team.
“When you win an award, you know you have to work that much harder to get the next one. That’s a good thing in my view. It’s a motivator for excellence,” Golightly explained. “We’re very active about submitting our products for award submissions. We know that by doing that we’re staying competitive in the marketplace. It does keep us sharp.”
There’s no question that a sense of pride permeates through the development of every Christenson community. While there’s a strong commitment to values, it’s also important to strive for excellence, Golightly said. That means incorporating environmentally responsible products where possible and constructing to Built Green standards.
“We believe we are doing something that is a contribution to the community. We are proud of what we do. I think maybe that’s something that we don’t talk about very much but it’s very important to us that we believe we’re doing our wee bit to make difference.”
To learn more about the communities of Christenson Developments, visit www.cdlhomes.com.
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