The Elderly Population is Booming <FONT SIZE=2>How to Handle a Demand for Special Services</FONT>

How to Handle a Demand for Special Services

Will you trade in your co-op or condo for a Florida address when you reach retirement age? Don't be so sure. More and more New Yorkers are choosing to age in place in the same apartment they fell in love with when they were in their prime. If at least half of the units in your co-op or condo are occupied by people aged 60 or over, your building has evolved into a naturally occurring retirement community (NORC), a newly-coined phrase that reflects a growing trend. Even if your building doesn't have a large percentage of elderly now, it's not too soon to learn more about the NORC phenomenon. What you find out today could help you protect your real estate investmentand quality of lifedown the road.

The United States has a growing population of senior citizens; in fact, statistics show that by the year 2025, 20 percent of the population will be over the age of 65. What's more, many apartment owners are choosing to stay put when they reach retirement age. A national survey conducted in 1995 by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) revealed that 86 percent of older Americans want to stay where they are as they grow older. Co-op and condo living is ideal for seniors because there are no stairs, no lawns to mow and no snow to shovel.

A Group with Special Needs

However, co-ops and condos weren't built with the elderly in mind, so they rarely offer the social, health or personal services that older residents need to help them maintain independent and satisfying lives, points out Judith Grimaldi, an associate attorney with the law firm of Kurzman, Karelsen & Frank, LLP in Manhattan. This reality, along with the fact that in recent years certain government social services have been reduced, will present the co-op and condo community with a unique challengehow to create a private solution to a societal problem.

An aging population in your building is worth taking note of. Your dynamic 70-year-old neighbor, who jogs three times a week, is certainly self sufficient now. But what happens in ten years? If his health fails, he might become quite frail or even housebound. The building superintendent might find himself stepping in to run errands or lend a sympathetic ear, potentially leading to a situation in which the super is spending a lot of time providing social services for elderly residents and less time performing building maintenance tasks. And, if an elderly resident doesn't have housecleaning help, and keeps a three-year accumulation of newspapers, you could find that you're living down the hall from a potential health or fire hazard that could affect the market value of your real estate investment.In luxury buildings, where the residents can usually afford to pay for personal services, it won't be as much of an issue, Grimaldi adds. The smaller, independent co-ops and condos will face the greatest challenge as they struggle to address the needs of the elderly population. They can learn a lot by watching what the large complexes do as they cut their teeth.

A Model Program in Queens

In 1994 a group of concerned residents at Clearview Gardens, a 1,788-unit co-op in Whitestone, Queens, formed a volunteer group called the Clearview Assistance Program (CAP). We suspected that over 50 p ffb ercent of our population was elderly, and that a great many of them could use help with day-to-day things that younger people take for granted, but we had no way of being sure until we did a door-to-door survey, says Milt Chaikin, chairman of the Clearview Community Council, a group of co-op residents that worked with the board of directors at Clearview Gardens to get the program off the ground.


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