Harmony Village Sheppard

Urban village helps boomers age in place
By Zoe Ackah, Epoch Times
December 2, 2013 Updated: December 2, 2013    

The Ontario government has realized the only way to manage the skyrocketing costs of the province’s aging population is to encourage seniors to “age in place,” in other words to stay in their homes and out of government-run facilities for as long as possible.

Not only is it cost-effective—most seniors prefer independence. 

But as people age, the amount of support needed increases. If seniors can’t get the necessary help, what was once independence can become dangerous isolation.

As of January 2012, there were 20,000 Ontario seniors on the waiting list for appropriate housing. Even with a partial government subsidy, seniors’ homes are extremely expensive. 

Jack Pong, president of City Core Developments, became aware of the problem when searching for supportive housing for his elderly parents. 

“I was appalled,” Pong said. He felt most options offered far too little, and charged far too much.

Pong, who has been in the development and property management business since 1976, decided to take action. 

“I tried to design something better,” he said. And so the Harmony Village concept was born. 

Harmonious villages

As a first step, Pong enlisted the help of members of the Canadian Angus Reid Forum over age 60. A survey was carried out and 85 percent of respondents indicated they wanted to live in an “urban village environment with convenient amenities.”However, 65 percent found this type of community hard to come by.

“It’s universal,” said Pong. “There needed to be something built with more thought to giving comfort to seniors—not just health and wellness [but also including] all the fun things they want to enjoy.”

Pong plans to build three vibrant seniors’ communities in Ontario that offer everything seniors need at every stage of retirement and are integrated into the community at large. 

The first Harmony Village project, located in Scarborough, will launch soon, on the heels of a Canadian Over 50s Housing Magazine award—”Most Outstanding Over 50s Housing Developer in Canada in 2013″—for Pong and City Core.

The Scarborough community has also responded. More than 2,000 people have registered for the project so far. 

Harmony Village Sheppard will have four phases, and will include two condominiums: one high-rise holding almost 300 units, the a mid-rise building holding nearly 200. In later phases a third building with around 350 rental residences for seniors and a row of townhomes will complete the project.

Clustered services

A massive 35,000 sq. ft. community centre and retail facility lies at the heart of the project, tying the community together, complete with a Sheppard LRT extension stop at the doorstep.

St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux Centre will expand into the site, and provide seniors with quality programming. Currently they are cramming an impressive variety of over 80 seniors’ programs into 3,500 sq. ft.—everything from home housekeeping and meals-on-wheels to recreational day programming in multiple languages

St. Paul’s 150 employees and 650 dedicated volunteers will likely appreciate the swank new digs, which will now include a pool and sauna. All St. Paul’s services are either fully or partially funded by the government, and for Harmony Village residents they will be an elevator ride away.

The retail portion of the community space includes a pharmacy, medical offices, physiotherapy facilities, coffee shops, and a large restaurant. 

Wealth preservation?

From a practical perspective, the community space provides needed room for the most interesting aspect of this condo project—pay-per-use services.

Residents can live in the condos from any age, but they can add-on services like housekeeping, 24-hour emergency response from onsite staff, and catered meal service exclusive to condo residences, without paying for what they don’t need.

This model is also ideal for couples whose needs at age 80 may suddenly become drastically different than previously. When a spouse needs additional support, the couple can still remain together in their own home, arranging for what they need in-house.

Downsizing to a smaller home will free up money, but living in a condo you can sell as opposed to renting in a costly seniors’ home allows residents to hold on to home equity longer.

A heart of (LEED) gold

The project itself is incredibly green. City Core is seeking LEED Gold. The building utilizes geothermal heating and cooling and solar power. A cogeneration system is also employed, using natural gas to generate heat so in case of city wide power failure, the project can continue to function off the grid.

The air quality is very high with fresh air piped into each individual unit. Hydronic heating in the floor is an optional upgrade as well.

According to the current plans, 44 garden plots will be available to residents to grow vegetables, and of course, electric car outlets and car sharing are on the agenda.

The suites themselves employ universal design principles. Doorways and hallways are wider, outlets are raised, light switches are lowered, and an industrial designer has been let loose, creating built-in Murphy beds with desks underneath and kitchen countertops that lower to become dining tables.

Unit sizes range from studios to three-bedroom penthouses suites. Prices start from $200,000. For more information visit the showroom at 3260 Sheppard Ave. East or harmonyvillage.ca