The Perks of Living in a Senior Community … even if you yet aren’t one

I live in a condo complex owned and run by a Property Management company, not by individual owners. When hubby and I sold our last home in a hot market, the last thing we wanted was to rent someone else’s condo so we’d be at their mercy about if they decided to sell and we’d have to move, or that they could raise rents till their heart’s content. This complex was erected, some time in the early 1970s, and back in the day, this complex was touted as a luxury property, where most renters came as empty nesters after their homes were emptied and became too big for them, as well as a lot of divorcees.

The complex is well known in the northern part of my city, and although there are some quite large units, comparably to today’s ‘closets’ passing for condos here in my city of Toronto, these three buildings were never particularly promoted as a place for children. Many mid-life people moving here from their homes liked that aspect.

Through the years and decades, the buildings were always well kept with lots of amenities at our doorsteps without having to walk outside. These features obviously became draws for seniors to move here. And for many that have moved here from their previous homes – they never leave. I have to say that this gives me the creeps when I think about the reality that for many, it becomes the last stop before the final stop. My own father moved into the complex in the mid 70s after he FINALLY divorced my mother. He lived here for approximately fifteen years before his untimely death – his last stop before the final stop.

The grounds are vast and beautifully manicured with gazebos, fountains, and walking trails. I am literally a three to five minute drive to three major highways. Within our complex we have a convenience plus store, a dry cleaners, a library, tennis court, pool table room, swimming pool, sauna, gym and security at the gates. The biggest bonus of all is that they don’t build condos like these anymore, tight building budgets and cheap materials preferred over better now, the golden days are gone. These buildings also have what we call ‘rent control’ on them too, as our government deems any buildings built before 1990, eligible for rent control, meaning the rent can only go up so much annually without gauging, as dictated by governmental rate increases. These units are practically soundproof because the walls are made of plaster. In fact, anything heavy to hang on the walls must be drilled with a cement drill just to get the screws in. But the size of these units are often the sizes of some people’s houses. My husband and I moved here after selling our last home, for the same reasons many seniors do – let go of the home responsibilities and be able to travel through winter without house worries. For six years we lived in a 2000 square foot three bedroom unit. I recently moved to a one bedroom in the same building with 1200 square feet. The smallest place I’ve lived in since leaving home for the first time, but still, huge comparatively to today’s builds where a brand new condo penthouse will typically get you at most 1200 square feet, and the average one bedroom around 500-600 square feet.

At first when my husband approached me to move here I didn’t want to. I think it was the stigma I had set in my mind – the last stop thing I told him I couldn’t shake from my mind, but eventually, I succumbed. Admittedly, I feel like a ‘baby’ in this building because it is predominantly seniors who live here, most of them living here for years and decades. But I have made friends with several older folks here who always have advice to offer and helpful tips. And because I’ve been here a few years myself, already comfortable with my surroundings, and knowing anywhere else I’d move, I’d be living in a shoebox, I decided to stay here and move to another unit after my husband passed, instead of looking elsewhere.

But there are more perks. Besides all of the above, the management looks after the building well. Throughout the year we get notices to enter to fulfill each unit’s maintenance such as: drain cleaning, checking air vents, fire alarm testing, and we make maintenace requests for anything requiring fixing. Each unit is renovated before new tenancy – including wood floor resurfacing, new floor tiles and cabinets, new appliances and painting. When we first moved here we had put in granite counters in the kitchen and bathrooms, new light fixtures and draperies, and paid the painter to paint colors of my choice. I did the same when I moved into this unit. My friend Vinnie was our longtime real estate agent and a builder, so he got me a great builder’s deal on granite, and he switched out all my light fixtures and draperies from my other unit and installed them where I am now. What a good friend!

And still there are perks! What I love about living among so many seniors (besides the peace and quiet), is that we have a great guy as our member of parliament who looks after the district I live in. That would be the equivalent to an American person’s Congressman. Because there are three buildings to the complex with approximately two hundred units in each, we have a sizeable senior community right here. Because of this, many government programs are brought right to our doorstep! First and foremost luxury – a voting station is set up in our library for our elections. We don’t even have to step outside! Typically, when we have our elections, one can find a place to vote, virtually, almost anywhere near where everyone lives, most within walking distance in Canada, but having one right in the building is so convenient. We also had Covid vaccinations, boosters and flu shots organized to have done here too. We received emails inviting anyone to come down to the library last fall to have our QR codes validated for our vaccine passport, made into a business card size code and laminated so that seniors who weren’t familiar with digital would be able to carry the card in their wallets. Of course I went down to get one!

Why not? Yes, people who use phones as appendages  may not be interested, but I can tell you that last fall, while my bestie was visiting from UK, we went out to restaurants quite a few times and had to show our QR codes in order to enter. I can say with certainty, when it comes to my phone that feels as though it’s been possessed by Google and Microsoft with the shenanigans going on with it, it takes me a moment to first dig up my phone out of my bottomless purse, punch in my password code, then go looking for the icon where I downloaded the code to, only to find once again, my icons have been moved around, it is literally faster for me to grab my wallet (so large and easy to spot) and pull out my QR code card! Okay, I know not everyone is thrilled about vaccines, but for me, it’s been a thrill not to have to drive far in my congested city and stand in lines to get vaxxed.

For now, it doesn’t look like I’m moving anywhere soon. But in my head and my heart, I feel I have more living to do and it isn’t here in my city. My bucket list is long, and before my husband took ill, we were considering moving to Mexico. Now alone, I don’t have quite the courage to continue that plan without my husband, but if I keep putting it out into the universe, I believe something is going to give. For right now, the grass isn’t looking too much greener anywhere else.

©DGKaye2022