Members of the Wellington Senior Advisory Committee got an update on the status of senior housing in the village at their meeting Thursday, Jan. 10.
Having more affordable senior housing was among one of the recommended priorities that came out of a senior citizens task force back in 2005.
Wellington Principal Planner Bill Nemser told committee members that Wellington has been making changes to attract senior housing to the area.
“We’ve been taking baby steps toward some housing initiatives, specifically senior housing and how we can foster it in Wellington,” he said.
Though he said Wellington has no plans to construct its own facilities, it has been trying to encourage private entities to invest in local senior housing.
Nemser said the goal is to make Wellington a community where seniors can stay for their golden years.
“The philosophy behind this is we wanted people to have the option to age in place,” he said. “We want to encourage people to be able to remain in their home as long as possible.”
He said Wellington has made three important moves toward attracting senior-friendly housing to the area: giving density bonuses to developers who build senior housing, allowing for congregate living facilities and encouraging senior communities.
Nemser noted that in order to encourage reinvestment in some of the village’s aging neighborhoods, developers who include senior housing could get up to 20 percent more units allowed.
“It would be mixed development,” he said. “But it would have to have some portion dedicated toward seniors.”
Committee Chair Tony Fransetta said he was concerned that the measure benefits developers.
“I have been advocating for seniors for half of my life,” he said. “I always say you don’t mix seniors with young people in areas that are depressed to start with.”
But Nemser said the goal is to give seniors options.
“The idea is that the area won’t be depressed once it’s been reinvested in,” he said. “My research says that it’s important for a community to give options to seniors. If they want to live in a community that is mixed, that should be fine. If they want to live in a senior community, there are those, too. Offering the maximum options is the ideal way to go.”
Congregate living facilities, which allow for group home–style living, are also an option. Nemser pointed to Wellington Elder Care, which was recently approved for a 21-bed facility, as well as a second facility that was approved for 14 beds.
The designations are new and specifically to encourage senior housing.
“A small home can accommodate up to 21 beds, but it’s exclusively for seniors,” Nemser said. “As far as I know, we’re the first municipality in the area to come up with such a designation. It’s important because we allow smaller facilities that seniors enjoy. It’s a more home-style care facility.”
Several committee members were concerned that the facilities were filled with seniors who were not originally Wellington residents. But Nemser said that was something the village couldn’t regulate.
“If they are coming here from out of the area, there must be a reason why,” he said. “Maybe they have family here.”
Nemser said the desire was to give seniors options when they cannot stay in their own homes, other than moving into mother-in-law suites with their families or moving out into a group home or senior community elsewhere.
“We want to see how we can infuse the philosophy of aging in place into everything we are doing,” he said.