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Chartwell's Sumach development in Toronto's Regent Park. The residence is geared toward renters in their 50s and 60s.

Aging baby boomers looking to downsize and rest, be warned: The Sumach development in Toronto's Regent Park is anything but a rest home.

"Baby boomers want a different approach to their retirement and we've been listening a lot to what they say to us," says Maxime Camerlain, vice-president of Chartwell Retirement Residences.

The company, along with Welltower Inc. and the Daniels Corporation, broke ground for the Sumach by Chartwell last June, with occupancy scheduled for September of 2018.

The rental residence is geared toward Canadians in their 50s and 60s who are looking for a different lifestyle in their senior years than their parents typically had – more active, located more centrally with in-building stores and restaurants and with amenities such as fitness rooms, bike parking and pools for doing lengths as well as lounging.

"One of the common themes we pick up from baby boomers is a desire to be at the centre of where the action is," Mr. Camerlain says.

The Sumac, at the corner of Sumach and Shuter streets, is part of the city's 28-hectare Regent Park, which has been turning into one of Toronto's more up-and-coming areas.

Regent Park became one of Canada's first urban renewal projects in the 1940s, but this failed to lift the area out of poverty and crime. In 2005 a more ambitious revitalization project began which is still under way. It has brought new amenities and services and mixed housing to the area, boosting its value and desirability to both renters and home buyers.

The 12-storey residence is geared toward a relatively new demographic category. Chartwell calls this group "active retired adults seeking social engagement with like-minded individuals based on their interests, activities and abilities."

The building is designed to be adaptable, so whole floors could be converted to accommodate assisted care for residents as they get older and their needs change.

With 332 units, it's larger than a typical Ontario retirement building, which Mr. Camerlain says usually has between 100 and 125 suites. The apartments are bigger too, and unlike many other retirement residences, they come with fully equipped kitchens, because baby boomers like to cook and entertain.

Its location is important too, Mr. Camerlain says. "The real key is where you place a project like this. People want to live not only in a building, but in a neighbourhood," he explains.

Though each unit has a full kitchen, the $100-million-plus development is near restaurants, as well as a huge, recently built public pool and it includes 5,500 square feet of retail space, an outdoor terrace and a barbecue area for residents to party and entertain. It will also include its own restaurants, both a formal one and a café/bistro and 100 spaces for bicycles, plus 82 parking spaces.

"The baby boomer generation values the concept of choice. You can't start into a project like this with a pre-determined method that you can't customize," Mr. Camerlain says.

David Sander, director at Hollyburn Properties Ltd. in Vancouver, adds, "Downsizing baby boomers want convenience. They want amenities nearby and they don't necessarily want to have to hop into their car to drive there."

His company received city approval to build a 144-unit rental building in North Vancouver, which has a microscopic 0.4 per cent rental vacancy rate in the Lower Mainland's still hot housing market.

"We anticipate that half our building will rent to people over age 50," he says.

Hollyburn has adjusted for senior and nearly senior tenants such as opening the fitness area as early as 5 a.m. each day instead of at 7, installing bathtubs that have flat bottoms to avoid slippage and reinforcing bathroom walls so tenants could install grab bars later as they grow older.

"We're also increasing the lighting in our suites, to make it easier to see. And our fitness areas include facilities for people with mobility issues," Mr. Sander says.

"We don't necessarily market toward baby boomers and seniors who are considering downsizing, but we recognize that they're an increasingly important group," he adds.

"Renting makes a lot of sense to a lot of people. We see people looking at downsizing from 5,000 or 6,000 square feet and they realize they're only using about 1,200 square feet of their house, which is the size of our apartments. They also look at the housing market in Vancouver and they don't want their nest egg to be tied up in another downpayment."

Another recently opened seniors' development in Barrhaven, Ont., near Ottawa, called V!VA, offers a full range of on-site services for residents, ranging from doctors, dental hygiene, massage and manicures and pedicures to a heated indoor saltwater pool with aquafit programs, as well as a gym with yoga classes, personal fitness coach, walking groups and a computerized brain exercise program.

"Seniors' housing used to be about where you're going to live until you die, but for boomers it's about how you'd like to live," Mr. Camerlain says.

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