Choose a special brew in the loose-leaf tea bar or practise yoga poses in a studio with a back-lit Himalayan rock salt wall. Indulge the senses in a rooftop herb garden, play games with the grandchildren in specially designed intergenerational spaces or host a family meal in a function room set up like a living room.These will be just some of the options for residents at Opal, a planned development for seniors in Vancouver’s Cambie Village.The $106-million Opal retirement community is the flagship for Element Lifestyle Retirement, the development management company founded by Don Ho, who pioneered the concept of “continuum of lifestyles” – the idea of aging in place — more than 20 years ago.The luxury 130-unit development comprises three connected structures – one six-storey and two four-storey buildings – and spans a city block on the south side of King Edward Avenue between Yukon and Cambie streets.The age-in-place philosophy that is the cornerstone of the development is reflected in the variety of accommodations in Opal. Residents can live independently or access assisted living, and have priority access into the 24-hour registered nursing care in the complex-care units.
There are 44 condos for sale, 56 for rental, and 30 complex-care suites. Available condo options range from one-bedroom/one-bathroom homes (612 to 850 square feet), one-bedroom-and-den/one-bathroom homes (837 to 922 square feet) to two-bedroom/two-bathroom homes (906 to 1,547 square feet). Most homes have patios, ranging from 89 to 969 square feet.
Although the continuum of lifestyles was introduced by Don Ho more than two decades ago, it is not widely offered because it is challenging and expensive to operate, says his daughter Candy Ho, director and vice-president, marketing and corporate relations of Element, which is responsible for developing and operating Opal on a 20-year contract.
Opal residents will benefit from being able to access services as their health and wellness changes over time. “Residents will have priority for the complex-care facilities. This means families can look forward to peace of mind, knowing that support and care will be in place. No individual will have to look for another place and find nothing available. Nobody will have to endure the trauma of moving or be separated from their spouse because of care needs,” Ho says.
While regulations require that at least one occupant in a unit must be 55-plus, Opal will be a welcoming environment for people of all ages, Ho says. “With this model and approach, Opal is attracting a different profile. This is not a typical retirement home where the average age is 87. The average age is under 70. Many purchasers are in their early sixties, with spouses in their early fifties,” she says.
“Our philosophy is to think about retirement and seniors’ residences completely differently to accommodate the desire for connecting to youthful curiosity and energy, respect family values and provide flexibility and continuity through the continuum of lifestyles,” Ho says.
“Our vision is to revolutionize the experience and perception of retirement and aging. Retirement is a mindset and a stage of life; it is the freedom to choose how to spend your time. Today’s retirees and seniors want stability, familiarity, continuity and the invaluable aspect of relationships – family and friends,” she says.
Amenities and programming will support residents’ lifestyle choices and have a definite sense of purpose, says Ho. Opal has 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor amenities. These include the movement studio with its dramatic rock salt wall for yoga, tai chi and QiGong and games like ping pong; a gym; a restorative wellness spa, library lounge and games area; a business and IT centre; a chef’s table and open display kitchen for culinary demonstrations and intergenerational cooking classes. Adjoining private function rooms will be set up like living rooms — ideal for hosting meals where adults can relax at the dining room table while children play board games in the same space. Programming examples include visits to shows and performances and in-house seminars about subjects from health and nutrition to wine and travel.
While Opal offers a dining package for residents and incentives to encourage family and friends to visit, those who prefer to cook themselves can take advantage of their condo’s contemporary kitchen with quartz countertops. Major appliances include a Bosch four-burner cooktop, convection oven, fan and dishwasher, a microwave and a full-sized Fischer & Paykel refrigerator with freezer drawer. The rental suites have half-sized kitchen appliances, however all condos have Blomberg washers and dryers
Switches and electrical outlets at heights specified for adaptable housing further support the aging-in-place philosophy.
The design to support this philosophy is perhaps best illustrated in the bathrooms, which feature frameless glass shower doors and transition-free tiled showers. This smooth access removes a potential tripping hazard and enables easy wheelchair access, if necessary.
Marble-look floor tiles are non-slip, and attention has also been paid to lighting and takes “aging eyes” into account, says Opal’s project interior designer Diane Shrubb of Shrubb Design Partnership.
Shrubb says in addition to ambient lighting, there is concealed lighting under the vanity, giving the room a sense of brightness. Back lighting on the mirror and medicine cabinets also makes it easier for applying make-up, or shaving.
The attention to lighting continues in the kitchens, where concealed lighting under the peninsula adds to the general illumination and gives one a sense of being in a space where there is lots of light, she says.
In addition to aesthetics, Ho points out the concealed lighting in the bathrooms and kitchens is also a safety feature to prevent people who may get up at night from tripping.
To add to the external esthetics, suite numbers are lit with LEDs, enhancing the sense of arrival. “It’s high impact and it’s very functional and reflects the design philosophy for the whole development. Practical and elegant,” says Shrubb.
As construction gets under way over the next few weeks, no one will be watching its progress more keenly than Ho’s parents, who will be among the first residents to move in when the development opens in early 2019.