HANCOCK COUNTY — Jean Templeton of Greenfield was quick to capitalize on this week’s cool temperatures to get her garage in order.
Quick-witted and straight-talking, the 74-year-old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native was busy sorting through and rearranging boxes at her two-bedroom Stonehurst Pointe apartment, a 55-and-over community where she landed after selling her house in town.
Templeton is part of a burgeoning demographic driving a niche housing market in Hancock County, and developers are noticing.
“We are 100 percent full and have a waiting list all the time,” said Stonehurst Pointe property manager Linda Beasley. And the demand appears to be supported by the numbers.
According to federal census figures, Hancock County’s population aged almost two full years between the United States Census Bureau’s 2000 and 2010 tally, with the county’s median age up from 37.4 to 39.
The 2000 census showed there were 3,531 residents between the ages of 65 and 74 – 6.4 percent of the county’s total population of 55,391.
Ten years later, that demographic jumped to 6,320 or 9 percent of 70,002 residents in the county.
More recent estimates by the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business indicate the 45-to-64 age group comprised 28.5 percent of the county’s populace in 2013 with more than 10,000 citizens being 65 or older.
The crux of the matter, however, is that most of those folks aren’t ready for the pasture and wince at thought of a “retirement home.”
Templeton took an early retirement from the bond section of the Federal Reserve, and her feelings about leaving the workforce couldn’t be more clear.
“It lasted six months,” she said. “I hated it.”
Now there’s lamp collecting, grandkids to shuttle, things to do and places to be that she gets to in her snappy blue 2008 Honda Fit .
She sold her home in Greenfield and joined the growing number of down-sizers to maintenance-free apartment living.
The county has a growing number of active seniors, a fact that spurred Hancock County Senior Services to expand last year.
“We built our new building not only because that demographic is changing but also because Hancock County has a higher number of that population than many of the Indianapolis surrounding metro counties,” said HCSS Executive Director Linda Hart.
According to the latest statistics from the Central Indiana Council on Aging based on the 2010 census, Hancock County stood toe to toe with Morgan County, a mere percentage point behind Shelby County, where 19.6 of its community was comprised of the 60 and older age group.
If more evidence is needed, follow the money: Several developers and property managers are lining up projects to meet what they see as an increasing need for senior housing.
“Greenfield is a great city and a strong market,” said Chuck Heintzelman, a principal with Milestone Ventures Inc., which owns Stonehurst Pointe and several other properties throughout the state.
Though the company has no specific timeline for expanding Stonehurst Pointe, Heintzelman said the Milestone would like to add additional units there when the time is right.
In addition to the increasing age demographic, the availability of quality health care through Hancock Regional Hospital is a significant factor in making and sustaining a strong senior housing market, Heintzelman said.
“You have a great hospital there,” he said. “And proximity to a good medical facility is an important component.”
While Milestone is contemplating more units, others have already jumped in.
A year ago, the Justus Companies announced plans to build an $18.6 million senior housing community in New Palestine consisting of 30 independent living cottages and 95 assisted-living and memory care units.
“From our market study, it certainly appears to show the demand is there,” said Suzzane Dennis, Justus Companies’ vice president of corporate development. And the company intends to be in the sector for the long haul.
“We don’t typically build things to turn over,” she said. “We’re involved in the entire process from planning and developing to construction and management and not looking at it from a churn-and-turn aspect,” Dennis said.
Though a time frame has yet to be determined for groundbreaking on Woodland Terrace of New Palestine, Dennis said the company is keeping the project “moving as fast as possible.”
A more traditional, established facility in Greenfield, Springhurst Health Campus, which currently offers assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care, is about to enter the market by adding 24 patio homes at its North Meridian Road campus this fall.
Leslie Knox, assistant vice president of communications and creative services for Trilogy Health Services, which operates Springhurst, said the time has come for providing independent living for older residents.
“It’s really become a trend over the last year,” she said.
Though they’re putting a few years on, members of the baby boomer generation are not ready to give up their independence, Knox said.
“Plus there’s the socialization factor,” Knox said.
Congregating in a community of similar ages, interests and abilities provides a critical social outlet.
“We’ve seen this as a need for quite some time,” she said.
Most recently, a conceptual plan was pitched to the Greenfield Advisory Plan Commission for a 41.6-acre planned community immediately west of Beckenholdt Park that envisions single-family residences, maintenance-free attached living units and an assisted-living facility.
Presently labeled Prairie Trails, the project only last week received a favorable nod from the plan commission for a planned unit development zoning designation, assuming the city elects to annex the property in the future.
“There is a growing trend for this (type of) product,” land surveyor Harold Gibson told the commission Monday. “The baby boomers continue to slide up the age scale, but it’s an active lifestyle.”
However, lifestyles, demographic statistics and marketing surveys didn’t factor into Templeton’s garage-cleaning plans this week.
She had things to do.
“I’ve got to get this stuff out of here before it gets too hot,” she said.