Azalea Mall

Aerial view of Westminster Canterbury Richmond's property (left) and the former Azalea Mall property on the right.

Henrico County’s redevelopment plans for Virginia Center Commons and for 10 acres of land where Azalea Mall once stood are good news. We are especially glad to learn of Westminster Canterbury Richmond’s proposal to build a 10-acre expansion of the retirement community near its Westbrook Avenue location. The weed-strewn lot where Azalea Mall once stood has been an eyesore for two decades. The new facility will add about 125 residential units in five apartment buildings to the retirement community’s existing 830 residences.

Retirees are the fastest growing segment of the American population. By 2030, 1 in every 5 Virginians will be older than 65. So, it’s not surprising that there is a growing market for housing that will appeal to aging boomers. The stereotypical old-folks home isn’t going to cut it with today’s silver-hairs.

The variety of living arrangements for the 55-and-over crowd are wide-ranging and offer a variety of services — active-adult, assisted living and continuing care communities are just a few. And as anyone who has ever researched them knows, they come with an array of amenities and prices.

While retirement facilities are popular with many retirees, more than 80% of boomers are homeowners, the majority of whom plan to age in place. Today’s older Americans are healthier, more active and are going to live longer than previous generations. And medicine and technology will help them remain independent far longer.

There are plenty of aids available to make life easier for those who remain in their homes. Construction firms offer remodeling plans to widen hallways and doors, lower countertops, add grab bars and address other geriatric concerns. Uber, Lyft and expanded transportation services allow those no longer able to drive remain mobile. Many seniors are renting empty bedrooms to college students or other young adults in exchange for chores or to help bring in extra money.

Living opportunities for aging Americans look far brighter than yesteryear’s prospects of either moving in with the kids or being placed in a nursing home. But we, like many housing analysts, can’t help but wonder what is going to happen in 30 or so years with all of the retirement communities and the 9 million homes owned by boomers when that generation finally does pass on.

OK, millennial, ready to buy a house?

— Robin Beres

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