Senior living demand rises with more senior residents
Residential communities for seniors are opening in the Conroe and Montgomery area to accommodate the growing population of older adults. The Conroe and Montgomery ZIP Codes saw a 27.48% increase in residents age 55 and older from 2016 to 2021, according to estimates by the US Census Bureau via a five-year American Community Survey.
Scott Harper, President of the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the rapid growth in the elderly population is due to residents moving to the area and viewing Conroe and Montgomery as an ideal region for retirement.
“The people who were here don’t want to leave,” Harper said. “I say it all the time; we are far enough but close enough to houston. … We have the state park and other amenities up here you won’t find any closer to Houston.”
Additionally, Ann Corell-Manic, community sales manager at Taylor Morrison — the developer of Bonterra in Woodforest, an age-restricted community opened in 2013 — said the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated sales in senior living communities in Conroe and Montgomery.
“We probably sold twice as many houses [during the pandemic] than we normally do,” Corell-Manic said, referring to homes in Bonterra. “I think a lot of people have reevaluated their lives and thought, ‘I want more out of life.'”
April Engstrom is a senior development associate at Overland Property Group — the group developing Historical Montgomery County Hospital into Landmark 301, a Conroe project expected to begin construction in early 2024. She said Landmark sees the increasing need for senior communities in Montgomery County 301 recipients of state funds. Engstrom said after Overland reviewed market studies to renovate the hospital campus, he found there was a need for shared housing for those 55 and older.
“If there wasn’t a demand [for 55-plus living communities], then we wouldn’t have been allocated funds,” Engstrom said. “The state evaluates you on criteria so detailed that there’s really no room to end up with a product that isn’t needed or useful.”
According to five-year ACS estimates, the number of residents 55 and older in the Conroe area ZIP codes increased 40.2% to 35,394 residents from 2016-21, and the Montgomery area ZIP codes grew 6.8% to 16,538 residents 55 years passed in this time.
However, Shannan Reid, director of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview that the chamber’s demographic studies show that the median age has fallen. Five-year estimates from the American Community Survey show that within Montgomery’s ISD boundaries, the median age has decreased from 46.3 years in 2016 to 44.3 years in 2021. Even so, Reid believes the growing population of seniors came from residents who moved to Montgomery decades ago.
“Historically, many of the lakefront communities, particularly on the west side of Lake Conroe, were originally conceived as retirement communities in the ’70s and early ’80s,” Reid said. “Although we add a wealth of amenities for our seniors, they have always been here. … [Seniors] were already present; we just needed amenities to match their lifestyle.”
Harper said he agrees, but he believes the live-in-age trend also reflects more people moving away from the East and West Coasts.
Jo Miller, a four-year-old resident of the Woodhaven Village seniors’ community in Conroe, said she was born in the Conroe area but moved frequently as she grew up. Miller said she returned to Conroe to be closer to her children and that she came to Woodhaven Village with her husband David for extra help caring for him until his death two years ago.
“When [David’s health] started refusing, I realized I was going to need help,” Miller said. “And I think the beauty of this facility is the tiered living arrangements. You can switch from independent to supervised and in his case memory care.”
Demand for active adult communities
With the growing number of seniors, representatives from senior living communities in the Conroe and Montgomery areas said they’ve also seen demand for additional senior housing.
Corell-Manic said the Bonterra community has seen a trend of out-of-state buyers, as well as most buyers buying to be close to family who also live in Woodforest.
According to Corell-Manic, there are fewer than 25 homes for sale in Bonterra out of 715 that she expects to sell out by fall 2023.
“There’s definitely a demand for buyers who are retired or who basically want more from a clubhouse than a pool,” Corell-Manic said.
Shawna Dodd, director of sales for Woodhaven Village, said that as of 2018, Woodhaven Village has had 97% to 100% occupancy. She said the community also has a waiting list for residents of assisted living and memory care.
“We take great pride in being friendly competitors,” Dodd said. “Sometimes, especially when we’re full and I’m working with someone and they have an immediate need, we’ll refer them.”
Jennifer Symons, Vice President of Marketing at Caldwell Cos., and Vice President of Digital Marketing, Lindsey McConathy, said that through their years of developing over 55 communities in the greater Houston area, they have attracted interest from both out-of-state and those surrounding Conroe , such as Spring and Cypress.
Caldwell opened Chambers Creek in Willis on November 12, an active adult community for residents 55 and older with activities including an on-site vineyard, golf course and direct access to Lake Conroe. Chambers Creek will have 3,000 homes upon completion.
Symons said Caldwell’s research showed residents were looking for an option where they could have their own space but stay close to children and grandchildren. McConathy said people from California and New York attended the opening to learn more.
“We had over 1,000 visitors at our grand opening,” said Symons.
Additional senior living communities are in the works in Conroe and Montgomery.
Landmark 301 at 301 S. First St., Conroe, is being converted into a senior living community which is expected to have 47 units ranging from studio style to one and two bedroom apartments. According to Engstrom, construction is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2023.
According to previous Reporting on community impact, The Lofts at Pine Market, a 51-unit senior living complex, is also under construction in Woodforest. According to a Dec. 6 email from a development representative, the lofts will be for residents ages 55 and older, with units available next summer.
Another development coming to the area is The Lakes at Woodhaven Village, which broke ground on October 5, an expansion of the existing Woodhaven Village senior living community. According to Dodd, The Lakes, which is expected to open in spring 2024, will be an active adult community with over 55 residents and 115 apartments with one- and two-bedroom options.
“[Conroe and Montgomery] This is where people moved to retire in the ’80s,” Dodd said. “Basically, we want to hug and embrace their home, but somehow free them from the daily responsibilities.”