About 8,000 Westchester residents age 85 or older have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, yet there are only a few hundred beds to serve that population.
That stark discrepancy has opened the door to a partnership that plans to build a memory care facility in New Rochelle and that is scouting more locations in Westchester and Rockland counties.
“There is a dire need for additional memory care,” said David S. Steinmetz, a land use attorney in White Plains who represents National Development, who with EPOCH Senior Living has proposed a 64-unit memory care facility in New Rochelle estimated to cost $15 million to $20 million.
Many places offer independent living, assisted living or age-restricted housing, Steinmetz said. But only a few beds are set aside for Alzheimer’s patients and the facilities are not dedicated exclusively to patients with the disease.
United Hebrew of New Rochelle might be the only exception. It has a 45-bed memory care facility called Willow Gardens on its campus and it offers dementia care at its Willow Towers assisted living center and at a skilled nursing facility.
The nursery closed in 2015 after 72 years of supplying gardeners and landscapers.
The property is at the end of North Avenue, where the Y-shaped intersection splits into Mill and Wilmot roads, next to Hutchinson River Parkway. It is across the street from Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and St. John’s, Wilmot, Episcopal Church in the Kensington Woods neighborhood.
National, a large builder and property manager headquartered in Newton Lower Falls, Massachusetts, has developed a specialty in senior housing. Its New Rochelle partner, EPOCH, of Waltham, Massachusetts, concentrates on senior housing and has honed its architectural model and programs specifically for people with Alzheimer’s. The two Boston-area companies have teamed up on 10 Bridges memory care facilities, including two under construction.
“We really understand people with this disease,” said Michael Glynn, a National Development vice president.
Bridges at New Rochelle will be their first joint venture outside of New England.
The demand is not just for beds but for better ways to manage a disease that, as yet, has no cure.
Bridges facilities are often in neighborhoods, like Kensington Woods, that are familiar to Bridges residents. “It is therapeutic for the residents and their families to have such a warm neighborhood to live in,” Glynn said.
The buildings are smaller than typical assisted living facilities, with only two stories and 64 units. Small apartments are arranged in clusters around common areas: kitchen, dining, library and activity room. There are no hallways and lots of natural light and the housing surrounds a courtyard with paths and gardens. Soft colors, directional cues and aromas create a safe and calm place.
“It feels like a household,” Glynn said.
Programs are designed to keep residents active and engaged, sometimes with the help of the residents’ children, “to bring joy to life,” Glynn said.
National and EPOCH do not claim they can cure dementia, but Glynn said architecture and programs can minimize the daily conflicts and setbacks that can frustrate, even depress, people with Alzheimer’s.
Medicare and Medicaid do not cover costs for Bridges residents; it’s all out-of-pocket. Glynn said the residences are priced competitively with assisted living facilities, about $8,000 to $10,000 a month, including room, food and activities. Residents typically pay by selling their homes or using long-term health care insurance.
National Development has plans for at least three Bridges in Westchester and is looking at a site in New City in Rockland County. A Bridges at Norwalk, Connecticut is expected to open in September.
In January, the New Rochelle City Council amended the zoning at Cooper’s Corner, by a 4-3 vote, to allow senior citizen housing. Steinmetz hopes to present a site plan to the city planning board soon.
Construction on Bridges at New Rochelle could begin by the end of the year, Glynn said, and the Mill Road facility could open in early 2019.