Mease Manor proposes $5 million, memory-loss ALF

— Mease Manor wants to build a new $5 million, assisted living facility specializing in memory-loss care.

City commissioners granted preliminary approval May 1 to the retirement community’s proposal for a single-story, 32-apartment complex on 12 lots stretching from 603 to 665 Virginia St.

The facility will be designed to care for seniors dealing with some degree of memory problems and a modest decline in other thinking skills, a fairly common part of aging.

A “silver tsunami,” the term coined by experts to describe the growing population of aging baby boomers who will require special medical care, is expected to double by 2030.

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, it’s difficult to discuss an aging America without mentioning Alzheimer’s disease, the fifth leading killer of the elderly in the U.S. The disease destroys brain cells and affects the memory, language, reasoning and behavior of more than 5 million older Americans every year.

As baby boomers age, the incidence of Alzheimer’s is expected to nearly triple — to as high as 13.8 million by 2050.

With that in mind, Greg Rice, city planning and development director, said, “This project will be a first for Dunedin and something we really feel is necessary.”

Because the facility will offer a housing continuum of care, “it will mean that residents of Mease Manor will not have to find another place to live when they can no long care for themselves due to memory issues,” he said.

Jack Norton, Mease Manor president and chief executive officer, said that when the retirement center opened 50 years ago, the minimum age of residents was 62. Now the average age is 82.

“Many times residents come to the manor with issues, and many times it’s with memory,” he said.

Norton said situations have arisen in which seniors who wanted to say were forced to move out of Dunedin because there wasn’t an appropriate facility for them. “This will fill a great need,” he said.

“It will benefit not just Mease Manor residents, but the community at large,” Norton said, adding that the unit will be open to any senior with memory issues.

Former city official Deborah Kynes, who is running to succeed retiring Commissioner Ron Barnette, said, “We have to have this continuum of care. It is very true we are going to deal with a silver tsunami.”

Community support is a key element to improving the quality of life for the elderly in Dunedin, Kynes added.

Commissioner Heather Gracy said there’s a universal need for a memory-loss residential facility in the city.

“At least we can keep seniors in the community and let them age in place,” she added.

Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski suggested the city partner with Mease Manor to put in landscaping to create a park setting at the corner of Milwaukee and Virginia streets.

The city commission voted 4-0 to approve Mease Manor’s request along with the preliminary design on first reading. Mayor Dave Eggers recused himself because he sits on the Mease Manor Board of Trustees.

The second and final vote is set for the June 5 commission meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at city hall, 542 Main St.

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