New Hampshire is a beautiful state, with crystal clear lakes, beautiful mountains and scenic small towns. It’s a place where many built homes, cared for children, and for some, is where they plan to spend their senior years. It is this age group that is growing fastest in our graying state. New Hampshire’s population of senior citizens is expected to double by 2025. To address this demographic shift, communities have begun looking for ways to meet the changing needs of residents, as they grow older, including in-home personal care services, improved
transportation, and housing without accessibility impediments.
Laconia Housing, as has been reported, is taking steps toward the purchase of the building at 423 South Main Street to provide a home for older Laconia residents designed for their needs as they age. The project, known as Sunrise House, will include 18 fully accessible independent senior living units. It abuts our Laconia Housing Sunrise Towers and will share access for parking, as well as access to our many supportive services including personal care, housekeeping, laundry, and two meals daily. Sunrise House will also offer close proximity to the businesses and other amenities of downtown Laconia, enabling residents to stay connected to their community. And we are pleased that two members of the City Council have voiced strong support for this project.
The demand for housing in Laconia and greater Belknap County reflects the changing demographics statewide. The two-story homes in which many older residents raised their families lack the single-floor living spaces and special accommodations people need as they age. The proposal at 423 South Main Street fills that need, so that residents who require more assistance, but want to maintain their independence, can live with dignity, close to friends and family. More than 70 percent of Laconia Housing senior residents who currently receive our supportive services are from Laconia and we expect Sunrise House will also be a facility heavily made up of residents with ties to Laconia.
Housing that offers an added level of assistance is also a benefit for those who are caring for an older loved one. Knowing a parent, aunt or uncle is in a home designed for their needs and with an added level of care brings peace of mind.
The Sunrise House proposal will also revitalize a location that has been underutilized for a number of years. The 423 South Main Street building was once home to many offices and small businesses, but since 2011, the building has been half empty. In 2016, 80 percent of the floor area was unoccupied. Laconia Housing sees this project as a way to reinvent the use of this property in a way that will bring residents downtown, while also keeping a key property on the city’s tax role.
When we envision growing older, many of us understand it will require added care and adjustments to our homes, however most of us also envision a future where we are independent and engaged in the community. Sunrise House is an opportunity to provide that kind of lifestyle for our older residents as the need for this type of housing continues to grow.
Richard Weaver is the Laconia Housing Authority executive director