Making a move to senior housing Elderly: The $10 million Severna Park residence will have room for 175 people in apartments and suites.

March 26, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

John and Evelyn Gass, both in their 80s, are preparing to move from their Linstead on the Severn home to a multipurpose residence for seniors in Severna Park -- one of a few places for the community's elderly to go.

Construction is almost finished, and doors will open in mid-May at Sunrise at Severna Park, a $10 million residence for 175 people, some of whom need help feeding themselves and bathing, and others who are ambulatory but want relief from owning their homes.

"The Sunrise project is unique in Anne Arundel County, since it contains both independent living and assisted living in the same facility," said Albert M. Johnston, a community activist for 30 years and treasurer of the Greater Severna Park Council, which has members from 60 homeowner associations and community groups in the Severna Park area.

The Gasses will move from the brick, three-bedroom house where they have lived for more than 40 years to a two-bedroom apartment in the independent-living facility, a three story-building connected by a covered walkway to a similar building that will have a full-time nurse and will provide care for those who need more help.

"Our interest in Sunrise was primarily because we'll still be in Severna Park, where we have many friends," said Evelyn Gass, 83, a retired county elementary school teacher who used to do aerobics but has scaled back to mile-long walks with her dog.

"We're leaving our house because my husband is not in very good health," she said of John Gass, 89, a retired chief of family housing at Fort Meade. "He's not physically able to do yard work anymore."

When it opens in May on West McKinsey Road near Ritchie Highway, Sunrise will fill a niche for retirement living in Severna Park, a 7.6-square-mile community of about 24,000 people that has few places for people such as the Gasses to go as they age and no longer want the responsibilities of owning a house.

Anne Arundel County planners count enough independent-living and assisted-living beds for 320 seniors in Severna Park, totaling what has been constructed and what is in the offing, said Robert Caffrey, a county planner.

That includes about a half-dozen group homes in private residences with hired nurses and space for 32 seniors, and McKinsey Park, a condominium complex that will have 89 units for people over age 55.

Assisted-living facilities include Colonial Manor at Severna Park, in the 100 block of Arundel Beach Road, which opened March 15 and has space for 15 residents. Five rooms are taken, and the other 10 have been reserved.

Heartland at Severna Park, another assisted-living, will have room for about 70 residents when it opens in September on Benfield Road. Like Colonial Manor, it will charge $2,000 to $3,000 a month.

Johnston said most of the housing for the elderly is for independent people or those in need of assistance, but not both in the same place.

The county acquired the land for Sunrise in 1967 and had it contractually limited to recreational use. The Greater Severna Park Council pushed the County Council in 1989 to rezone it for senior housing as the population of elderly in Severna Park grew, Johnston said.

He and other observers said Sunrise fills a need. "The married couples that came to Severna Park with their schoolchildren in the 1960s were urgently looking for a place where they could remain in Severna Park with their friends, their doctors, their churches and shopping that they had grown very accustomed to," Johnston said.

Sunrise has a beige, three-story building for independent living with 60 apartments, 45 of which have been reserved for $1,300 and $2,700 a month, said Brenda Callahan, a spokeswoman for the Severna Park home. Residents will receive dinner every night, a mini-bus will be available for transportation, and activities will be planned.

There will also be 75 suites for assisted living. "Those are folks who need assistance with dressing, bathing, grooming, toileting," said Callahan, adding that there will also be two wings in that building for people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Those suites, which cost $49 to $130 a day, include housekeeping, laundry, meals and activities. Callahan said 35 of the suites have been reserved.

Sunrise is owned by Sunrise Assisted Living Inc., based in Fairfax, Va., which operates 33 similar facilities in 11 states, including locations in Annapolis, Frederick, Pikesville and Towson. Others are to open this year in Rockville and Columbia.

The Severna Park location is opening ahead of schedule because of the mild winter, which permitted construction to continue.

Last week, workers were spreading concrete for a walkway, and there were stacks of bricks waiting to be laid. About a dozen trees, their roots in burlap bags, were awaiting planting. Wheelbarrows and construction machinery were on the grass, and blacktop pavement was so freshly laid it still felt sticky.

Meanwhile, members of the administrative staff, awaiting installation of a sprinkler system, were using a trailer as temporary office space.

"We've gotten to know a lot of the folks that will be living here," Callahan said. "We're very excited about moving in."

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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