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High-end seniors homes prove popular with Chinese-Canadians

December 18, 2015

By Chuck Chiang, Vancouver Sun |

Rising demand for high-end seniors housing among Chinese-Canadians and Americans is breaking the cultural stereotype that all Asian seniors want to live with their children.

Vancouver-based Element Lifestyle Retirement says its Opal community in the Cambie and King Edward neighbourhood has been inundated by inquiries about the $90-million project even though construction hasn’t yet started.

“We are seeing tons of interest in Opal, and we feel bad because we have to tell them, ‘Sorry, we are not taking deposits yet,’” said Candy Ho, vice-president of Element. “I think part of it is because of the neighbourhood we are in, and it also shows (Chinese seniors) may be breaking a new barrier in the lifestyle they are choosing.”

The trend isn’t isolated. In July, Aegis Living launched the $50-million Aegis Gardens in the Seattle area, marketing its 110 units to Chinese seniors, including those in the Vancouver region. The facility features Tai-chi programs, Chinese calligraphy workshops, Mahjong game nights (in addition to bingo), and on-site Chinese chefs who prepare traditional dishes like barbecue pork buns and three-cup chicken to cater to specific tastes.

At the time of the launch, Aegis CEO Dwayne Clark said others were skeptical about the potential in the market, given cultural tendencies for Chinese seniors to stay with family. But Aegis’s first such facility built in Fremont, Calif. became one of the company’s most popular developments, which led to the one in Washington state.

Traditionally, Chinese culture emphasizes the elderly staying in the same household as their adult children. Multiple generations living under the same roof is often seen as the ultimate symbol of the Confucianist ideal of filial piety.

But David Chuenyan Lai, professor emeritus of geography and an adjunct professor of Asian studies at the University of Victoria, says that stereotype is outdated.

“That’s the wrong concept,” said Lai, who has long proposed the development of “economically integrated” communities where multiple generations live, eat and shop close to one another, instead of everyone living under the same roof.

“Many Chinese families are more or less integrated into Canadian society. Some stay together in one house because of cost … but it depends not on tradition, but rather incomes and resources.”

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