Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of the name of Charis Place and to correct the name of the owner, Clint Hall.
Outgrowing itself, Charis Place in Kenai is planning to double its size by the end of the year.
The assisted living facility, now two years old, is in the midst of a construction project to expand its capacity from one building on North Forest Drive to two, which will essentially double its room for seniors who don’t need the level of care at a nursing home but may not be suited for independent living.
The expansion will allow the facility to take in some of the applicants currently on its waiting list, said Bekkie Jackson, the administrator for the facility.
“We are doing really well,” Jackson said. “We have a significant waiting list, and we’re hoping that those people on our list can wait until our new facility is completed. Our target date is the end of the year.”
Charis Place is an assisted living facility, not a nursing home — residents have access to two registered nurses and are provided three meals per day and scheduled activities, but they are allowed to come and go as they please. Most of the residents are from the Kenai Peninsula, Jackson said.
Jackson said the owner, Clint Hall, has had an eye on the expansion almost since the beginning.
“He said he would like to have something in the Kenai area that is a blessing to this community,” Jackson said. “He said, ‘I would like to give back the way people have given to me — I want to finish up my building career in this community by giving back to the community.’”
The central Kenai Peninsula has welcomed a few new assisted living facilities for seniors within the last few years, Charis Place in Kenai and Riverside Assisted Living in Soldotna being the largest.
Most of the assisted living facilities in the area are small, with less than 10 beds, according to the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s inventory list of assisted living homes and facilities; Charis Place currently has 22, with the new facility offering up to 24 more. Riverside Assisted Living currently has 48 beds.
The senior population in Alaska reached an estimated 76,500 in 2015, according to the Alaska Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s 2015 annual report.
The over-65 population is expected to reach 155,382 by 2035, according to the report.
Although not every senior will need housing, many also need assistance in their homes to drive to and from medical appointments, go shopping, do house work or other tasks. The Personal Care Assistant program through the state’s Medicaid program provides assistance to approximately 3,100 Alaskans, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services’ website. However, the PCA program is expensive, and the state has been trying to find ways to curtail the cost.
In the past year, the department trimmed approximately $26,392 out of the cost of the PCA program, according to Gov. Bill Walker’s amended fiscal year 2017 budget, which is still be discussed by the Legislature.
The Alaska Commission on Aging’s three-year plan lists housing as one of its major concerns for seniors.
Most senior housing is in Anchorage or the Mat-Su Valley, and one of the goals is to find successful models for “aging in place,” meaning that seniors do not have to relocate from their communities to access the services they need, according to the plan.
The plan also emphasizes the need for quality housing across the continuum of care, meaning that seniors will need independent housing as well as assisted living facilities like Charis Place and nursing homes like Heritage Place in Soldotna.
Rachel Craig, the senior services director for the City of Kenai, said the city’s independent senior living facility, Vintage Point, has a 116-person waiting list right now.
“We’ve had as many as 150 seniors on their waiting list,” Craig said. “We always find someone on our waiting list that’s ready to move in. To me, the demand is only going to grow.”
Vintage Point is independent senior living — the facility does not provide medical services.
It happens to be owned by the city and connected to the senior center, so residents can go down to the Kenai Senior Center for meals without having to leave the building, but it functions similarly to the way any other independent senior living facility would were it not owned by the city, Craig said.
Since Charis Place opened, there has been connection between the seniors who live there and the seniors who live at Vintage Point and at Riverside Assisted Living in Soldotna, Craig said.
When the Kenai Senior Center hosts an activity, someone can pick up residents from Charis Place who want to participate and bring them over to the Kenai Senior Center. Residents from both sometimes head over to Soldotna for joint activities with the residents at Riverside as well, she said.
“It’s not like the assisted living (facilities) are isolated,” Craig said. “…It keeps people who are in assisted living within a community, which is what the state was aiming to do — keep people within their community.”
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.