ITHACA, N.Y. — It’s no secret that even among the perpetual youth of Ithaca, the non-student population continues to grey with age. With that greying comes the need to provide increased healthcare and specialized living options for seniors and those with age-related health issues. That’s where Brookdale Senior Living sees their role in the local economy.

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Brookdale’s Ithaca location on West Hill’s Bundy Road initially opened in 1999, and currently consists of two separate facilities at one site.

The first, Brookdale Ithaca Assisted Living (formerly Sterling House), serves as enhanced assisted living for seniors. The second, Brookdale Ithaca Memory Care (formerly Clare Bridge), serves as assisted living for those with specific memory care needs, individuals suffering from advanced cases of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

According to Brookdale Ithaca’s Executive Director Melisa Knapp, the increased need for memory care facilities isn’t being met.

“The number of people we have looking for memory care is increasing, there’s not enough memory care and beds to take care of the people that need it. The population of early onset individuals, and older people in general, is growing, and the need for facilities like this is growing. Younger people are being affected by it as well, it’s not a surprise to see someone in their 50s or 60s with early onset Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

To help address the need, Brookdale has embarked on construction on a third facility at their Ithaca campus, to be called “Brookdale Ithaca Crossings”. Construction on the new 32-bed facility is currently underway. The new 23,200 SF building will be between the other two buildings.

“This new facility is for those with early Alzheimer’s and dementia, where they’re starting to have certain challenges, maybe experiencing depression,” said Knapp. “Our goal is to provide them the support that they need while affording them independent care. Memory-type exercises, learning opportunities – the more you exercise your mind, the better of shape it stays in.”

Knapp says that memory care facilities have not only specialized programming, they also require specialized features built into the building’s operations. “From a pure physical standpoint, it’s a secure community. When you try to exit a building, the doors will open with delay, about 30 seconds later. That helps to keep them safe.”

Not all residents are long-time locals. Knapp said that “a considerable percentage” of residents come to Brookdale to be closer to their children and families who live and work in the Ithaca area.

With the opening of a new facility will come the openings of new jobs. “We’re debating exactly how many. We’ll need more aides, department heads, dining, those who run our programming. Not all beds will be full at opening, so we’ll start training while it’s under construction, and add more staff as beds are filled. Sterling [Brookdale Ithaca AL] employs about 35, you’re probably looking at 25 new positions when the rooms are full and the facility is fully functioning.”

Plans call for the new facility to open next year. Syracuse-based Hayner Hoyt is the general contractor, and the architect is PDC Midwest, a Wisconsin firm that specializes in memory care facilities.

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Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.