Citizen of the year has a new lease on life

In the Comfort Life Spotlight

Georgetown's Citizen of the Year 2005 is moving to a new address. Tom Schenk was honoured last year for his work arranging recognition at home for now-elderly Canadian vets who liberated Holland-so they don't have to travel to Holland for the annual rite.

Now Tom, 75, and his wife, Riet, 74, have a more personal project: moving to The Gallery, a life-lease project in Georgetown, west of Toronto, that has been seven years in the planning.
Construction of the building, part of a 17-acre seniors development, is due to start this fall, with Tom and Riet moving into their ground-floor 860-square-foot unit next year.

He won't be sorry to move-their back-split home, he says, needs work. "And we are in the stage where we want to close the door and go travelling."

What will their new lives be like? Lois Thomas, 73, has been living in The Meridian, a four-storey life-lease building in Ottawa, for seven years and says moving there was the best thing she ever did.

Living in a large split-level house after her husband died was "ridiculous," she says. Now she has a two-bedroom, two-bathroom 1,044-square-foot unit on the top floor for which she paid $150,500. Prospective life -ease owners are always curious whether the units-which owners have the right to occupy in perpetuity-hold their value.

Certainly, says Lois, who helped in the planning of the project and is still involved when resales come up. In one case, after an occupant died, the unit lease was sold for $100,000 more than the original cost, and prices have risen on every resale.

What's the biggest advantage to living in The Meridian, apart from the social activities which go on just about every day? It's knowing that, unlike condominiums, age limits are allowed. In the case of The Meridian, the units can only be sold or resold to people older than 55 (in The Gallery, 50 per cent sold at the time of writing, the lower limit is 60). "I don't want to hear babies crying next door," says Lois, a former nurse. "Although that doesn't mean grandkids can't come."
The halls are wider than in conventional buildings, the windows are lower for views out, and people keep an eye on each other. And, as Tom anticipates, with people close by, it's no problem going down south in the winter or to the cottage and locking the door.

"I would do the same thing again," says Lois without hesitation.

As for Reit and Tom, they think it's great they will still be in Georgetown. "And I am going to relax a little bit," Tom promises.

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