Seniors & Aging

These senior apartments in Bellingham cater to active adults ready to downsize

Retired economics professor John Huttman, 85, gets his daily workout in the exercise room at the Affinity at Bellingham. “As a economist, I think it is a good deal,” Huttman says.
Retired economics professor John Huttman, 85, gets his daily workout in the exercise room at the Affinity at Bellingham. “As a economist, I think it is a good deal,” Huttman says.

Long before Affinity at Bellingham was ready for occupancy, Karen Heffley would visit the project site to review floor plans, eyeball rendering and “bug” the staff.

“I was over here about every 10 days,” Heffley said. “I’m sure they got sick of me. I was nutty.”

Heffley, 68, happily moved into her one-bedroom, one-bath apartment across from Home Depot on Telegraph Road in Bellingham.

“I love it,” she said. “I love it. I know I’m not alone if something happens.”

Last fall, she became ill at 4 a.m. Knowing she couldn’t see to drive in the dark, she eventually awoke a neighbor and friend who took her to the hospital.

“If I was living someplace else I would not know what to do,” she said. “I guess I would have had to call an ambulance. It’s nice knowing there are people around to socialize with or if you need them, but no one bothers you.”

If you are a fiercely independent senior citizen who doesn’t want someone doting over you, fixing your meals and doing your laundry, yet you are looking to downsize from the family residence, Affinity at Bellingham might be your answer.

“We offer a very different type of senior community experience” said Teresa Ronngren, community director. “We offer no meals, no transportation or care options. There is so much to here you don’t even have to leave the property unless it’s to get groceries or something of that nature.”

The apartments and community are designed to make you feel as though you are on a vacation 365 days a year.

“We really build on social gatherings, helping residents make connections and promote the community aspect of living here,” Ronngren said.

Opened in December 2015, the 55-plus community offers studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments for rent in Bellingham, starting at $1,460 per month, which includes utilities, wi-fi and cable. Each apartment is equipped with a washer and dryer.

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The indoor saltwater pool is one of the amenities at Affinity at Bellingham, a 55-plus apartment in Bellingham. Philip A. Dwyer

Other features include fully equipped kitchen, spacious bathrooms, central heating and air conditioning, private balcony or patio and wood-style flooring.

Garages are available for $125 per month. Many of the residents still drive. Some rely on the Whatcom Transportation Authority.

The community is specially designed for – and caters to – active adults. A resident’s ideal day is more likely to include bungee jumping than bingo, and community amenities reflect that attitude, Ronngren said. Residents can take a dip in the indoor saltwater pool, relax in the Jacuzzi, or work out at the fitness center. Twenty-four hour community amenities include a game room, art studio, workshop for word-working and a movie theater. There’s even an Irish pub, Dilly Dally’s, where residents can gather with friends and neighbors.

“Our community combines the appeal of a private home with the activities and amenities of an all-inclusive resort – with a look and feel that’s vibrant and stylish,” Ronngren said.

A barbecue area and outdoor fire pit are also available to residents and their friends.

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Affinity at Bellingham has studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments for rent to those 55 and older starting at $1,460 per month. Philip A. Dwyer

The average resident age at Affinity is 73, with a range from around 55 to 100 years old. A total of 154 apartments are on the property.

“It’s a lifestyle people have been waiting for, and word of mouth has been huge,” Ronngren said.

The challenge with independent apartment living comes as health issues occur. Residents are encouraged to hire independent caregivers as the need arises. Some are able to remain in their apartments, while others can no longer manage.

As for Heffley, she’s become the resident cheerleader. She serves on the food committee, which plans a monthly dinner, often a potluck. Average attendance is about 60. She is also in charge of the monthly birthday celebration. Affinity buys a cake to celebrate birthdays each month. Heffley plays hostess, serving up the confection. And, she doesn’t stop there. She also plans Seahawks game day events during football season.