Santee senior center advances toward completion of luxury resort-styled living

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Attitudes toward aging have revolutionized. Later stages of life, recently seen as a time of decline and increasing seclusion for all but a fortunate few, have become days of good health and active engagement for most individuals who have racked up abundant calendar years. Instrumental in this change are advances in treatment of common age-related medical conditions, adjustments in minor accommodations for living assistance, and simplifications of daily self-care chores. The prevailing view now is that people can enjoy life, live well and do well, no matter their age.

Attitudes toward aging have revolutionized. Later stages of life, recently seen as a time of decline and increasing seclusion for all but a fortunate few, have become days of good health and active engagement for most individuals who have racked up abundant calendar years. Instrumental in this change are advances in treatment of common age-related medical conditions, adjustments in minor accommodations for living assistance, and simplifications of daily self-care chores. The prevailing view now is that people can enjoy life, live well and do well, no matter their age.

Witness Lantern Crest Senior Living, Santee’s new senior living center under development at 11010 Sunset Trail. Phase 1 of the facility is a memory care portion for sufferers of Alzheimer’s and dementia, finished two years ago. Now under construction is Phase 2, for assisted living and senior retirement, to be completed and open for new residents by the end of this summer. Michael Grant, principal developer of Lantern Crest and majority owner of DCI builders, envisions the project “like a five-star hotel.” Santee Mayor Randy Voepel refers to it as “Santee’s cruise ship.”

Jim Bachofer is the professional engineer for the project. He described the development as “the largest thing in Santee for a long time to come,” despite the fact that “Santee has really taken off.” Lantern Crest will be the largest employer in Santee, which is already home to four of the twelve largest national retailers. The facility’s purpose, according to Bachofer, is to allow seniors to age well in place as their needs change.

Bachofer will also serve as “Exalted Ruler” of the new Elks Lodge now meeting there on Friday nights, which is under formation as an in-house service organization within Phase 2 to support the new community of seniors to be living at Lantern Crest. Bachofer said this will likely be the last new Elks Lodge started in San Diego County. He is currently signing up the 75 new members required for officially recognition. All funds the Elks raise will go back into the Santee community.

Bachofer wants this lodge to be the lead agency assisting other community groups associated with the center. The Alzheimer’s Association conducts meetings on site the fourth Thursday of each month. The Santee Chamber of Commerce holds meetings downstairs. The East County Posse, supporting battered women, is another possible community-service tenant, as is The American Legion’s El Cajon Post 303, which will soon hold a general meeting at Lantern Crest to explore becoming a Plank Owner organization in the Elk’s Lodge. 

Bachofer said, “This has been an interesting experience being around older people.”

He said the greatest fear senior’s hold is the loss of mobility. Even those elders knowing their driving is impaired are reluctant to give up car keys. Phase 2 will include underground parking, and Lantern Crest already has a 40-seat bus to transport residents to special events and on shopping trips. 

Incoming residents can opt to lease a studio or one-bedroom apartment. A library and computer room, an arts and crafts center, a full salon, a small movie theater, and an ice cream bistro and deli are housed in Phase 1. The dining room has newly hired “Chef Rene” up scaling menu choices.

Phase 2 will feature a water wall, two swimming pools, a full spa, four theaters, five restaurants, two full-service bars, and a gym and fitness center. The first pool will have a wheelchair ramp with a five percent gradient and plastic chairs and lifts for access for disabled residents. A bar is scheduled to an addition to the pool area. Also on tap for golf enthusiasts is a greens area of nine holes for pitch and put practice. Water aerobics, daily fitness, yoga, and dance classes will also be offered. For retired aviators and plane watchers, the end units provide unimpeded views of Gillespie Field airspace.

Lantern Crest is the first licensed senior care facility in Santee, with only La Vida Real in Rancho San Diego also offering retirement housing in East County. The final build-out of Lantern Crest will comprise six Phases, and will be the fifth largest senior living center in San Diego County. Phase 3, wholly for assisted living, is in design and expected to be in operation within another year; Phases 4, 5 and 6 will be done after that at once. The pace of completion depends on release of funding, based on leasing of senior residents at the facility. Ultimately, 460 units are planned to be in place at Lantern Crest. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be designated physician appointment days at the doctor’s office on site. The level of care will be up to skilled nursing. A room near the Fitness Center will allow occupational, physical and speech therapy appointments arranged through individual insurance plans. Lantern Crest is conveniently located near the interchanges of Highways 52, 67 and 125. The Elks Lodge under formation meets there every Friday night. More information is available at www.lanterncrestseniorliving.com or (619) 312-4408.

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