“Aging in place” is not just a trendy buzzword for St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawai‘i. It’s something the nonprofit organization is making a reality for older adults who want to live independently yet they are on fixed incomes.

Franciscan Vistas ‘Ewa, a brand new, 149-unit affordable senior independent living community in burgeoning West O‘ahu, is changing Hawai‘i’s senior housing landscape. A total of six apartment buildings are targeted for completion by May 2011. Tenants will be moving into the first completed apartment building this month, and more residents are expected to occupy the units as the buildings are completed.

“Franciscan Vistas ‘Ewa is a model community where affordable housing meets wellness,” says Pamela Witty-Oakland, chief administrator of St. Francis Residential Care Community, who is overseeing development of the project. “Older adults at Franciscan Vistas ‘Ewa will be able to enjoy the health and wellness amenities of condo-living.” Plantation-style architectural features pay homage to the area’s rich history. In addition, the needs of older adults were kept foremost in mind throughout the development process. Designed by the architectural firm Alakea Design Group, the units have open floor plans and are ADA-adaptable.

Each unit includes conveniences such as a fully equipped kitchen with easy-to-reach cabinets and appliances, roll-in shower, split-level air conditioning and private lanai. Each two-story building includes an elevator and a laundry room with coin-operated washers and dryers. The apartments encircle a garden courtyard, creating a sense of community that encourages residents to meet their neighbors and to look after each other.

A number of environmentally sustainable applications were also integrated into the project. Energy-efficient Energy Star refrigerators and front loading washers; fluorescent lights; high-efficiency shower heads, faucets and toilets; and solar water heating are some of the features that were selected for Franciscan Vistas ‘Ewa not only to support environmental stewardship, but also to help keep the utility costs down for the seniors living there.

“We wanted to take senior living to a whole new level, while making it affordable for Hawai‘i’s growing number of older adults,” Witty-Oakland adds. “With 127 years of health care experience in Hawai‘i, the Franciscan Sisters recognized the need for a healthy community that fosters a healthy lifestyle to help people remain independent for as long as possible.”

Social isolation is also a thing of the past for those living at Franciscan Vistas ‘Ewa. A one-story, 5,000-square-foot community center serves as a gathering place for the senior residents, offering cultural, social and recreational activities. The community center has a kitchen, fitness center, hair salon, learning and activity center with Internet, an adjoining conference room and swimming pool. Stanford Carr Development LLC, which is serving as the development consultant to St. Francis, has provided its expertise in all phases of real estate development, including securing land use approvals, community design, permits and affordable housing financing.

“St. Francis Healthcare System understands the needs of the community and brings together the resources to develop innovative solutions. The St. Francis team transformed vacant land into a beautiful place seniors can call home,” says Jesse Wu, vice president of special projects for Stanford Carr Development. “Every detail for this model community center was carefully planned to be senior-friendly. Franciscan Vistas ‘Ewa has definitely raised the bar for independent senior communities throughout Hawai‘i.”

Franciscan Vistas ‘Ewa is located at 91-1471 Miula Street in ‘Ewa Beach, in close proximity to stores, restaurants, churches, medical facilities and TheBus lines. Rental units are for households with incomes up to 60 percent of the City & County of Honolulu’s area median income as determined by HUD. Initial monthly rents are $745 for 530-square-foot one-bedroom units and $885 for 750-square-foot two-bedroom units. All individuals in the household must be 62 years and older. Prudential Locations, LLC serves as the property manager.

For more information, please call (808) 681-4000 or visit www.stfrancishawaii.org