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Assisted living/memory care center coming to Camden in 2018
McElveen Manor Sumter Web
A photograph of McElveen Manor, an assisted living/memory care center in Sumter, owned and operated by Affinity Living Group of Hickory, N.C. Affinity will open a similar facility in Camden in either May or June 2018 at the corner of South Broad and Wateree streets. Construction of the $7 million facility should begin in the next 30 to 90 days, according to Affinity officials. - photo by Photo from

A new assisted living/memory care center should open in Camden in 2018.

In January, Affinity Living Group, of Hickory, N.C., working through Camden AL LLC, purchased a total of 4.54 acres on Broad Street at Wateree Street for a total of $325,000 from Bobby Brent Shirley. Demolition crews recently cleared a 3.49-acre portion of the property, which was the site of the Shirley family’s taxidermy, bait and tackle businesses.

As part of these transactions, Affinity will also have a 20-year first right of refusal for a .53-acre piece of residential property on Wateree Street, also owned by Shirley.

George McLaughlin, who manages another Affinity-associated company, Connexion Development of Mt. Pleasant, said Affinity will build a 64-bed facility. Twenty-four of those rooms will be for memory care residents; the remaining 40 will be for assisted living residents.

“We’ll have plenty of room to build and may add on independent living at some point,” McLaughlin said, referring to the option to buy the Wateree Street property.

Affinity operates 100 assisted living/memory care facilities, which it calls communities. Three of them are in South Carolina: The Inverness at Spartanburg, The Retreat on Lady’s Island and McElveen Manor on McCray’s Mill Road in Sumter not far from Sumter High School.

Other Affinity communities are located primarily in the South: Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia. It also operates one facility in the Minneapolis, Minn., suburb of Brooklyn Center.

Affinity Director of New Business James Walters said the company will invest $7 million into building the Camden community and that it will employ between 50 and 60 full- and part-time workers. These will include an executive director, sales director, care workers, food preparation staff and more.

“The majority will be care workers,” Walters said. “We will be staffed 24-7 with three shifts.”

He and McLaughlin said construction should start in 30 to 90 days. McLaughlin said it will likely take about 10 months to build and expected the community to open in May or June 2018. 

Affinity’s history is a short but successful one, according to a Senior Housing News magazine article accessible from the company’s website. The article states the company started as part of the much larger Meridian Senior Living company, which launched in 2010. About a year ago, Meridian executives decided to split the company in two. Affinity focuses its efforts on providing medical-based affordable, traditional and premium managed senior housing and care communities. Meridian continues to operate in 20 states, focused more on hospitality, according to the article.

“The Affinity Difference,” according to its website, is for its communities to “combine all the comforts of home with the health and personal care needed to live fully and comfortably.” It does so through both its traditional assisted living programs and what it calls its “NorthStar Memory Care” program.

Walters said the memory care portion of the facility will be specially designed for residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other memory-related conditions.

“We’ll have a higher staffing ratio, special programs and secure exit/entrances,” Walters said.

There will even be “wayfinding” features to help direct such residents to their rooms or activities.

“Areas will be color coded,” Walters said. “A resident might not remember their room number, but they might remember they live in the ‘blue neighborhood.’ We’ll also have memory boxes of their mementoes that will tell them, ‘Hey, this is your room.’”

There will also be what Walters called life stations -- rooms or areas mimicking offices or nurseries, for example. The idea, he said, is that if a resident’s mind is “stuck” to when they worked, they could go to the “office” and perform those tasks. A resident whose memory has gone back to when they were raising children could go to the “nursery” and “take care” of dolls representing children.

Assisted living is, Walters said, as the name would indicate, focused on providing the level of care individual patient needs.

“We have individualized plans to determine what they need help with and what they don’t need help with,” he said.

According to Affinity’s website, services for all patients may include furnished or unfurnished semi-private or private rooms, on-site beauty salon and barber shop, cable TV, individual climate controls, private baths with step-in showers, a private spa, complete dining program, special diets as needed, full-service housekeeping, on-call physician services, and comprehensive activities and social programs.

The Camden facility, as the others in South Carolina do, may also offer respite, or short-term, care.

“People can stay a week to 30 days if their caregivers are going on vacation or need temporary help for some reason,” Walters said, indicating there is a daily rate available as opposed to the normal monthly rates for assisted living and memory care.

Walters said Affinity typically hires the executive and sales directors early in order to help prepare the community to open and work with prospective residents.

“We’ll hire the line staff pretty close to opening,” he said.

As for what the new community will be called, that news will have to wait.

“Some names have been batted around, but nothing’s been chosen,” Walters said.