June 18, 2008
Dave Perry

Desert Point, the 10-year-old retirement community complex in Oro Valley, is adding 53 apartments to its existing 145-apartment, three-story facility in La Reserve.

It is also remodeling the current building and adding amenities, from an espresso bar to a lap pool, so it can broaden its market and meet the expanding expectations of aging Baby Boomers.

“They’re asking for more, and we’re trying to provide more,” said Bruce Bucher, Desert Point general manager. While Desert Point gives “great care,” the new operation follows “more of a hospitality model than a care model,” Bucher said. “They check in, and stay.”

Desert Point is one example of growth in the retirement care industry in Oro Valley and the Northwest. Its parent company, Leisure Care LLC, decided to expand Desert Point four years ago. “They based this decision knowing the long-term was going to be good,” Bucher said. “The location is excellent.”

Remodeling of the existing building should be finished in August, with the apartments completed in late August and early September.

The apartments are “very upgraded,” Bucher said, with stainless steel appliances, a washing machine and dryer in every apartment, granite countertops, high-grade wood cabinetry and tile in the kitchens and bathrooms. Each apartment in the three-story structure near Oracle Road has a patio or porch, many with mountain views.

The apartments are larger, too. The one-bedroom apartments range from 779 to just under 1,000 square feet. The two-bedroom apartments range from 1,100 to 1,400 square feet.

“People want larger apartments,” Bucher said. “We understand the boomers are going to be very demanding.”

Those demands extend to food, a big component of the retirement care industry. Residents, who sign month-to-month leases that include two meals a day, can opt for light, low-fat meals in between usual serving times at the Reserve Restaurant at Desert Point. People can dine inside or outside.

Fitness is important, too. The new Desert Point will have a fitness studio three times larger than its current studio, with up to nine classes a week through Prime Fit. There is a personal trainer on staff.

“One of the things about this population is functional fitness,” Bucher said. He told the story of a resident who was able to give up a walker through exercise and one-on-one training. “Those are the things that thrill us,” Bucher said. “Functional, practical fitness.”

Fitness extends to the brain. Desert Point is adding a “brain gym,” through PositScience, the “premier brain fitness program in the world.” Eight-week courses, one hour a day Monday through Friday, put residents through their mental paces, and improve the “plasticity” of the brain.

“They take your brain to higher levels,” Bucher said. “They are giving people an average of 10 years improvement in memory power. And they think they’re only scratching the surface. It’s one of our distinctives, to have these kinds of programs.”

Until now, “the industry has attracted the 80-plus demographics,” Bucher said. “Now, it’s a really, really nice place for a young 70-year-old to come to.

“I have a passion for it,” Bucher said of the work. “I love the fact we can really enhance people’s lives in the setting. Life doesn’t need to wind down at this point.” It changes, “but it can still be exciting. It’s not a time for dying; it’s a time for living. This is not the old folks home, it just isn’t.”