Like The Palms at Ponte Vedra and its other developments, Health Care Managers creates communities that enable people to maintain their standard of living. Barbara Matteson, the facility’s executive director, said developer Steve Sell “keeps coming up with these ideas with a higher and higher standard that helps make the aging process for people better.”
With features including a 1950s-themed ice cream parlor, The Palms is designed to keep people active while reflecting on their positive memories. The interior design is by Jacksonville’s Judith Sisler Johson, who specializes in upscale senior facilities.
By Kevin Hogencamp, Contributing Writer
Barbara Matteson has overseen assisted living residences for more than 25 years, but says her latest gig is vastly different than the others.
The Palms at Ponte Vedra is so exquisite and amenity-driven, she says, that it resembles a luxury cruise ship.
With a 1950s-themed ice cream parlor, 32-seat movie theatre, natural putting green and happy hours in the billiard room, The Palm’s operators have created an activity-filled community for people accustomed to having a dynamic lifestyle.
The interior design by Jacksonville’s Judith Sisler Johnston, who specializes in planning and decorating upscale senior facilities, is lavish-yet-comfortable throughout the development, from the dining room to the suites. The Palms also offers state-of-the-art water therapy with a built-in treadmill; it’s the same type of pool used by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“People walk in here and say, ‘Wow!’” Matteson said. “And they walk through and keep saying, ‘Wow!”
The assisted living and memory care facility at 405 Solana Road in Ponte Vedra Beach opened in September. About half of its 86 units, which includes beds for 32 memory care residents, are leased, with new tenants moving every week.
The Palms is owned and operated by Health Care Managers Inc. of Fernandina Beach, Fla., which also developed Lakeside Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Park Ridge Nursing Center in Jacksonville, along with facilities in Hilliard, Amelia Island and The Villages.
“He (Health Care Management President and CEO Steve Sell) keeps coming up with these ideas with a higher and higher standard that helps make the aging process for people better,” Matteson said. “I know it’s a business, but they are into it because they really care.”
Sells said that Health Care Managers’ developments aim to embrace people’s desire to continue to the lifestyle they are accustomed to when they are no longer able to do so while living in their homes.
“We’re trying to attract people to be able to live a life that’s enjoyable and more social,” he said. “People want to stay home and I appreciate that, but there’s a lot to be said for enjoying the company of other people, eating well and being cared for in a community like The Palms.”
Beyond the lavish lobby and library, guests entering the facility walk into a dining room that resembles an upscale restaurant or country club setting. Residents can order from the menu or make special requests – around the clock.
The Palms also embraces the latest technological advances, particularly for safety. Its memory care area has LED lights that make finding the restroom easier and also has an advanced, keyless door locking system with multiple levels of encryption for both security and peace of mind.
The facility also has standard services such as chauffeured transportation to medical appointments, social events and the beach, and a steady diet of social, recreational, fitness and educational programs.
“What’s different here than other places I’ve been is the participation level in the activities and exercise program. The residents are very active; I think it’s because they are more comfortable – they are happier here,” Matteson said.
Creating assisted living and memory care environments that are visually pleasing and activity-driven, while offering creature comforts and excellent care, is increasingly common and makes good business sense, says Beth Burnham Mace, chief economist for the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care in Annapolis, Md.
“It’s sort of full monty of senior care services in a sense that a lot of operators want to make sure that they have a stimulating environment that offers socialization, entertainment and physical activity,” she said.
The Palms is especially wise, Mace said, to embrace other family members visiting residents as if they were visiting their homes.
Indeed, Matteson says The Palms residents entertain guests much more frequently than residents of other places she’s worked.
“If you go to a nursing home, you’re usually uncomfortable visiting there,” she said. “What I’ve already seen happening in this environment is that family and friends love it in here … and they stay longer because love seeing their loved ones in a warm place that doesn’t feel like a clinical nursing home.”
From a design standpoint, Sisler Johnson said, The Palms is dramatically different than assisted facilities of yesteryear.
“There was a myth that seniors didn’t want a place with personality or colors, so we used to do an institutional kind of look,” she said. “We look at things very differently now. This isn’t us a facility at arm’s length. It’s a community that 100 or so people are going to call their home. So we create a home.”
Mace said that a common refrain of residents who live in top-level facilities like The Palms is, “I wish I would have done this sooner.”
“It’s reflective of where we are living in 2016; it’s recognizing the benefits of good health and how you achieve good health,” she said.