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  • Lisa Jevens

2014 Senior Community Award Winners

Many prestigious national awards are bestowed on senior communities each year for star-quality service and lifestyle, but they certainly don't get the attention of the Oscars or the Emmys. There may be an award-winning senior living community near you, and you might not even know it.

So we've decided to open the envelope and reveal a few senior living communities that shone brightly in 2014.

Two important national organizations — the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) — are among those that grant awards for everything from architecture to noteworthy resident programs.

Best 50+ Detached Home (over 2,100 square feet) - first place and Best 50+ For Sale Community (under 200 homes)

second place Del Webb at Gavilán at Rancho Mission Viejo, Calif.

This tiny 50-unit Del Webb community was the first senior single-family detached home neighborhood to be built in Orange County in more than 10 years.

Located five miles from the ocean, near San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Mission Viejo is comprised of 17,000 acres of permanent open space and 6,000 acres being developed into multiple villages of residential and mixed-use buildings. Sendero was the first of these villages, which opened last summer. Gavilán is a 55+ active adult community in Sendero, featuring 286 ranch homes built by various developers including Del Webb's mini-neighborhood of 50 homes.

After looking at the community and the homes, it's easy to see why architects were challenged to design a move-down home with all the amenities of a larger one, incorporating universal design, while taking advantage of the spectacular hill country views. The NAHB obviously thought they succeeded.

The homes are attractive inside and out, light-filled and clean looking. Beautiful, high-end, modern finishes adorn each room.

The views are spectacular, as the homes are situated at the highest elevation in Rancho Mission Viejo. Lots are sloped, giving a feeling of privacy.

Brookdale Plaza Lake Shore Drive_edited.jpg

Best 50+ Remodeled Project

Brookdale Plaza Lake Shore Drive (formerly The Hallmark Chicago)

This luxury high rise with a classy address opened in 1990, and 20 years later, the 62+ Brookdale rental community was ready for a facelift and a retrofit for modern lifestyles, Executive Director Steven Salaman says.

The impressive, refurbished lobby chandelier is one of the few traces of the building's former look. Spaces were reconfigured to be more open, color schemes were lightened, furniture and décor went from dated to transitional, bathrooms were made more senior-friendly, and obsolete rooms were repurposed.

Now, the lobby has an expanded concierge desk and a bistro and lounge (formerly a billiard room) at the back. It features a fireplace and computer station.

"It's like a mini Starbucks, where people can get free coffee, read papers, use their iPads or laptops, watch TV or chat," Salaman says.

After the remodel, occupancy rates went from the low 70s to 91 percent, as residents and families shared their new pride of place with others.

ALFA Human Resources winner

Emeritus Senior Living (Five communities in the Chicago area; more than a dozen in the Los Angeles area, 500 nationwide)

The Serving Our Seniors, Serving Our Country Military Recruitment Program was lauded as a win-win for post-9/11 veterans, their spouses, and Emeritus communities. Emeritus committed to recruit 1,000 veterans over a five-year period by developing a network of military personnel around the United States.

Since November 2012, Emeritus has received more than 10,000 applications from veterans, and has hired 248. In addition, Emeritus has hired 133 military spouses since it started tracking such hires in April 2013.

Veterans make valuable employees.

"It seems like a lot of the skills they learn in the military, like their discipline, their leadership skills, their dedication — all those soft skills — really translate well," says Kate Brodie, recruiting project specialist, in the ALFA newsletter.

ALFA Clinical Care winner

Pathway Senior Living (13 assisted living communities in the Chicago area; seven with independent apartments)

Viva is the motto of Pathway communities, and Viva!Plus is the award-winning program the company created over the past three years. It centers around a carefully screened list of preferred providers that residents may hire, such as nursing care, therapists, pharmacy services and medication management. There is even an on-site doctor who visits once a week. These services are a la carte, and supplement Pathway communities' services.

By using preferred providers who visit the community regularly, Pathway residents have shown improved health, safety and well-being, Chief Operating Officer Maria Oliva says.

In 2013, Pathway reported a 33 percent decrease in 30-day hospital re-admissions and an 8 percent decrease in the number of hospitalizations.

Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Prime Time senior living section on July 9, 2014.

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