Friday, April 4, 2008

Retirement Communities

Life-fulfilling communities: An inspired concept

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – April 4, 2008 – Praxeis doesn’t develop retirement communities. Don’t even use that word in earshot of the company’s executives.

Praxeis creates a “Life Fulfilling Community,” a phrase trademarked by the Jacksonville-based company.

And it’s putting those communities, marketed to people 62 and older, in the vicinity of college campuses, those bastions of intellectual challenge and wild party nights.

The university connection is part of Praxeis’ business strategy, which seeks to get beyond the stereotypical view of older adults merely winding down their lives, said Dick Ambrosius, vice president of cultural resources.

“There’s not a business in the country that’s not going to be impacted by the demographic shift,” he said. “At no point in our history have older adults dominated the market.” He added, “Some companies get it, but some still market to the old model of, ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.’ Older people have been buying a lot of products over the years in spite of the advertising, not because of it.”

Praxeis, which operates at an office in Ortega, developed Oak Hammock at the University of Florida in Gainesville in 2004. The $132 million development is near full occupancy, according to the company.

The company is turning its attention to Florida State University for a community called Westcott Lakes. The goal is to open it in 2010 in SouthWood, a St. Joe development in Tallahassee.

Praxeis also is working with the University of Kentucky and the University of South Florida on plans for similar communities.

The company’s first community was The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch in Sarasota. It’s not affiliated with a university.

Ambrosius said over the years, communities catering to people 62 and older have expanded their on-site fitness program, such as weight rooms and pools. In the same way, he said, residents want activities that keep them mentally fit. He points to medical research showing older adults don’t reach a point where their brains stop adjusting neurologically to new experiences.

The research has suggested people who do brain-stimulating activities have a better chance of avoiding memory loss and even Alzheimer’s.

“The old model was doing crosswords puzzles,” Ambrosius said. “But further research has shown it’s that and more. If you really want to stave off Alzheimer’s, learn a new language. Take up Sudoku.” Being in a college town gives residents the ability to live like a college student in terms of taking classes and going to cultural events but avoid big-city hassles like traffic, he said.

At Westcott Lakes, the entrance fee ranges from $268,000 to $1.3 million. Prices at the high end put residents into a plan that will refund 95 percent of the fee when a resident moves out or dies.

Residents also pay a monthly fee ranging from $2,430 to $5,430, depending on the size of residence. They must be active and independent at the time they move in, but from then on, they would be guaranteed lifetime services for assisted living and skilled nursing.

Praxeis doesn’t have any plans for developing a community in connection with the University of North Florida, though Ambrosius said that would have one definite advantage for the company’s employees – they wouldn’t have to travel so far for the meetings that go into getting a community off the ground.

Copyright © 2008 The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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