Spanning over a quarter century, The Freshwater Group has been keenly aware of the benefits of collaborating with the nation’s leaders in education, wellness and healthcare. Even upon opening his first retirement community, The Fountains at La Cholla in 1987, Freshwater sought out affiliations that could provide his team valuable outside perspectives on their business. An early entrant into the for-profit senior living field, Freshwater wanted to look beyond rigid industry confines to broaden his own thinking as well as his customers’ thinking about aging and wellness.

The University of Arizona’s Center on Aging is leading research in its field. Given its Tucson location, it was only natural for Freshwater to approach the University of Arizona to form this first collaboration. So in 1987, long before “wellness” became an industry buzzword, The Fountains at La Cholla became a host site for Project Age Well, a wellness program that proved to be way ahead of its time. Early research conducted in The Fountains’ wellness center provided the University of Arizona valuable data, from bone density studies to memory screenings, for longevity studies that are still ongoing today.

For collaborations to succeed, Freshwater has always envisioned benefits to all stakeholders — a win-win-win — for all involved. During Project Age Well collaborations, winners included the University, Fountains residents and Freshwater’s fledgling business. This “everybody wins” vision continues to guide new affiliations as The Freshwater Group and Watermark work with leaders in their respective fields across the country to create the next great innovation or discovery.

Particularly notable for its pioneering integration with health care and research partners is Freshwater’s newest and most innovative project yet. The Hacienda at The River in Tucson heralds a new era in senior residential care. A 7.5-acre residential campus under development along Tucson’s Rillito River, this project will be a unique community for mature individuals seeking assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and rehabilitative services. Residents will have unprecedented access to cutting-edge university-based clinical care, programming and research.  Through an interdisciplinary collaboration centered at The Hacienda at The River, Freshwater has forged what he calls the Live Well Age Well Collaborative, which will explore ways that we can live longer, healthier lives. Collaborative members will include the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine (AzCIM), the Arizona Center on Aging (ACOA), and several prominent local doctors, therapists and hospitals.

Fertile ground for new research opportunities, The Hacienda at The River will be the first retirement community and rehabilitation center, for example, to offer Equine-Assisted Therapy (“AET”).   Research will be conducted to test and document the healing impact of horses.

The Freshwater Group and Watermark are also working with Dr. Andrew Weil in the development of new recipes and menus that follow his recommendations for an anti-inflammatory diet.  While retirement communities have made good strides over the past 25 years in improving the taste of their food and dining environments, little progress has been made in the healthfulness of menu offerings. Many senior housing operators and the seniors they serve, frankly, feel that since they have lived to a ripe old age they should continue to indulge in unhealthy entrees, side dishes and desserts at every meal. Who can argue with that logic? Dr. Weil feels that with some change in our paradigm and perspective, we can have our cake and eat it too, almost literally.  Healthy eating can be and should be tasty.  And contrary to those who feel it makes no difference what a person eats later in life, there is growing evidence to suggest quite the opposite: diet is critically important to warding off serious disease.

“Following an anti-inflammatory diet can help counteract the chronic inflammation that is a root cause of many serious diseases, including those that become more frequent as people age. It is a way of selecting and preparing foods based on science that can help people achieve and maintain optimum health over their lifetime.”  Andrew Weil

We are quite proud and excited for the privilege to work with Dr. Weil and know that our collaborative efforts will not only improve the quality of our food offerings but also the quality of our residents’ lives. Over time, we hope our efforts will also help produce a cultural shift in the very way Americans of all ages think about, prepare, ingest and ultimately reap the health benefits of good food.

As The Hacienda at The River gets off the ground, Watermark and Freshwater are forging new affiliations and collaborations with hospital groups, research institutions and other innovators in other parts of the country, too.  For example, Freshwater and development partner, Jonathan Rose Companies are planning an integrative care campus with senior living, wellness, corporate fitness and acute care operations on a spectacular 70+ acre property in Westchester County, NY.  Bordering both the scenic Hudson River and a National Historic Landmark, this project will be developed in partnership with a major healthcare system and its affiliated university.

Continuing a tradition of collaboration that started more than 25 years ago, Watermark and Freshwater will continue to routinely work with universities in communities they operate, offering student internships, externships and other faculty/student interactions that provide rich opportunities with far-reaching mutual benefits.