The Fountains are innovative and solid in seniors housing

Fountains Retirement Communities surpass residents' expectations with a balance of service and new ideas. When evaluating seniors housing options for a family member, specific life care programs can vary throughout most facilities in any given marketplace in the nation. The Fountains Retirement Communities Inc., a Tucson, Ariz.-based seniors housing provider, has catapulted into the American Seniors Housing Association's (ASHA) survey of top 25 owners and managers as a privately held company with a passion for its residents and their continuing care programs. According to both 1997 ASHA lists, The Fountains is ranked 25th with 3,399 units in 14 properties owned while managing 4,324 units in 19 facilities, placing 14th on ASHA's list.

In 1996, the company was named Business of the Year by the American Society on Aging for its outstanding programs and services, including intergenerational programs, healing gardens and positive aging promotion. Based on its innovative vision, a solid management track record, private financial strength and long-term growth strategy, The Fountains has a very bright future as the seniors industry continues to witness rapid change and expansion. It has secured itself an excellent position as one of the nation's most innovative continuum of care campus owner/operator teams going into 1998.

Since 1991, the firm's portfolio has grown from 260 units to 100% ownership of nearly 4,000 units in 16 communities, while managing more than 4,800 units in 21 facilities by early 1998. As of June 1997, the company reported assets of $215 million, gross revenues of $50 million and a net operating income of $8 million. The firm projects gross revenues for 1998 will be more than double.

"This company creates great opportunities for residents and associates alike. I think we've approached this business from the beginning as learners, not as know-it-alls, which keeps our minds and ears open for innovation all the time," says June Hussey, a vice president at The Fountains. "In the rapidly changing healthcare field, it pays to be innovative. I think our leadership sets the tone and our associates perform well by these principles. We really believe in our mission to create extraordinary communities where people choose to be while our residents are our teachers and our inspiration."

A SOLID FEATURE The Fountains' first order of business is to enlist residents and associates to their mission and train all staff members on customer service. But what's next for this fast-growing seniors housing provider? "We're examining a number of options, including going public, and it's a very real possibility for us, maybe in 1999," says David Freshwater, CEO at Fountains Retirement Communities. "It's a timing thing for us; it's whatever matches best with our company. It is certainly an option."

"One of the things we have told our employees is that we are preparing the company to go public. Whether or not we go public is an undecided issue," says Mitch Pozez, president at The Fountains. "We have, by virtue of our majority shareholder (Kaiser-Francis Oil Co.), access to a tremendous amount of capital that's low cost. Most of the companies out there that have gone public have done it because they need the access to the capital."

Goals are important to The Fountains, and its management has set the pace for growth and success well into the next decade. "Our long-term goals have not changed in the past year. Our goals are to build an extraordinary company. Everyone in this company is working toward the same goal," says Pozez. "Our residents pick the entry point that they want to come into one of our communities and what product type they choose when they come into one of our campuses. The Fountains offers a great independent living environment. If they have a need-generated decision then they can enter into our Alzheimer's or our assisted living communities, and we all help each resident at all times. Most of our residents enter our system as independent living residents and continue to grow with us during time."

One of the goals at The Fountains is working with prospective residents prior to entering any of its facilities throughout the nation. "Another stage in the continuum is with The Fountains at Home program with our commitment to build our home health agency," says Freshwater. "We're going to be linking with these folks before they actually even move in, so The Fountains continuum can be their own home."

The Fountains has recognized opportunities to grow within the seniors environment, and its strategies are sound. "In a nutshell, we've recognized a lot of opportunities and spent a lot of money. We have been very opportunistic-driven, and 1997 presented several opportunities that we had been working on that came to fruition," says Freshwater. "We have in the neighborhood of $50 million to $60 million worth of new development. As for our existing campuses and renovations, we've spent in excess of $100 million in new acquisitions last year."

The keys to moving forward at The Fountains are opportunity in the seniors arena and being flexible within the ever-changing seniors industry. "There continues to be selected opportunities for us to buy new campus communities. Also we see a great deal of opportunity in our home health business, and this will become the more important part of The Fountains' overall picture," says Pozez. "It represents less than 1% of our revenue base, and we look into 1998 as seeing that number growing perhaps as high as 5%. I would say that by summer of 1998 there will be seven properties under construction encompassing 700 to 800 units."

THE EDEN ALTERNATIVE Healing gardens and life care programs are an attempt to bring a more human approach to healthcare, and The Fountains implements this approach in their facilities. "We are beginning to discover the positive therapeutic value in the natural world around us," says Hussey. "The Gardens is a group home with 6,000 sq. ft. and can house up to 18 residents. The Gardens will create a healing and therapeutic environment using the Eden Alternative and therapeutic gardens for our residents."

Developing exceptional community life programs is a major focus at The Fountains. These programs are possible with a well-trained staff and compassionate employees practicing various healing programs for residents while being committed to activity-focused care. "Older adults are society's most undervalued, unappreciated and untapped resource. We seek to connect our residents with a diverse range of opportunities for wellness and fulfillment, for making connections and contributions," says Hussey. "From writing to theater groups to school mentorships, our community life programs are designed to inspire and motivate residents, to give feelings of self-worth and self-esteem."

In a community called The Fountains at La Cholla in Tucson, Ariz., a new Alzheimer's and related dementia facility is opening this month called The Gardens. This area is a key part of a greater web of choices that The Fountains has designed to maximize personal growth and independence during life's "third age."

"People chose the product that we have; we are trying to increase this by creating communities that are a little different than everyone else's and increase the value of our retirement housing," says Freshwater. "We're looking for the ability to make our product more attractive to people who are looking for retirement housing. The active elderly resident is the one that will choose a Fountainscommunity because of our association with universities and the ability to take classes and activity programs that are above other levels of retirement and wellness programs."

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