PHOENIX Magazine Article

Group Home Improvement

Author: Dolores Tropiano
PRINT Issue: April, 2011, Page 94

Photos by Michael Zehring

A scene from Paradise Valley Senior Retreat

Turn-down bed service. Breakfast to order. An in-house hair salon.

Sound like a luxury hotel? It’s supposed to. That’s what owners Florin and Anca Ile have in mind with their high-end assisted living home in Paradise Valley that strives to provide personalized care for seniors.

The Paradise Valley Senior Retreat ( is a nearly $1 million, 6,000-square-foot home on a lush property with views of Camelback Mountain. The residence, near Tatum and Shea boulevards, has nine bedrooms and bathrooms, and with a fireplace burning on chilly nights, provides a warm, homey alternative to Arizona’s 231 larger assisted-living centers.

“It feels like a retreat,” says Florin Ile, 32, who has owned the business for three years. “It’s not institutionalized. So when it comes to getting the quality care that seniors need, there’s no place like one where you can get personalized care in an upscale environment.”

Owners Florin and Anca Ile

That environment comes at a cost: $4,000 to $6,800 a month. A typical assisted-living residential home in Arizona costs $2,500 a month, but assisted-living centers nationwide, which offer a menu of services and may have more than 100 beds, typically charge $3,000 to $6,000. Nursing homes are staffed with registered nurses, provide round-the-clock care, and cost $6,000 to $8,000 a month. All are licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The department’s program manager for its assisted-living division, Larry Martens, says the department requires at least 1,200 square feet to operate a five-bedroom assisted living home. “I personally have not seen that many 6,000-square-foot assisted living facilities,” Martens says. “There are a few facilities that charge $6,000 a month depending on what services are offered.”

These services, he says, may include nurses, a home theater, world-class chefs and spas – none of which is offered by the Paradise Valley Senior Retreat.

But here’s what residents do get: large bedrooms with walk-in closets, designer bathrooms and home-cooked meals; doctors and nurses who make regular monthly rounds; two caregivers attending to residents during the day, with staff on hand overnight; and a family atmosphere. Seniors participate in exercise programs, games and outings. They also mingle with the Ile family’s four young children, who provide socialization and a substitute set of grandchildren for the residents.

“I have been doing this for 18 years,” says Susanne Schaeffer, a social worker who toured the home with a client recently. “The care here is exceptional.”

A scene from Paradise Valley Senior Retreat

But Doug Fusella says there can be a downside to assisted-living homes. “There is a lack of activities and community, because you have a very limited amount of people there in terms of residents. If you are in very good shape, you can easily get bored if the rest of the group is not,” says Fusella, whose Dallas-based company, New LifeStyles, is a nationwide source for senior-living options.

Fusella says there are more assisted-living homes in Arizona than almost any other state: 1,956, with 1,725 of them inside residential homes. Sunny weather plays a big part.

In the Valley, nearly 400 Romanians, including the Iles, run many of the assisted-living homes. “The Romanian community has basically taken over the assisted-living industry because it fits our lifestyle so well. We are so loving and caring for the elderly,” Florin Ile says. “It is the way we were brought up in Romania. We don’t know of grandparents being put in institutions. It doesn’t make sense to us.”

That love and care continues to the last moments of a resident’s life, with Florin playing the guitar to someone on their deathbed, and his wife, Anca, 28, gently holding a hand if family can’t be present.

“We are different. We are more of a family,” Anca says. “We try to make people feel loved. It has to do with the way we were raised. I grew up in communism, and for us it was very important to take care of each other…. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, you have to take care of each other.”

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