At first glance, the newly opened Point Pleasant Retirement Community in North Versailles doesn't seem much different from a retirement facility that could be found anywhere, down to the white gazebo in the garden.
But Chief Operating Officer Richard Sobehart said Point Pleasant is not only grounded in local tradition, it's a product of everything he's learned about the needs of older adults in the Pittsburgh area.
Mr. Sobehart, 61, has worked for many years with Western Pennsylvania's aging population. Before retiring in 2004, he was president of St. Margaret Hospital in Pittsburgh, near Aspinwall, and helped to create senior living communities for UPMC as a consultant.
He now heads the Point Pleasant property company, while a second company, Management Services, manages the property.
One thing he said he learned is that having choices is important for older adults. Point Pleasant was created to offer them options.
"I came out of retirement to do this," he said, gesturing around one of the commons areas of the 125-unit building.
He stressed that Point Pleasant is not a nursing home, but was designed for adults 75 or older and living independently.
"The idea is to provide a supportive environment to those who, either by choice or by necessity, aren't able to take care of a home or to drive," he said.
But Point Pleasant offers residents flexibility, he added. It doesn't require a large deposit or long-term commitment from them, just a monthly rental fee.
"The people in Western Pennsylvania, they're buyers of services on an as-needed basis," Mr. Sobehart said. "We feel they prefer to keep their resources under their own control, and pay as they go."
"Everyone ages differently," he went on. "If someone wants to leave to live with their son or daughter in Florida, we want them to have that freedom."
Located on Mosside Boulevard and overlooking a nearby wooded valley, Point Pleasant offers studio, and one- and two-bedroom apartments at a cost of $1,650 to $2,800 per month.
Mr. Sobehart said this fee structure includes three chef-prepared meals daily in the dining room, all utilities, linen service, maid service, live-in 24-hour management and security, transportation to nearby shopping and activities.
"Plus, people can bring their pets," he said. "And we've made sure to reserve space so that those who wish to can do their own gardening."
There is also an on-site beauty shop and a convenience store.
Point Pleasant's marketing manager, Susan Whalen, pointed out that although Point Pleasant sounds like a generic name, the retirement community is named for Point Pleasant School, a one-room school that sat nearby and served children at the start of the 20th century.
"We really wanted a name that reflected the community where we're located," she said.
It was the community that attracted Point Pleasant's first official resident, June Rhinehart, 75, who moved in Oct. 1 after a one-day, 12-hour drive from her former home in the Museum Park area of Chicago.
Ms. Rhinehart, a retired corporate attorney, was considering a move back to her native area when she heard about Point Pleasant from one of her three sisters, who live in the region.
Although she sometimes misses her view of Lake Michigan, Ms. Rhinehart said she is surprised how quickly she has found friends at Point Pleasant.
"As you age, you lose friends, and you need to cultivate new ones," she said. "This place encourages you to interact with new people."
She also cited the beauty of her apartment's balcony and the sunroom as part of her decision to try a new way of living.
"It's important to have a pretty environment," she said. "It brightens your whole spirit."
Mr. Sobehart said the attractiveness of Point Pleasant's apartments and common spaces was a point of pride for him.
"It's not quite finished, but when it is, my greatest satisfaction will be the 'Wow!' when people walk in," he said, adding that the wide range of public rooms includes a living room with a fireplace, a library, a "pub," an activity room and a card room.
The design of Point Pleasant also reflects older adults' concerns about safety, Mr. Sobehart said. The building has a state-of-the-art security system, two residential managers on call round-the-clock, and emergency pull cords in every room.
Although Point Pleasant has only a few residents, Mr. Sobehart said he expects the facility to be filled within 12 to 18 months, and that with his investors, he planned to build similar retirement communities elsewhere in Pennsylvania, and in New York and Ohio.
For more information about Point Pleasant Retirement Community, call 412-823-2210 or go to pointpleasantretirementcommunity.com.
Freelance writer Kate Luce Angell can be reached in care of firstname.lastname@example.org .