This is the 11th in a series of articles intended to demystify the experience of living in a retirement community.

This article and the next three will each profile a different retirement community in Prescott, AZ. Today's discusses Las Fuentes, which offers independent living, assisted living, and nursing/skilled nursing care.

Las Fuentes is a fun place to be. Outings to jazz concerts, casinos, golf chipping and dozens of other events and activities are offered. Liz Schmidt, sales director, commented, "If a new restaurant opens in Prescott, within two months we've taken a busload of residents there."

Saturday nights find residents enjoying the "stationary cruise ship," with live entertainment and entrees such as prime rib.

Residents volunteer to run new activities; one recent offering was a "Write Your Life" course that helped interested residents create autobiographies. Crafts, cooking, Bible study and dozens of other activities are available.

Garden beds raised to hip height allow people in wheelchairs the chance to get involved in an activity that most people assume must be done kneeling on the ground.

Las Fuentes offers residents many chances to volunteer. Near Christmas, the site hosts a senior Christmas tree and residents buy gifts that needy seniors outside of Las Fuentes wish for. A food collection box seems to be a permanent fixture in the lobby. The Knit & Chat group knits booties and blankets for babies born in the hospital nearby.

With 290 residents, Las Fuentes is able to attract politicians such as Gov. Jan Brewer to come speak, especially in the run-up to elections.

Las Fuentes feels spacious, from the soaring lobby and a three-story atrium to its 16 acres -- including a one-acre cottonwood park with paths and benches -- and apartments with walk-in pantries and sizes that range up to about 1,700 square feet. Most of the independent living apartments have their own patios. It is the only site I toured that offers underground parking.

It has three full-time drivers who drive regular routes to take people to grocery stores, the post office, banks, the public library, and doctors' appointments.

Resident Services -- separate from the Activities Department -- has an office on the lower level. This group provides orientation for all new residents. Its staff visits residents in the hospital, and will take care of mail, plants, etc. until they come home.

Resident Services provides information for the in-house cable channel that announces birthdays and anniversaries (if residents agree), as well as specials in the dining room.

A copy machine is free to residents. Several free washers and dryers are found in laundry rooms on each floor, often allowing people to get multiple loads done at the same time.

The bustling lobby is staffed by a receptionist 24/7. Schmidt explained, "If somebody comes in and doesn't know your apartment number, we won't let them past the desk unless we reach you in your apartment and you say that it's okay to let them up. We take resident security very seriously."

A number of staff members have been there since Las Fuentes opened its doors 16 years ago. "We know what works with our residents. We provide continuity of care over the years," Schmidt noted.

Its parent company, Century Park Associates, manages 42 independent and assisted living communities across the country, according to its website. Its affiliate, Life Care Centers of America, manages hundreds of nursing homes. Schmidt commented, "This management company won't back out or change. They've never sold a single one of their facilities."

Catching up with a table of residents at the wildly popular Thursday buffet, I found the group so lively that it was hard to keep up with their comments. Asked what they liked best about living at Las Fuentes, the answers came tumbling out, and were variations on a few themes: they love all the friends they've made; they find the people -- both residents and staff -- friendly and helpful; and they enjoy the wide variety of activities available to them.

Asked what they would change at Las Fuentes if they could wave a magic wand, the energetic and enthusiastic group falls silent. They take the question seriously and think hard. Then the consensus is, "Nothing stands out," and "Everything runs smoothly."

-- Next -- 092. Prescott's Alta Vista Retirement Community