This is the 13th in a series of articles intended to demystify the experience of living in a retirement community.

Granite Gate is set in the magnificent rocks of Granite Dells. There are no bad views from the windows of Granite Gate. Common rooms and dining rooms with soaring ceilings and floor-to-ceiling glass windows make the most of the scenery.

When people move in to Granite Gate - even into independent living - they start getting some services right away that are more typical of assisted living. For example, all meals are automatically included. Further, people don't need to change apartments if they start out in independent living and later need assisted living services.

Perhaps because of these features, its residents tend to be 5-10 years older than those in the other retirement communities I visited for this series.

If residents later develop advanced dementia, they can move into Granite Gate's dedicated memory care unit (space permitting).

Granite Gate does not offer skilled nursing, so residents who need this type of care might move elsewhere.

However, Executive Director Rena Phillips pointed out that families often bring in specialized outside services, such as wound care or hospice care, so that their aging relatives can stay in the apartments that have become their homes.

Granite Gate offers apartments of up to 1,400 square feet, which means that people getting assisted living services have homes that are unusually spacious for this level of care.

Residents are often very active and involved. One resident stands behind the bar at happy hour, offering punch and little cups of mixed nuts to fellow residents. Other residents can be seen on stage in talent shows and other performances, while fellow residents form an appreciative audience.

Granite Gate offers many activities typical of retirement communities, as well as several not mentioned elsewhere, such as a Cookies & Conversation Club and a Walking Club.

What do the residents have to say?

A number of them told me that their families found Granite Gate for them, and that they love it there.

One reported, "It is very pleasant here. Everyone is cooperative and friendly. It's in a beautiful setting. We checked out quite a few places. It's excellent. They take care of everything beautifully. They don't let things go; they take care of everything right away."

Another resident commented, "I love the independence I have here. I come and go as I please. It's homey. They make you feel very much at home. The staff is wonderful. They all take beautiful care of me. It's a beautiful building. We have very good transportation. It's a nice clientele of people here. You can be active or be in your room."

Another resident's face lit up as if she had been handed the best present in the world when I asked her what she liked most about living there. She said, "Everyone here is so kind and gentle. Residents and employees are wonderful people. After my husband died, I just didn't know how I'd get along, but I'm very, very comfortable. You know, when you watch TV, it always has bad news - but it doesn't penetrate here. It's just a wonderful, wonderful place. We looked at four places before choosing this one. I just fell in love with the apartment. I don't know a single person who could say anything negative about it."

When asked what they'd want to change, one resident suggested more benches outside, an improvement that Phillips reported was already under way.

The community has had three different owners in about the last six years. Current owners, Five Star Quality Care, took over in May 2011 and immediately made a number of improvements. Sometimes, though, their corporate communication can raise questions.

For example, prominently posted are the Five Star Values, the fourth of which is "Put People First." If the intention is to put people first, why isn't that the first value?

But when I checked the results of state licensing inspections, Granite Gate had the best inspection results of the four organizations I looked into. If resident comments and state inspection records are anything to go by, Granite Gate certainly does put people first.

-- Next -- 094. Good Samaritan Retirement Communities in/near Prescott