This is the 14th in a series of articles intended to demystify the experience of living in a retirement community.

Good Samaritan has heart.

Owned by the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, it is the only nonprofit among the four retirement communities I looked into in the area. Good Samaritan reports that it is the largest nonprofit provider of senior care communities in the country.

Its vision is "to create an environment where people are loved, valued and at peace." It makes a compelling case that it does just that. Staff members with whom I spoke uniformly appeared passionate and committed. They were excited to talk about changes underway to improve the environment for their residents.

Cindy Brown, associate relationship development director, reported that employees are explicitly told, "You will never be disciplined or taken aside and talked to because you took the time to listen to a resident, to talk with a resident."

The community is divided into segments that tend to be relatively small. For example, in Prescott Valley (its newer campus, about 15 years old) it has space for 28 people in independent living, 16 people in memory care, 20 people in its short-term rehabilitation unit, and 44 people in long-term skilled nursing.

Smaller units mean that staff and residents get to know each other and build relationships that would be harder to develop in larger units. Residents seem to have a sense that they are home. Its sites offer multiple little nooks and crannies, little parlors and sitting areas that are nicely appointed and welcoming.

Good Samaritan offers a range of activities similar to those at other retirement communities. It also lists some unique offerings. A recent calendar for one of the independent living units listed balloon volleyball, a group crossword puzzle, games such as Yahtzee and Skip-Bo, and a Lucille Ball marathon. Wii fitness games are popular here, as they are in most retirement communities.

In a couple parts of Good Samaritan, I saw residents interact with dogs trained to provide pet therapy. Residents' faces lit up as they petted and talked with the animals.

Good Samaritan has a choir and other musical groups. It offers the services of a chaplain and makes a serious effort to meet the various spiritual needs of its residents, stressing that it welcomes people of any (or no) religious beliefs. It offers religious services of various denominations.

The walls sport paintings provided by the Mountain Artists Guild in Prescott and by the Prescott Valley Art Guild in Prescott Valley, local artists' groups. The displays are changed regularly, and the artwork is available for purchase.

Every year Good Samaritan hires an independent company to survey its residents, to get feedback about how the residents feel about living there.

Its assisted living unit is striking for the great thought that has gone into its design. I was particularly charmed to see a vast vegetable garden in a safe interior courtyard. Residents are helped to grow large bumper crops of dozens of vegetables. These are then incorporated into their meals, which are prepared almost entirely from scratch by their chef.

What do residents like best? The small size of the units they belong to, decent food, the fellowship they experience with other residents -- a sense of family. The immediate answer, when asked what they'd change? "Not a thing."

Good Samaritan offers the most comprehensive array of services of the four organizations visited for this series.

On its Prescott campus, it offers independent living in casitas and in apartments, assisted living, long-term care (nursing/skilled nursing), short-term rehab, inpatient hospice care and inpatient hospice respite care - as well as HUD-subsidized senior housing. It also offers home care, home health care, and home-based hospice care.

In Prescott Valley, it offers independent living apartments, long-term care (nursing/skilled nursing), short-term rehab, and an Alzheimer's/dementia care unit.

-- Next -- 095. How Much Do Independent and Assisted Living Cost?