Aging in Style

Trezevant Manor expansion adds options for residents

By Don Wade

A few weeks ago, Jill Stepherson fell in a Walgreens parking lot. Given that she is 90 years old, one or more broken bones could have been an unfortunate, but hardly unusual, outcome.

John Webb is CEO of Trezevant Manor, a retirement community on Highland Street that in 2013 completed a $120 million expansion and renovation project. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

But Stepherson walked away with only bruises.

“What helped me was I’ve been taking tai chi, and it teaches you some lunging (motions),” said Stepherson, a resident at Trezevant Manor on North Highland Street in Midtown. “I felt the strength in my right leg catching me. The fall was slowed down. I just sort of rolled.”

She shared this story after finishing a morning exercise class at Trezevant. It’s a not-for-profit retirement community that has been in operation since 1977. In 2013, Trezevant completed a $120 million long-term expansion and renovation project.

Although Stepherson was not a Trezevant resident when the board of directors began considering the expansion that would grow the property from 7.5 acres to 15 acres, the decision to grow bigger was essentially made with people such as her in mind.

Trezevant CEO John Webb said that 10 to 12 years ago, the board “looked at who we are and who we wanted to be. We considered opening a new location in Germantown to complement this one. But we have the best location in the city.”

While the latter is subjective, it did indeed factor into Jean Borkert’s decision to move to Trezevant 15 years ago after she sold her condo. She was 73 then.

“I love the location,” said Borkert, who still drives and, like many residents, is a patron of the arts who finds her way to Theatre Memphis, Playhouse on the Square and the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts.

Residents such as Borkert and Stepherson – and about 75 percent of the approximate 450 residents are female – live independently. But with assisted-living quarters and a long-term care facility on site, more help is available should it be required.

When the expansion was complete, Trezevant had 225 independent-living units, including 36 garden homes, 24 of which were new. In addition, there were 104 assisted-living apartments, including the Memory Support Center, and another 104 long-term care beds.

“LifeCare” contracts range from $150,000 to $350,000, depending on living space. The contracts have refund clauses that range from 0 to 90 percent.

Fitness instructor Jean Reed’s gentle stretching class at Trezevant Manor is one of many programs residents participate in to encourage active lifestyles.

The grand plan: provide contingencies as people age and their health changes.

“People are living longer,” Webb said.

Calculations from Social Security indicate that a man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84. A woman turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86.

Beyond that, one in every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one in 10 will live past 95. At Trezevant, 65 is the minimum for residency, and Webb says they have residents older than 100 still living independently.

The increasing lifespans were evident years ago, and the Trezevant Foundation was created in 1980 as a separate, not-for-profit entity with two main goals: to assist residents who have “outlived their resources,” Webb said, and to enhance the quality of life for current and future residents.

An onsite retail shop, Dottie’s Digs, brought in $70,000 for the Foundation in 2013, Webb said.

The community offers amenities that range from a pool and fitness center to a nondenominational chapel and a performing arts room with a portable stage where University of Memphis students practice their recitals before an audience.

There is a bistro and bar and a family room of sorts with a big flat-screen TV that is a gathering spot for Grizzlies and Tigers games. Residents tend vegetable and flower gardens, read in the library or use computers there, and have onsite banking and a beauty shop that Webb laughingly calls “my communications center.”

On a recent morning, Gloria Andereck, 85, walked out of one of the more than two dozen exercise and aquatics classes offered, having just finished a stretch in which she crossed one leg in front of the other and leaned her upper torso from side to side while holding onto a chair.

“My balance is excellent,” she said. “I can stand on one foot for a count of 150, 200.”

She wasn’t bragging, merely pointing out the benefits of working at it every day.

“It’s not an old people’s place,” she said with a smile. “It’s anything but an old people’s place.”