Aging graciously at Waterstone of Westchester

Waterstone of Westchester, slated to open early in 2022, will bring a new level of comfort and sophistication to senior living in White Plains.

The covers are almost off at Waterstone, the swanky new senior independent living community in White Plains, which is slated to open early in 2022.

Designed for those age 62 and over, the six-story Waterstone is a luxury hotel-style community, sitting on almost three acres along Bloomingdale Road, within walking distance of downtown shopping and restaurants. Whole Foods Market and The Cheesecake Factory will be pretty much on the doorstep, and The Westchester, White Plains’ posh shopping mall (page36,) is little more than five minutes’ easy saunter away, so that – with the notable exception of an easily “walkable” pharmacy – there will be ample shopping and dining opportunities for most of Waterstone’s lucky residents. 

With 132 beautifully appointed apartments, residents will also enjoy a full array of exceptional amenities, including a movie theater, fitness center, indoor pool, lobby bar, art studio and salon. Waterstone will also boast an on-site concierge, along with covered parking and a chauffeured black-car service. And on the dining front, in addition to all the many local restaurants, residents can look forward to high-end cuisine served in a variety of on-site outlets, prepared by professional chefs fully in tune with the culinary zeitgeist of farm to table and local, seasonal ingredients. 

John Martin, principal at Elkus Manfredi Architects Ltd., the Boston firm that designed Waterstone of Westchester, says that “the project aimed to meet the needs of the growing number of seniors who want to remain local.” Owned by Epoch Senior Living, Waterstone is the latest such community created by National Development, a leader in the field. Originating and still based in Massachusetts — the first community, in Wellesley, opened in 2012 — Epoch now operates 12 senior living communities with four more under development. The Westchester County site is the company’s first independent senior living community in New York state. 

Epoch President and CEO Larry Gerber was a former CEO of Berkshire Group, which specializes in multifamily and health-care properties. His other business was Harborside Healthcare, a nursing home company. In a recent phone conversation, Gerber explained how a long process of “creeping incrementalism” dovetailed neatly into building and operating senior living communities — quite literally for the next generation.

In the late 1990s, Gerber said, assisted living was an emerging business. Gerber recognized that it was a “fabulous product,” one that helped seniors live more independent, dignified, high-quality lives, in many cases at lower costs than people were paying in traditional, full-nursing facilities. “I realized that people should be in the least medical, least institutionalized setting where they can (still) live safely and comfortably.”

The other key factor — a cornerstone of Waterstone and an increasing number of senior communities — is the rental model. In typical retirement communities, incoming residents pay an entrance fee, which in Westchester, for instance, might easily be $1 million or more, and which usually means selling your principal property. The investment is in reality a long-term loan, said Gerber, which ties up a lot of capital, doesn’t bear interest and often requires the resale of the unit for its repayment.

Rental agreements, by contrast, are subject only to 60 days’ notice, so if you don’t love Waterstone — though it’s hard to imagine at this point what’s not to love — it’s easy to pick up and leave. (Put another way, “you’re not going to lose $100,000 and wait a year to get it back,” Gerber said.)

Back at the site itself, apartments will offer multiple floor plan designs and feature high-end finishes. Units include designer kitchens with stainless steel appliances, well-appointed bathrooms, tile floors and walk-in showers, individually controlled heating and cooling systems, spacious walk-in closets and a washer/dryer. The beautiful common areas, designed to feel like a luxury, five-star hotel, will open onto a landscaped terrace and provide for social interaction with residents and visitors. 

Another plus for Waterstone is its partnership with the neighboring Visiting Nurse Services in Westchester Inc. (VNS), which provides nursing care on an as-needs basis and which will have an office situated within the complex to offer services to residents. A whole range of amenities, including postoperative care and physical therapy, will therefore be available right in the building, with private care aid available from another company with its office downstairs. In this way, residents can enjoy independent living (as opposed to full-service assisted living,) for as long as possible, paying only for those services they may require.

But at the end of the day, it’s social interaction that is key, Gerber said, adding that numerous studies have shown that social isolation facilitates a decline in mental capability. “We talk about the care and the great meals we’re providing, but we don’t talk enough about lifestyle and the psychological benefits.” He passionately believes that companionship is the most important thing that Waterstone offers. “As you age, your options become fewer,” he said. “First, you give up driving at night and then you don’t drive at all. Friends move away — or pass away. You say to yourself, ‘I’m going to stay in my house. It’s where I raised my children,’ and then gradually you become more and more isolated.”

At Waterstone, Gerber said, residents can go out to dinner every single night without making complicated plans or having to get into a car, they can go shopping or to a doctor’s appointment and they can have Waterstone drive them.  

 “Having friends and activities and something to do every day is huge in terms of psychological well-being,” said Gerber, who added that “helping people get the best out of their later years” is what drives him. “It’s so much better than staying in your house and watching television.”

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