Soft keystrokes sound from a hand-made German piano. Across the room a husband and wife sit and read novels, sipping iced tea. Aromas of fine foods envelope the lobby and spread to hallways leading to other marvelous places.

Downstairs in the spa, tired muscles relax with hydrotherapy and massage treatments. A barber in his shop is sculpting a handsome cut. Upstairs in the theater, someone experiences yoga for the first time. A woman takes a morning walk outside amid views of Luscher Farm.

And it's not even noon.

The Stafford, a new 'boutique' retirement community in Lake Oswego, opened last week, and new residents got their first taste of a comfortable, luxurious lifestyle.

'Why can't senior living be like staying at the Ritz-Carlton?' said Alexander Ben-Israel, executive director of The Stafford. 'If you want to eat your breakfast at 10 a.m., you should. Why not?'

About one-third of the 93 units have been reserved. The Wetmores of Lake Oswego were among some of the first to reserve a home at The Stafford, and some of the first to move in.

'It's a wonderful place,' Gloria Wetmore said. 'We're going to be happy here. The beauty parlor is going to be nice. And the dining room - and the people.'

Her husband Bill Wetmore said that they were looking for a change in pace in their lives.

'I still go to work so I can't change too much. But it's time for us to make a change when we're still healthy and can afford a change,' he said. 'It's a good decision.'

The Avamere housing community is designed for residents age 62 and up to be able to live in an upscale, peaceful environment.

'I refer to it as a senior resort,' Ben-Israel said. 'It's like a cruise ship on land. The many different services we provide will support that.'

Something for everyone

Teral and Holly Hill of Hill Devine Design and Supply used their experiences designing large hotels to create a feel similar to a resort - relaxing, sophisticated and fabulous.

'It has Craftsman overtones,' Teral Hill said. 'And we went with a Tuscan feel.'

Gold and marigolds, deep purples and maroons blend with dark wood trim and box-beam ceilings. Custom-made Craftsman fixtures unify the three story building, filled with amenities.

'It's an active senior living community that brings together all the positive principals of hospitality and all the amenities that people like to enjoy,' Ben-Israel said.

The Melange restaurant serves meals all day and coffee and other treats can be found at the bistro cafe. Residents have their own living quarters - studios, one bedroom and two bedroom units complete with washers, dryers and kitchens. Each room has adjustable heating and cooling units for comfort.

But, The Stafford as an entity can be viewed as an extension of their living quarters.

'The whole building is their house. There's a library and living room,' Ben-Israel said. 'There's always something to do and someone to see.'

The complex contains spaces for relaxation, conversation and peaceful reflection and are available 24 hours a day:

n The Sullivan Theater - named after Jack and Norma Sullivan who contributed land for the project and are joint-venture partners in The Stafford - is a place for plays, movies and lectures.

n The chapel with rows of seats is a quiet place for reflection.

n A kids center with puzzles, books and Nintendo Wii, is an area where 'kids can play while the adults visit,' Ben-Israel said.

n The computer lab, Club Lounge with a pool table, and other sitting areas provide areas for interaction and entertainment.

n The fitness facility features exercise equipment utilizing weights in small increments to build strength gradually, and not cause strain.

'Let's say you can easily lift 30 pounds, but 35 pounds is too heavy,' Ben-Israel said, 'then lift 32 pounds.'

The equipment can all by utilizing by stepping in to the machines, not over them.

'This makes them easier to use,' Ben-Israel said.

The men and women's locker rooms feature lockers and luxurious showers.

n The hydrotherapy pool, massage rooms with soft lighting and music, pedicure and manicure stations, hair salon and barber shop are located in close-proximity to one another and provide a restful retreat just steps from residents' front doors.

Yoga, Tai Chi, Aerobics and Strength Training classes are all taught by professional instructors.

n The menu at The Melange will change each month to add to the variety of food choices offered on the property. Each day, a different daily special will be served.

n The United States Post Office delivers mail into secure mailboxes within the building, Ben-Israel said.

n A registered nurse is available full-time to help care for those within the 12-assisted living units.

n A weekly housekeeping service provides vacuuming, cleaning of the kitchen and bathrooms, light dusting, and changing linens and towels.

Really, residents don't ever have to leave the building to experience an active, healthy and interactive lifestyle. But, if they need to go somewhere, a Stafford vehicle provides transportation on pre-scheduled times and days within the local area for doctors' appointments, shopping or other errands.

Or, residents can get their car from one of the 56 parking spots located beneath the building in a parking garage.

Adding to

the community

Rent prices range from about $2,300 to $5,800 a month and include a $325 monthly in-house dining credit and utilities, except a telephone bill, Ben-Israel said.

The units are designed with upscale finishes and the same Tuscan color scheme, which is carried throughout the building.

Outside, and wrapping a patio, a tiered brook creates a calm atmosphere.

'It's a 3.7-acre site. As you walk around you'll find that we have an incredible amount of walking trails,' said Scott Mickeleit, Avamere's original project developer and current consultant. 'It's about the experience inside, but also the experience outside.'

Lighted pathways ensure that the pathways can be used at day or night for exercise and enjoyment. Out windows, the Luscher Farm landscape in the distance blends with that of the Lakeridge High School fields.

'Every unit has a special view,' Ben-Israel said. 'There's no bad unit. Imagine hearing a brook when you open your bedroom window. You can.'

The retirement community appeals to many residents who have lived in Lake Oswego or West Linn for years and want to remain in the area, and close to family-members.

'We are here to add to the community. We make the community complete by giving people a home without having to leave the place that they've been a part of for years,' Ben-Israel said. 'We are a local business that serves local people.'

Students from Lakeridge High School will work at the bistro. Ben-Israel said it is important to have a blend of ages at The Stafford.

'It's congruent with our thinking of citizenship and to give people an opportunity to work before they go to college,' he said.'

What is Ben-Israel's goal for The Stafford's service?

'Integrity above all,' Ben-Israel said. 'We expect people to practice principals of good citizenship. This is a place for people to feel safe.'

Jack Sullivan visited The Stafford on opening day and marveled at the changes that have taken place on his land.

'This is why we bought (the land),' Sullivan said. 'I've had the land 25 years and live across the street. I find this extremely gratifying.'

Ben-Israel said that superior, uncompromised service is what The Stafford will provide its residents, visitors and staff.

'The answer is always, 'yes.' We live up to the expectation. Everyone who comes and works here selects us, and we select them back,' Ben-Israel said. 'I really want people to live the life that they should.'

The Stafford is located at 1200 Overlook Drive, Lake Oswego, across from Lakeridge High School.

For information, visit or call the front desk at 503-636-4589.

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