Retire in Style

The Holbrook Decatur is one in the current trend of boutique retirement living facilities. More swanky hotel than healthcare facility, every imaginable amenity is available 24 hours a day.

By Elizabeth Cobb Durel

Al Holbrook 77Ox 79C

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With boutique hotels holding onto a large share of the travel market and the value on individualized experiences on the rise, perhaps it’s only natural, as the estimated 70 million Boomers age, with Gen X not far behind, that boutique retirement living will be next on the list.

“Similar to the hotel industry, the seniors housing market is evolving to have…options available for different income levels,” said Beth Mace, chief economist of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care told the Wall Street Journal, adding that choices for seniors range “from a Motel 6 option to a Ritz Carlton option.”

Luxury senior housing, with options as varied as the seniors themselves including independent living, assisted living, nursing care, and memory care, is rolling out worldwide, including here in the United States.

And they can be pricey. Many of the most upscale models charge an entrance fee, which industry-wide averages around $800,000, with refunds upon death or moving, as well as a monthly fee which averages around $6,000. Looking at the industry as a whole, the average entrance fee to a conventional retirement community is than $400,000.

The Holbrook Hotel
An Emory alumnus on the forefront of the trend, Al Holbrook 77Ox 79C, recently opened a $74 million facility near Emory that represents the first in his company’s series of upscale retirement communities. The five-story Holbrook Decatur is sold out to about 235 total customers who occupy almost 200 customizable independent living apartments. Holbrook, a fourth generation Emory graduate and long-time leader in the retirement living industry, targeted rapidly growing cities and suburbs, with a large population of people aged 55+ looking to retire. Over the next few years, Holbrook will open similar residences in Woodstock, Sugar Hill, Greenville and Charleston.

Modeled on upscale hotels such as the St. Regis, The Holbrook Decatur has loaner Range Rovers for errands, performance centers with contemporary programming, 24-hour fine dining, a concierge ready to schedule appointments or snag tickets to a show, workout spaces with personal trainers, lighting designed to kill viruses, and even a dating service called Holbrook in Love.

Mr. Holbrook invited EmoryWire over for a visit, a tour, and shared his secret song list Now That’s What I Call Al.



What else makes Holbrook special?

These buildings are light and hope, because when you come here, we offer ways for you to contribute to society. We organize volunteer opportunities like packing for disaster relief or taking calls on a 24 hour hotline to help either pregnant teenagers or young adults going through life issues. We also have a small business incubation center funded by grants from our partners to help young adults start businesses. We stay engaged.

What does all-inclusive mean in this sense?

There is nothing that we cannot get for residents or provide. We provide every hospitality service and on top of that, we provide a very high level of care. We have an anti-aging physician on staff who shares major breakthroughs in medicine to our customers. Nobody's going to live forever, but you can live a high quality of life till the day you die.

I haven’t seen one health care professional.

We do have registered nurses on staff, but you wouldn’t know that because they are not in uniforms. We don't want you to ever feel like you're in a health care environment, but we do have a concierge physician for those in need and a chiropractor.

How do you how do you get someone acclimated to a new life where they may not have any friends?

Well, sometimes people move in and it's like going back to school. They have to develop relationships, and we accelerate that by trying to find out their common interests and hook them up with our lifestyles director. We also have Holbrook in Love matchmaking service that will set up a dinner of six or eight new residents. Maverick, our club, has live music on the weekends. 

This is not the normal institutional music.

I intentionally put a playlist together that goes primarily from the 60s to today, everything from the Beatles to Fleetwood Mac and Lenny Kravitz. This is not just for the residents, it's for our associates. If they're happy, my customers are happy. The worst thing you can do is play music that's not uplifting.



How did you choose this career path?

When I went to Emory, I was a premed student and during that time, premed students served as physician assistants down at Grady [Memorial Hospital]. It didn't take too long for me to realize there was no customer service in the hospital. I got into hospital administration and that led me to trying to understand an aging population and ultimately how do we create a whole new real estate line that replaces skilled nursing buildings? I got in the business to provide the best of the best customer service and hospitality for an aging population, because we know that environment affects health care outcomes.

Editor’s Note: Want a peek inside The Holbrook Decatur? Join us for Exploring Atlanta: Healthy Aging, part of the Exploring Atlanta series, on the top floor of The Holbrook Decatur. Come learn how to age in place or how to effectively help a family member or friend. Hear how the Atlanta Region is preparing housing and transportation infrastructure for its booming aging population.

About Exploring Atlanta: A specially curated program at unique venues around the Atlanta metropolitan area happening on the second Friday each month. Have lunch and learn about issues, like planning for healthy aging, that impact us all from some of Emory’s eminent thought leaders and practitioners. Each month is a unique topic and different part of town. For more information, watch the events calendar or email Lane Conville-Canney.