An Introduction to Watermark Retirement
Logo for Watermark Retirement

2020 West Rudasill Road Tucson, AZ 85704
Founders: Started in 1985 as The Fountains by David Freshwater, the 18 properties of The Fountains were sold to Sunrise Senior Living in 2005. Fountains Retirement Communities was then renamed Watermark Retirement Communities. Established: 2005
(866) 531-0695

About Watermark Retirement Communities

The vision of what would become Watermark Retirement Communities, which now spans 32 communities across 17 states, started in 1985 when David Freshwater, eventual chairman of Watermark Retirement Communities, began to instill his progressive philosophy of "un-retirement" in the senior living industry. When the doors to his first retirement community opened, known as The Fountains, Freshwater quickly became known as a senior care visionary. His values and passion for top-notch care helped mold The Fountains into a top-25 senior housing operation in the nation.

Looking to expand the company's approach and its legacy of quality care, current Watermark President David Barnes joined The Fountains in 1989, as then senior vice president of operations of The Fountains. Taking a hands-on role, Barnes often visited the various sites to ensure the staff and policy management structures in place were necessary to moving the company forward and keeping it on the leading edge of the changing landscape of senior care.

With fluid -- yet calculated -- business practices in place, and an immense respect for their senior residents, Freshwater and Barnes ensured growth and excellence. Freshwater sold The Fountains in 2005, the same year The Freshwater Group formed to continue the trailblazing work of the team through a new entity, Watermark Retirement Communities. It is a team that quickly changed the senior living industry by providing a fresh burst of energy, enthusiasm, and ideals essential to serving the booming population of seniors so deserving of various levels of hospitality and caregiving.

About Watermark's Residents

In partnership with The Freshwater Group, Watermark Retirement Communities used Freshwater's dream to expand and diversify their projects. Watermark Retirement Communities are now home to 5,971 residents across the nation. Sixty-one percent of those adults reside in independent living residences, while 30 percent are residents of assisted living. The remaining nine percent reside in Watermark's memory care facilities.

Watermark's Vision and Culture

Whether a senior is looking to downsize from a full-sized home or he or she is in need of more established care, Watermark Retirement Communities boast a wide range of floor plans, services, programming opportunities, and amenities to help a resident flourish and thrive.

The Watermark culture blasts through the stereotype of senior living. Residents of Watermark communities know that retirement is not the time for idle hands. Instead, it's a perfect time to dedicate energy to actually living - learning new things daily, engaging the outside community, and making a mark by doing what interests them. They act with creativity and purpose, and are active participants in reaching the greater goals of the Watermark community, while enjoying their daily lives in a four-star environment.

Senior Living Choices

The residences managed by Watermark cover many levels of care, including independent living, memory care, assisted living, skilled nursing, and continuing care retirement communities (offerings vary upon location).

The "un-retirement" philosophy embraced by Watermark Retirement Communities extends throughout 32 locations found across 17 states, including Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. They also operate two "Watermark at Home" sites, based out of Scottsdale, Ariz., and southern Arizona.

Continuing Care Retirement Community

Watermark's Continuing Care Retirement Communities offer a complete range of care, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, rehabilitation, and skilled nursing on one campus. Having those options available within one central location goes great lengths in giving residents - and their loved ones - peace of mind while thriving in the present and preparing for the future.

Independent Living

Watermark Retirement Communities take the typical independent living concept and turn it on its head. Gone are lackluster apartments, uninspired program and activity choices, and bland cafeteria food. A resident can choose from spacious one-bedroom apartments or beautiful two-bedroom suites. Amenity packages include enticing meal plans, laundry, and housekeeping to ensure a resident has the ability to get out and live their lives - instead of worrying about tiresome chores.

Assisted Living

Customized care and the creation of choices for Watermark Retirement Community residents are top priorities at Watermark's assisted living residences. Watermark communities ensure senior living does not feel institutional. Not only is home where the heart is, it's where the heart is fulfilled. A great variety of educational, cultural, and social opportunities complement the access residents have to the customized care they need. This includes 24-hour monitoring, formal dining services, health care management and monitoring, medical administration, and personalized service plans.

Memory Care

Based on 20 years of experience in Alzheimer's disease and memory care, the Watermark team continues to develop a care model that includes environments integral to enhancing the strengths of each resident while responding to their unique needs. The care plans are derivative of input from both medical staff and family, so that each resident is sure to receive care that integrates his or her medical needs with their interests.

Skilled Nursing

Where offered, skilled nursing services at Watermark Retirement Communities can help a resident get back in action. Skilled nursing, rehab, therapy, and long-term care will give a resident the extra hand they need. Services at these facilities specific to skilled nursing can include palliative care, hospice care, restorative nursing services, PT, OT and speech rehabilitation services, round-the-clock nursing services, and social service support.

Watermark at Home

The Watermark at Home service can help a senior regain independence, maintain living at home, or provide necessary services to enhance how he or she lives in his or her own home. Watermark at Home is yet another way the Watermark family goes above and beyond to ensure seniors continue to enjoy a rewarding life.


The Watermark Retirement Communities not only offer residents world-class accommodations that are reminiscent of the best hotels and clubs, the amenities at Watermark properties are hard to beat as well. Benefits may include arts studios, card and game rooms, entertainment lounges, wellness centers, exercise studios, beauty and barber salons and spas, heated outdoor pools and spas, peaceful courtyards, gourmet-style meals, and weekly housekeeping.

Fitness programs are also offered at various Watermark communities, in addition to preventative health screenings and fitness lectures. And that's just the beginning of a resident's options - many more services are offered for additional fees at Watermark's locations across the nation.

Pioneering Concepts

Adhering to David Freshwater's original intent to anticipate market needs and provide unique options for first-class housing that is warm and welcoming, the Watermark team has created conceptual housing, like that of its Casitas, Retirement Resorts, and The Villas.

The Casitas is the answer for those residents who want to live in an active retirement community but also enjoy the freedom of a mobile lifestyle and their own private home. Casitas each feature amazing design, like beautiful floors and vaulted ceilings. A resident has his or her own space, with access to the traditional offerings of Watermark communities.

Watermark's Retirement Resorts, where located, provide private accommodations, including full kitchens and customized services for a resident's needs. As seniors may be recovering from hospital or rehab stays, they are enveloped by luxury and benefit from quality cuisine, a full schedule of events, classes for mind and body, and campus-wide amenities.

The Villas Concept puts the focus on helping Watermark residents grow and prosper in a setting that's been created to look and feel like their own home. Exceptionally beneficial for memory care residents, there are private living areas in a family-scale residential environment with a shared kitchen. The staff-to-resident ratios allow a family-like atmosphere, where caregivers can be proactive with each resident's care plan and more attentive to their individual needs.

Innovative Features

The Watermark Retirement Communities team acknowledges that getting brains and bodies in shape - and keeping them in good condition - can go miles toward slowing memory loss. Watermark University was created to challenge residents mentally and physically. Course offerings cover topics like culinary exploration, yoga and even Wii sports.

Technology is also integral to the Watermark experience. It helps seniors stay active, engaging their minds and providing another way to connect with peers and loved ones.

Community Involvement

The efforts to provide a well-rounded experience at Watermark properties do not stop with the residents. The Watermark team has expanded their impact upon the communities surrounding its campuses through Watermark for Kids, founded by David Barnes. The purpose is to create young leaders while helping underserved youth.

As is true for seniors who live in a Watermark facility, children involved in Watermark for Kids are encouraged to build character, strengthen their leadership skills and celebrate their individual spirit and creativity. They are paired with Watermark associates, residents, or family members of Watermark associates and residents. Known as "coaches," these adults make sure each child has a positive experience.

Accolades and Acquisitions

In the initial stages of the company, The Fountains was inducted into the Order of Excellence by Contemporary Long Term Care magazine; named one of the top six retirement communities in America by Money magazine; and selected as a case study in success by the American Senior Housing Association (ASHA).

Those accolades stimulated the acquisition of The Fountains by Sunrise Senior Living in July of 2005 for approximately $500 million, which was one of the largest transactions of its kind in senior housing history.

After the sale, Freshwater and Barnes continued to look forward to their aspirations of serving emerging markets with their groundbreaking ideas. As a result, Freshwater was named one of 10 people to watch in 2008 by National Real Estate Investor.

In 2010, the ASHA ranked Watermark Retirement Communities to the nation's top 25 largest seniors housing operators.

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