Photos by Julie E. Bloemeke
If there’s one consistent thread of thought amongst residents who have chosen senior high-rise living, it’s passion for the place they call home. For Ruth Cohen, 85, The Piedmont at Buckhead was not a choice, but the only choice. “When I walked into this building I was overwhelmed; it was beautiful,” she said. “I turned to my son and said, ‘I’m ready to move.’”
Pat Beatty, 63, a former resident of Tucker who wanted to be closer to Decatur, didn’t even have to tour other properties once she learned about Decatur Christian Towers. “This was the only place I looked at. I already knew when I was in my 50s that this was where I was going.”
When it comes to senior high-rise living, one of the most obvious lures are the incomparable views. A 14th floor apartment in Decatur Christian Towers boasts views of Stone Mountain to the east and the Atlanta city skyline to the west. This was a high point for Beatty, who calls the views not only “breathtaking” but cites how wonderful it is to spend the 4th of July there. Residents and staff can see fireworks from all angles and locations throughout Atlanta—from Stone Mountain to Lenox and beyond.
For Cohen, a 4th floor resident, the middle high-rise views were most compelling, in part because they reminded her of her childhood in New York City where she lived in a high-rise apartment building.
“I just loved the idea of being here. When I saw this place, I was overwhelmed and very excited. And I thought, this is where I’m going to live!” That every apartment has a private balcony is another feature she enjoys.
Being able to watch the people and traffic go by, noting the landscape and the woods, are all daily visual pleasures that offer her much delight. “If you’ve been in a hotel in New York and look out, that’s how this feels to me,” she said. “And the sunrise and sunset? Exquisite!”
As senior independent living communities, The Piedmont at Buckhead and Decatur Christian Towers offer differing amenities and experiences, but both Cohen and Beatty were drawn in by the choice of personal level of involvement.
For Cohen, being able to balance solitude with community was a particular draw. “I can be as involved as I want to be. If I chose not to have dinner, I can order dinner and pick it up and bring it upstairs,” Cohen said. “Sometimes you just feel like having alone time. And I like my atmosphere here.”
For Beatty, volunteer service and involvement with resident care was exceedingly important. Beatty is known for hosting her own yearly holiday party, a celebration that merges Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza. Beatty cooks for her fellow residents, welcoming them all to the community room where there’s music, a gift exchange and festive decorations.
“Part of the reason I get so involved and host parties is to help people realize we all can have fun, wherever we are, and with everybody,” she said.
The party idea began when Beatty’s husband was working on Christmas Day. “I was here by myself and I came downstairs saw people in the hallway,” Beatty said. “People shouldn’t be sitting around on Christmas Day with no place to go. We just hit our fourth annual party. I think we had 50 people there last year.”
Beatty also volunteers with the Angel Tag Monitoring Program where she checks in on residents daily. At night, residents put a tag on their door at 9 p.m., and remove it by 9 a.m. If the tag is still present after 9 a.m., Beatty will “knock, call, come to the front desk and ask for a staff member to check in.”
She’s also on the board of a resident-founded volunteer group called “We Are Neighbors Helping Neighbors.” Beatty and a team of 21 other residents offer additional services to fellow community members who may be in need. “We take residents to doctor’s appointments, pick up prescriptions, do petting sitting and walking, light cleaning, grocery shopping, which I do for one of my friends,” she said. “Because when people can’t do it, they will have to pay somebody outside or do without.”
Even though Decatur Christian Towers is located right behind a MARTA bus stop, within walking distance to downtown Decatur, and provides a shuttle service with field trips and outings for residents, having a bit of extra help is always welcome.
Transportation was also a deciding factor for Cohen. The Piedmont at Buckhead offers both personal and community shuttle service to various destinations—from nearby grocery stores to Friday night dinners at local restaurants to theatre and botanical garden outings.
“I go to the opera, symphony, ballet, the Alliance Theatre,” Cohen said. “They drop me at the front door; they pick me up at the front door. I have to say that’s one of the things that I love the best. And I never have to wait more than 20 to 30 minutes.”
Though it was a bit a challenge to give up driving, when Cohen realized that she no longer had to navigate traffic or be concerned with parking or car maintenance, it made the decision much more palatable. And, Cohen noted with a sly smile, she has even been taking senior classes at Emory thanks to the ease of getting on and off campus.
When the subject of in-community activities arose, Beatty laughed out loud and clapped her hands together. “Have you seen The Bridge?” She’s referring to the community newsletter.
The calendar is chock full of social and educational opportunities from Grandparents Day parties and the Monthly Birthday Lunch to Bingo, Crochet Club, Zumba and Boost Your Brainpower, a series curated through Georgia State University and Speech and Language Pathology Department, just to name a few.
Julia Fabb-Jordan, Director of Social Services, has also initiated a monthly series of Healthy Aging Talks covering issues such as Senior Law and Voting Registration as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder, shingles, vision care, etc.
Community events are also quite a draw at the Piedmont at Buckhead. “You cannot imagine the activities they plan here!” Cohen said. She’s especially excited by the fitness programs—many run by an in-house trainer—including everything from Chair Tai Chi to Yoga and Aquatic Aerobics.
Social events pepper the calendar from community viewings of sporting events to Sangria Saturday, The Buckhead Singers Sing-Along Group, Mood Art and Brain Games. For Cohen, bridge is a personal favorite, although canasta and Mah Jongg are also popular.
“We’ll have a lesson and then we play bridge,” she said. “It’s not a sanctioned game, but our director keeps score and at the end she puts up in mailroom who came in first. We get a kick out of that.”
Are there any drawbacks to living in a senior high-rise community? It’s a question that both Cohen and Beatty had similar responses to. Beatty pondered the idea thoughtfully and then laughed.
“I’d have to really wrack my brain to come up with any drawbacks to living here. For some people, it may be too close of a community, but to me it’s an apartment building and you can do as much or as little as you want,” Beatty said. “When people don’t do things, they’re missing out. They’re not the ones having fun or eating the food or…” And here she trailed off, switching gears back to her excitement for what she loves about Decatur Christian Towers.
She gushed about the location that’s so close to her spiritual center, the in-community romances that have turned into marriages. And then she hit on the subject of the community vegetable and flower garden, where plots are assigned to residents who put in a request. “Have you seen it yet? The flowers are just incredible!”
However, Beatty confessed a secret: her plot has been overrun by weeds. Already on her way to the dojo for her next appointment of the day, she’s been a bit too busy to tend to it. Fabb-Jordan chuckled and said, “We’re lucky to have gotten Pat sitting still this long; she’s extremely active.”
For Cohen, when asked about what she most enjoys about living at The Piedmont at Buckhead, she consulted her extensive handwritten list. She too had a confession—there’s one question she cannot answer. An optimist, she responded, “Drawbacks to living here? I was trying to think. But you know, I’m very happy here.”
Then she walked over to take in the balcony view, opening the sliding glass door to trees on one side and neighboring high-rises on the other. A bird cut through the blue sky, fellow Atlanta residents walked toward Lenox, cars turned into Phipps Plaza. And she took a deep breath and smiled.
High-rise living is a popular choice for active retirees. Here are some sought-after high-rise communities in the north Atlanta metro area.
Decatur Christian Towers
1438 Church St., Decatur 30030
3747 Peachtree Rd., Atlanta 30319
Mount Vernon Towers
3000 Johnson Ferry Rd., Sandy Springs 30328
The Piedmont at Buckhead
650 Phipps Blvd., Atlanta 30326
Renaissance on Peachtree
3755 Peachtree Rd., Atlanta 30319
The Zaban Tower
3156 Howell Mill Rd., Atlanta 30327