With its dry climate and cultural attractions, Tucson is proving a strong market for developers of senior living centers. Above, the center courtyard at Sage Assisted Living, 2365 W. Orange Grove Road, features a putting green.

The boom in assisted living facilities that began locally about two years ago continues to draw interest from investors.

Tucson is a strong market for such developments because of weather and cultural activities, industry leaders say. And, the new retiree has much higher expectations than what the nursing homes of yesteryear offered.

“We’ve seen a lot of demand pick up in Tucson over the last few years,” said Austin Sacco, a broker with CBRE’s Senior Housing Team. “And, we have another wave coming as all baby boomers will be 65-plus in 2029.”

The many activities Tucson offers make group outings from assisted living centers a plus for residents.

It is one of the reasons developers of Sage Assisted Living and Memory entered the Tucson market this month.

“One of the things about the Tucson market that we really like is that it’s a metropolitan city,” said Rosellen DeSimone, regional vice president of sales and marketing for Milestone Retirement Communities’ western division, the management group for Sage. “We’re trying to transcend that assisted living, rocking chair stereotype.”

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A hair salon can accommodate several clients at once at Sage Assisted Living, a new entry in the Tucson market.

She said Tucson’s diversity is appealing to the senior market.

“We want to to create a lifestyle for our residents that supports them in aging and keep them involved and engaged,” DeSimone said.

The new facility, at 2365 W. Orange Grove Road, has 86 assisted living units and 36 memory care units.

Amenities include a bistro, pub, movie theater, sun rooms, sports lounge, a putting green and dog park.

“Our baby boomers are coming into this market with different expectations,” DeSimone said. “They are healthier and living longer and have very specific requests.”

For investors, Tucson offers a unique attraction, Sacco said.

“There’s a healthy mix of folks who are already residents and there’s the children who live here and want to bring parents closer to them,” he said. “Tucson offers the best of both worlds.”

Demand for this type of housing is on the rise across the country.

Occupancy rates for independent and assisted living were 90.3 percent and 85.7 percent, respectively, in the first quarter of 2018, data from The National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care shows.

The group predicts a bounce in occupancy in the second quarter of this year because a particularly harsh flu season delayed move-ins in the first quarter.

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Baby boomers’ expectations go beyond rocking-chair stereotypes, says an executive with Sage’s management group.

As occupancy grows at Sage, DeSimone says the company plans to have up to 100 employees. Rents begin at $3,350 for a studio and at $3,925 for a one-bedroom unit.

Visit sagedesert.com for more information.

Sage is the sixth assisted living facility to open in the Tucson market in the past two years and several others are under development.

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@tucson.com.