201 N Jessica Ave, Tucson

Good looking senior woman smiling and using tablet

Pioneering a New Path in Senior Living – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I talked about what a great time it was to live at the Cascades, and I stand by that. Many of the things that we discussed in that first letter have already been implemented. Part of the kitchen remodel has been completed, and we’re waiting on the City for permits for the rest of the renovation. But while dining is a key part of life, today I really wanted to focus on another key part of our vision for the Cascades: technology.

Smart Senior Living

When I was a boy we used to watch a cartoon called the Jetsons. For any unfamiliar – it was a show about a family living in year 2062. It largely focused on how technology and robots had transformed every part of living.

I think for most of us technology hasn’t quite lived up to the Jetsons’ promise. At least not unless it’s the episode where everything breaks down and is expensive to fix. Meredith and I both are all about embracing technology, but it’s very important to us to be selective in how we embrace it. So far our guiding ethos has been that we want to find technology that enhances the customer experience, not replaces it (you can read that as no food delivery robots in the dining room).

In that quest, one technology has stood out above all the rest: Smart Home Technology. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, imagine this: you have a hard time getting in and out of bed. Your vision is not what it once was, and so finding things in the dark can not only be hard, but dangerous, as you often trip and fall. And yet, after turning off all the lights and climbing into bed, you realize you left the fan on, and are now cold. What if instead of getting out of bed, bumbling around to try and find the switch or pull cord, and then having to get back up into bed again, you could just say, “Hey Alexa, turn off the bedroom fan”? That’s what this “smart” package enables. I’ve spent the past year testing different products in my own home and we’re now ready to roll out a Smart Room upgrade package to any who are interested. We think this technology will help to bring greater independence and self-reliance to our residents, as well as greater safety through our smart speaker system. 

In our early tests, one woman’s life was actually saved when she fell against her counter, breaking her rib, which then ruptured one of her organs. She couldn’t reach her call button but was able to call out to her smart speaker and have it notify the front desk. They promptly sent help and called 911, saving her life.

If you’d like to see what the system looks like, sales has a unit set up with smart devices that anyone can tour and see how it would work.


Some of you may remember that we were working with a group called Constant Companion as part of our vision for a safer, voice activated community. We are not yet satisfied with them, but as we’ve investigated things, we’ve realized that part of the problem is them and part of the problem is our building’s internet.

So, in our constant quest to be the best value in town, we have spent the past six months working on how we can provide free internet to all residents. Beyond internet, the plan is to eventually provide free phone and on demand TV as well, but one step at a time. We wouldn’t be taking anything away from anyone, so if you have a TV package you love, you could definitely keep it, but this would give you a free option if you didn’t want to pay for an expensive cable package.

We’ve collected something like 6+ competing bids and have started working on the infrastructure to bring a fiber line into the building, but this is probably still a year out. Still, I’m extremely excited about this one. Not only is it going to enable our future technologies, it’s going to be a huge value to residents who currently are paying Cox (my mortal nemesis) for internet.


Lastly, we continue to invest in software that makes our business more efficient – savings we plan to split with our residents. Some of that might be visible to you and some of it isn’t. For example, I think a lot of people have heard about our internal medical software ALIS by now. You may not have heard about how we’ve implemented a new maintenance request system, though, as it has largely been internal. Residents still bring their maintenance requests to the front desk, but now the person at the desk enters it into a tracking system so we can make sure it gets the attention it deserves in a timely manner. This has enabled John Trozzi, our Director of Facilities, to lower the time it takes to get to a maintenance request.

Our two next focus areas are ensuring that we maximize our use of ALIS Connect (our resident family portal), and in getting a Point-of-Sale system for the dining room. More on that to come.

Truly, it’s an exciting time to be at the Cascades. I can sincerely say that there’s not a single Director on our team who doesn’t genuinely care about our residents as if they were their own family. As the owner of a family business, there’s nothing better than coming into the building and hearing from Directors that they were doing research in their free time and have come up with a better way to do something, and yet I hear that often, including today.

For those who have been asking about Meredith – thank you. She is doing much better. She is currently in remission and awaiting a bone marrow transplant. She’s back working, but avoiding the general population on doctor’s orders.


Dax Howard