As Greg Vital and Franklin Farrow tour the halls of their newest assisted living center, Mr. Vital points to a wall of old black and white photos of the family who founded the Hixson community.
The wall, just inside the doors of Morning Pointe of Hixson, serves as a reminder that the 20-acre campus now sits on what was once the Hixson family homestead.
That dedication to history and an eye on the future of assisted living care are what sets Morning Pointe centers apart, he said.
"We want people to feel like they are walking into their home," Mr. Vital noted.
Mr. Vital and Mr. Farrow, owners of Independent Healthcare, are expanding the company at a measured pace that has allowed them to grow from one center to 16 over the last 13 years. Morning Pointe of Hixson opened Nov. 1 and so far has about 18 residents. It functions as an assisted living center and an Alzheimer's memory care center and has 69 apartments. As part of the development of the community, workers relocated a 160-year-old barn on the property. It was restored to honor the Hixson family, Mr. Vital said.
The building is about 51,000 square feet and occupies about six acres itself. The building will be one of three on the campus, which will be known as Greenbriar Cove of Hixson. Construction on a 125-bed Life Care Center of Hixson will begin soon, and plans are under way for an independent living center there as well.
The total price tag on the community is $40 million, with assisted living and Alzheimer's memory care centers representing an investment of $8 million.
The center is the flagship for Independent Healthcare Properties, which now has assisted living centers in five southern states, including Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. The growing baby boomer population is driving tremendous growth in the industry, Mr. Vital said.
"There's a need (for our services) everywhere there are seniors," he said.
Baby boomers also are influencing the way the centers are built these days, from the Hixson family wall to a hallway decorated with old photos of Hixson school athletics. With the campus right next door to Hixson Middle School, it offers residents a chance to remember their own days in school. The residents' rooms and other areas of the center also are decorated with items intended to make the seniors remember and feel comfortable in the center. They include a barber and beauty shop, an ice cream stand and a private dining room where they can meet with family.
"Baby boomers have out their handprints on everything, so we have to be prepared with how we decorate the centers," Mr. Farrow said.
The two founders got their starts in the nursing home industry with Life Care Centers of America in Cleveland, Tenn. Mr. Vital, 53, is president and chief executive officer of Independent Healthcare Properties and is the "vision" part of the duo. Mr. Farrow, 38, is chief operating officer and manages the day-to-day operations of the company.
Mr. Farrow said the work the company is doing now, building senior care communities through the Chattanooga area and beyond, is positioning Independent Healthcare Properties to serve seniors for generations to come.
"When we flip the lights on in these buildings, we hope they never go off in our lifetime," he said.