As we drove up to the stunning main building, my immediate impression of Kirby Pines Retirement Community, located at 3535 Kirby Road, was that I was entering an incredible botanic garden. Daffodils, irises, and azaleas dotted the 60 landscaped acres of the campus, which I later found out is overseen by Mike Rayder, director of grounds and landscaping, with a crew of ten gardeners. There is also a greenhouse and 150 feet of raised gardens for residents to both enjoy and plant.
My next impression of Kirby Pines was the camaraderie and spirit of the place. During my visit, I met so many enthusiastic people, both residents and staff, all of whom feel lucky to be in such an excellent place, and who agree that they share a loving, family atmosphere.
Michael Escamilla, executive director of Kirby Pines, says that it provides seniors a beautiful “life care” community with an independent upscale lifestyle, but also with the assurance that they will receive care down the road whenever they may need it. There are 18 therapists on the premises, including occupational, speech, and physical specialists.
Escamilla explains that the entire complex includes 48 single garden homes ranging in size from 1,600 to 3,300 square feet; 396 apartment homes that include studios, and one-, two-, and three-bedroom units; 120 licensed nursing home beds (90 in the Gallery Manor Nursing Home and 30 in Job’s Way for Alzheimer care); and 64 assisted living suites. He adds that the entire community is gated, and a new entrance to the grounds is planned for Kirby Parkway to enhance safe accessibility.
And now for the amenities! Daily, live action stations offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner in three different dining venues: casual, semi-formal, and bistro. Special “exquisite cuisine” is prepared once a month by executive chef Tim McNeil under the direction of Mark Simpson. The Kirby Pines monthly magazine, The Pinecone, has interviews with new residents and lists a dizzying array of opportunities for enrichment and fun.
Other amenities include weekend movies, water aerobics in the indoor pool and other exercise programs, line dancing, and bible study, to name a few. There is also a movie theater, performing arts center, billiard room, hobby shop, arts and crafts room, card rooms, and four hair salons.
It certainly seems that Escamilla is entitled to bragging rights, since Kirby Pines has been voted the best retirement community in Memphis for nine consecutive years in The Commercial Appeal’s “Memphis Most” contest.
The purpose of my visit was to meet and talk with several Kirby Pines residents, to get a feel for their experiences in the community and their quality of life. Happily, this was arranged by Nikki Schroeder, who consults with Kirby Pines on marketing and graphics. She is as enthusiastic about Kirby Pines as many of the residents themselves. Says Schroeder: “I love everyone here!”
Our first visit was to Jacqueline Besteman, who has lived in her Kirby Pines apartment for two and a half years after moving from downtown’s South Bluffs; before that, she’d lived in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Besteman said she just liked “the feel of the lobby” from the first time she walked in and felt right at home. Jacqueline is someone with (as my grandmother used to say) “personality plus” and incidentally brains to burn (she has a law degree and a psychology degree).
Besteman’s home has a wonderful view of the grounds, and it features bright colors and an eclectic décor, and she explains that interior designer Leslie Shankman-Cohn had helped her pull it all together. In particular she loves the vibrancy of the color red, both in décor and her own appearance — her hair is a fetching reddish shade.
Fleetwood Mac is playing on her sound system, as she tells me that she loves to cook and regularly has wine shipped from her purveyor in D.C. (and yes, of course we enjoyed a glass). Besteman is proud of her work with Creative Aging, the group that brings the arts to senior citizens and the subject of a feature story in the September 2014 issue of Memphis.
Our next stop is at an apartment belonging to David Walters, who happens to be a dear friend of Besteman’s. He had moved to Kirby Pines from a large Overton Park home and before that from Miami. Walters has an impressive collection of art-deco collectibles, including mid-century modern furniture and incredible posters. The couch in the living room is from the 1939 World’s Fair, but we were also told that David made his apartment’s daybed in the Kirby Pines hobby shop.
We were then chauffeured in a golf cart to visit with the incredibly hospitable Bettye and Tracy Speake, Germantown residents for 35 years and residents at Kirby Pines for the past year and a half. They loved the property at first sight, and their four-bedroom home is very comfortable downstairs with its light and airy open-plan, pale yellow walls, plantation shutters, and a cozy fireplace.
(Actually, I would like to add that I first met Bettye Speake at an IRIS performance at GPAC ,where she was hard at work in her role as the group’s enthusiastic donor relations manager. At the time, I promised we would one day visit her at Kirby Pines. And here we were!)
The Speakes told me that “one of the main reasons we chose Kirby Pines was for its life care.” They looked for a place that let them live their lives as they liked and found what they were looking for: a safe, financially smart, and healthy retirement setting.
I feel sure that many of Kirby Pines’ residents would agree with the Speakes, who advise others to do what they did. “Make the choice sooner rather than later,” says Bettye. “Don’t delay a move to a retirement home.” If that decision is in your future, be sure to take a look at Kirby Pines.