The Watermark at Continental Ranch

The Watermark at Continental Ranch. 

The doors are open at Marana’s newest residential community where they’re “redefining senior living.”

Visiting The Watermark at Continental Ranch is a lot like walking into a new car dealership and slipping behind the wheel of the latest model.  It’s that new car feel, a sensory experience—in this case, a treat for the eyes and the taste buds as an informal soft opening last month coincided with training sessions for new corporate chefs.

The site is a 98,000-square-feet property on four acres, an assisted living-memory care facility with a capacity for 108 residents. 

“Marana is an up-and-coming community and there’s nothing else like this place to provide a variety of services,” said executive director Gary Hughes, “We’re a mini-city staffed by 60 employees.”

Karen Rorke, the marketing and sales director, said The Watermark at Continental Ranch offers a new approach to senior living.

“There’s a huge shift in how we age and what that population’s expectations are, what the quality of life should be as we get older,” Rorke said. “We’re not just serving care for baby boomers, what some call ‘The Silver Tsunami,’ we’re building lifestyle communities to help that population continue to thrive.”

According to Rorke, residents can move in as an independent, anticipating additional care needs at some point in the future, and not have to to go somewhere to receive that care. 

“You can age in place at The Watermark at Continental Ranch,” she said.

The welcome mat was unrolled at a low-key April by-invite introduction to the facility. More than 200 area residents turn out to explore what the facility offers.

Among the open house attendees were nearby Dove Mountain residents Bruce Triebel and his wife.  

“We’re looking ahead, being proactive, because we’d like to know where we’d like to go when it’s time to go someplace else,” he said.

Benjamin Dezso, director of Continental’s dining services was ready to feed the hungry visitors, serving up his signature dish and drink, braised beef short rib crostini and a Moscow Mule Mocktail. He wasn’t the only chef on hand as regional dining service Director Pat Caffrey used the event to host a hall full of white hats, chefs from 20 different Watermark locations learning the art of making special meals for special people in memory care who find it challenging to eat in the same way they have their whole life.

“We focus on independence, dignity, and accessibility by transforming items into easily-managed one or two bite portions, intended to be eaten by hand,” said Rob Bobbit, Watermark’s national director of dining.

The visiting chefs were under the watchful eyes of Stone Morris and Sarah Gorham, co-founders of the concept of Grind Dining.  

“The best utensils are the ones you’re born with, your hands,” Morris said.  “Our dining solution is for individuals who struggle at the table, those who can’t easily manage cutlery or have difficulty chewing and swallowing.” 

Morris said they developed the program, and Watermark was the first facility to come on board with their concept of Thrive Dining because “oatmeal, apple sauce, and crackers just don’t cut it anymore.” They take the same food that everyone else is eating, and transform it into easy to eat, bite-sized portions so residents are no longer marginalized. 

“It’s a great equalizer because the ‘cans’ can sit at the same table with the ‘can nots’ and both can enjoy the same memorable meal, in different form,” Morris said.

Rorke added that they see their residents for who they are as individuals as part of a larger community.

“We don’t just see their walker or that they’re stooped over, we see the whole person, and society would be better off if it could learn to see people for who they are,” Rorke said.

The new Watermark at Continental Ranch welcomes visitors with the notation: “We’re borrowing from the traditions of multigenerational households and local bed and breakfasts to create a place where everyone feels at home.” 

The facility is located at 8689 N. Silverbell Road.  For further information, call 860-3033 or visit their webpage at