Fall Real Estate 2006

Publication Date: Friday, October 13, 2006

One year later...
How're they doing at the Classic Residence by Hyatt?

by Susan Golovin

"We're like members of the freshman class," said 75-year-old Joanne Arfin. She's referring to the fact that she and her husband Bernie, 81, moved into the Classic Residence by Hyatt, a community for seniors located on Sand Hill Road across from the Stanford Shopping Center, a little over a year ago when it opened.

"We signed up when we first heard about it," Joanne said. "The location and the continuing care attracted us. We saw it as a present for our children," Bernie said, adding that he and Joanne never want to be a burden. However, they did seek family consensus before making a final decision.

The Arfins were able to get their first choice -- a two-bedroom, two-bath unit that enjoys great light due to its southern exposure and distance from building wings. They also appreciate the gas fireplace, a feature found only in fourth-floor apartments.

"We have too much furniture, because everyone does," Joanne said. The Arfins downsized from a 2,500-square-foot home in San Carlos, where they had resided for 44 years, to their current 1,450-square-foot apartment.

"This simplifies life, but it is an adjustment," Joanne said.

"I don't like to wear a jacket," Bernie said, explaining why they tend to frequent the Club Room rather than the more formal Colonnade dining room. They also enjoy the Bistro for a casual lunch that can be had al fresco.

"You can sign up for 21 or 30 meals per month or pay as you go," Joanne said. Both say that the food is great. It is prepared by chefs who have received special training in low-salt, low-fat cooking. In July, the Residence served more than 6,000 meals, as many residents invite guests.

"If we come by ourselves, they seat us with other people," Bernie said. "The people are so interesting," added Joanne -- "lots of Stanford emeriti." Indeed, Joanne's granddaughter commented that it takes a long time to make their way through the building because Joanne has to say "hi" to everyone.

The Arfins easily adjusted to making the required reservations for meals and they don't mind that they must use a valet to park their car. The latter is a bit of a sore spot for some, but Hyatt considers it a service. Tipping is not allowed.

This year Joanne's daughter and daughter-in-law feted her with a 75th birthday party in the private dining room. "We like the Hyatt because they know how to throw a party," Bernie said with a twinkle. He appreciates that on New Year's Eve the band consisted of "oldsters" who "knew all the songs we like."

Both Arfins take advantage of the gym and pool area, where seniors sport complimentary terry robes. Joanne takes a water aerobics class and Bernie likes the stationary bicycles in the gym because they have supportive backs. Both attend various lectures and go on bus trips to area highlights. Bernie looks forward to his regular poker game in the Billiards room.

Diane Spicer, who recently moved from her Stanford home after 37 years is optimistic despite the fact that she too hated to leave her house, with its custom kitchen and lovingly tended garden. Widowed two years ago at 64, she will be one of the younger residents.

"Last year I broke my ankle four times, and the stairs in my house became very difficult," she explained. She also requires dialysis three times a week and says that moving to the Hyatt frees her loved ones from concern.

Spicer is relieved that the Hyatt had no objection to her continuing to tutor middle, high school and college students. "I teach time management, organization, study skills, English, history -- no math or science."

Her work influenced her choice of the two-bedroom, two-bath plus den (study) unit. "I decided that the den was worth the extra money," she said. She replaced most of the carpeting with hardwood.

Spicer is now looking forward to entertaining her many friends and family. "We'll have 30 for Thanksgiving," she said. "I'm a very social person."

Seventy-nine-year-olds Harry and Marion Lewenstein put their names on the waiting list several years before the Hyatt was built. "Our children aren't nearby and we wanted care throughout our lives," Marion said.

Harry and Marion, a retired electronics executive and retired Stanford Communications professor respectively, chose their first-floor one-bedroom, one-bath for its proximity to the skilled nursing unit where Harry spends his nights. He is confined to a motorized wheelchair due to a biking accident in Portugal nine years ago in which he broke his neck.

"This way Harry can come right over," Marion said. "Sometimes he has breakfast and lunch there and then we have dinner together in the dining room here." "I also like that we face west and overlook the rose garden. We chose the one-bedroom because if I someday move to the Health Care Center the price is the same as whatever I'm currently paying."

In the Skilled Nursing Unit Harry has a private room equipped with all the space-saving furniture he had at home. The amenities include a gracious dining room and a state-of-the-art exercise room, and all of the high-end appointments in the main building.

One major adjustment for Marion was relinquishing her concerns regarding Harry's care. While it's a relief to have more freedom to travel and not be home at a specific time, she misses overseeing his health needs.

Ironically, another adjustment for Marion is that the place is so luxurious. "I'm grateful that we can live here," she said, "but it's much plusher than our normal tastes."

Marion was elected president of the Advisory Committee, which she describes as an interface between the residents and the management. A current issue is whether to open the Skilled Nursing to the outside community.

"I'm willing to trust the actuarial projections that they'll still have plenty of room for Hyatt residents as we age," Marion said.

"We're 97 percent occupied," said Steve Brudnick, the new executive director. The 15 different floor plans range from the $600,000, 900-square-foot, one-bedroom unit to the 4,200-square-foot, three-bedroom-cum-den, which sells for slightly over $4 million (there are four of these left).In addition, there are monthly charges that include all amenities -- most importantly,†all levels of health care.These charges vary according to unit size and number of occupants, but range from approximately $3,200 to $7,400.

"I think the mix of apartments is right on the money for this population," Brudnick said. "Hyatt hit a home run this time."