The Avant at Palo Alto Commons is a 44-unit complex located at 4041 El Camino Way. Situated next to the Commons' assisted-living facility, it aims to change the connotation of "old-age" living, staff said.
Unlike asset-draining "buy-in" senior homes, The Avant rents studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — which include kitchens and laundry facilities — on a monthly basis, said Mary Lou Marshall, director of marketing. Seniors need only give 30 days' notice to vacate, she added.
The units range from a roughly 800-square-foot studio for $5,300 a month and a one-bedroom unit for $6,700 to a two-bedroom, two-bath, 2,031-square-foot suite priced at $8,900. Housing a second resident in a unit would add a monthly cost of $1,200, Marshall said.
The privately owned facility also charges a $1,000 apartment-reservation fee and one-time $2,500 community fee.
The Avant came about after Palo Alto Commons staff began receiving numerous calls from younger seniors who were looking to downsize, Marshall said.
"We were thinking about the coming wave of people who don't want to take care of a house anymore," she said.
Many people are nervous about selling their homes, their biggest asset. Paying the monthly rent allows residents to keep their homes and rent them out if they choose, she said. Many residents travel, and some still work. To attract people with a healthy lifestyle, The Avant has an exercise facility, plus an indoor, heated lap pool and therapeutic spa.
The housing complex is structured around an inner courtyard that is dominated by a large oak tree.
The decks are big enough for a small patio garden or for private outdoor entertaining.
As with many housing facilities, common areas are sprinkled throughout: A living room offers space where residents can mingle or sit quietly to read; an upstairs solarium with full-length windows has enough tables and chairs to accommodate a family gathering or bridge club. A library/media room with wireless Internet access can be converted into a movie theater, Marshall said.
Other amenities include food — breakfast and dinner daily in the dining room — weekly housekeeping and linen change. There are lectures, trips to the San Francisco Symphony, day outings and health and fitness classes, including aerobics, aquatics fitness, yoga, tai chi, and weight training. Community college classes, lectures and discussion groups and instructor-led art classes, including painting and ceramics, take place in the media room.
One can schedule transportation by van or on-site Cadillac sedan or car to churches, synagogues, shopping and other communities. There is also on-site parking at ground level and an underground garage.
So far, The Avant is about one-third full. The new residents are ages 67 to 90, Marshall said. At least half come from Palo Alto, but others have moved here to be closer to their children who work in Silicon Valley.
The Avant does allow residents to have a temporary health aide if the resident becomes injured or ill. The complex offers medication management and shower assistance for a fee. A registered nurse at the wellness center is available to discuss any medical needs with residents and their families.
If the time comes that a person cannot function independently on a permanent basis, he or she can transfer to Palo Alto Commons next door.
Palo Alto has 1,232 independent-living units for seniors, including The Avant. Channing House plans to add another 14 as early as this fall, spokeswoman Letitia Roddy said.
Marshall said the Palo Alto Commons' owners did their research to see what is out there and what their niche would be.
"People wanted bigger apartments, and many couples wanted two bathrooms. Many had their own bed and bath in their own home. It's difficult trying to get a man and a woman to share a bathroom again," she said.
There is a perception of senior homes that The Avant is intended to dispel with its independent-living model, Marshall said. It's the idea that everyone is in a wheelchair or walker.
"Some people find that discouraging," she said.
Life among other seniors doesn't have to be a downhill slide, she said. It can even invigorate interests lost to aging. When a senior has given up driving or no longer finds a trip to San Francisco at night an option, a van ride with like-minded seniors can make a trip to the symphony a pleasure again.