Fall Real Estate 2009

Publication Date: Friday, October 9, 2009

New option for senior housing
Moldaw Family Residences offer home + community

A palpable sense of anticipation embraced potential residents touring the Moldaw Family Residences (MFR) at 899 Charleston Road in Palo Alto, as workers put the finishing touches on buildings that were scheduled to open at the end of September.

As of mid-September, 70 percent of the 193 one-, two-and three-bedroom apartment homes for seniors (age 62 and older) had been reserved with deposits.

The eight, four-story buildings arranged around a central pedestrian walkway are part of the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life and were made possible by a $10 million donation from the Moldaw Family Supporting Foundation. The campus also houses the 12.5-acre Oshman Family Jewish Community Center (OFJCC) and thus presents a plethora of options at the seniors' door steps. Center membership is part of the package and a lifestyles director has been hired to co-ordinate activities.

"Wherever the residents look there's going to be activity," said Executive Director Marilyn Israel. Israel points out that the first floor of each residence has not only a private access for residents, but also a separate public access. Each first floor is designated for campus activities to encourage multigenerational participation.

Although there is no continuing care provided, residents will have priority at the Jewish Home in San Francisco, the sponsor and developer of the project.

"We're trying to establish relationships with local providers as well," Israel said, "and we're looking for land for a stand-alone skilled nursing facility."

A wellness nurse will be on site 40 hours per week and the residence also offers 24-hour first responders. "We also have 11 individual memory-support studio apartments with 24-hour staff," Israel said.

Seventy-six-year old Lourdes said that she is looking forward to moving into her two-bedroom apartment. "Before my husband passed away we thought, maybe it was time for us to downsize," she said. Their five-bedroom Los Altos home with its big yard had become a burden.

Lourdes has a medical condition that necessitates eating every two hours. She says that she chose the MFR because it presented the most flexible meal plan for the places within her price range.

The apartments range in price from $440,000 for the small one-bedroom to $1.1 million for a three-bedroom. In addition, 24 apartments are below market rate. Ninety percent of this is refundable when the occupant leaves.

A monthly fee ranges from $2,200-$5,000 per month, depending on the size of the apartment. This covers just about everything: utilities, maintenance, classes, transportation, food, valet parking, linen service, etc.

Residents are allotted "flex dining dollars" and can choose to use them in the formal dining room, which is framed by two patios, or the café that opens onto the Town Square with its palm-tree arbor. Seniors can arrange for take out or room delivery and kosher food is available on request.

"When we're up and running there will be 17 choices at lunch and dinner in the main dining room," Israel said. "The whole goal is to provide variety and healthy choices."

Of course, people may choose to cook in their own kitchens, with their granite counters, high-end GE appliances and birdseye maple cabinetry. However, 81-year-old Eph Cannon summed up what most of the women were expressing during a recent tour: "The kitchen is closed due to illness. My wife is sick of cooking."

"We're working on getting a liquor license," Israel said. A 100-person occupancy bar/lounge is located next to the dining area.

"There are going to be lots of activities with young people and I like that," Lourdes said. "I can feel like when I was teaching, a more active lifestyle." She says that she would enjoy gardening with the children in T'enna Preschool (which some of the apartments overlook) and tutoring.

A devout Catholic who speaks several languages, Lourdes says that she is "very comfortable with multiculturalism." The fact that it is the Jewish Community Center is not an issue for her.

"I'm looking forward to getting rid of a lot of things we don't need," said Bobbie Wagger, 74, an active volunteer in the Jewish community, who is moving to the MFR with her husband Jerry, a retired physician.

"We considered buying a smaller house" -- their current home has five bedrooms, with the master, unfortunately, on the second floor -- "but we felt that eventually we'd have to move again," she said.

"I've been taking Pilates and working with a trainer for 10 years," said Jerry, who is 78. He says that the OFJCC Fitness Center, with its rows of exercise equipment, is a big draw for him.

"Our grandchildren will be delighted with the swimming," Bobbie said. The center has both an indoor (walk-in) and outdoor pool. The latter provides a lift for those who are in wheelchairs. Special hours are reserved for the seniors.

"It's really not so much of a lifestyle change for us," said Jerry, who explains that they plan to continue to attend local theater, symphony, ballet and opera. They anticipate augmenting that schedule with the OFJCC cultural events presented at the 385-seat Performing Arts Center as well as campus classes and lectures.

All of the activities can be accessed via glass-enclosed bridges connecting each residence to the center. Only two of the many club rooms located along the bridges have been designated: one as an exercise studio with several machines, and another as a library. Kitchens add to the flexibility of the activity rooms. A private dining room with kitchen and patio can be reserved for special functions.

Eph and Sally Cannon are both retired teachers.

"We're outgoing," said Sally, who adds that they know a lot of the people who are moving in. "It's time for a change, a new way of life, so we're not alone," she added.

Eph said that he is looking forward to water aerobics every day.

The Cannons have a deposit on a two-bedroom unit. However, they decided after the tour that they would consider a three-bedroom if the sale of their four-bedroom house affords them the extra funds.

"Notice that everywhere there's an elevator there's a wood overhang," Israel said. Other subtle touches help with orientation. The color scheme is repeated in all the buildings, but in different patterns to designate different areas. As would be expected, universal design is used throughout, providing such amenities as wide corridors with handrails, curb-less showers, pocket doors and easy-grasp handles on doors and faucets.

In 2008, Steinberg Architects won two awards from the National Association of Homebuilders for the innovative and enriching design they created for MFR.

On a recent tour, the son of a spritely 90-year-old observed that he's glad his mother will be moving into the brand new MFR in September.

"It's like starting high school. They're all starting at the same time, and there hasn't been time for cliques to form."