Where to live? | March 22, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - March 22, 2013

Where to live?

Seniors face choices of staying where they are or finding a new community

by Carol Blitzer

For seniors who want to "love where you live," Avenidas is offering its sixth annual housing conference on that theme on Saturday, March 23, at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto.

More than 200 are expected to attend. Participants may choose one of three tracks: for people who have decided to sell their homes and move; for homeowners who want to stay in their homes; and for those who want to explore all their options. Each track offers three workshops aimed at the targeted population.

Peggy Simon and Kaye Sharbrough will be co-leading a workshop for those who just want to know what's out there. Called "Basic Training for Savvy Explorers," their segment will cover the concepts of aging in place, independent living, continuing care retirement communities and assisted living.

Simon, an information and assistance specialist in social work services at Avenidas, Palo Alto's senior center and a co-sponsor of the event, describes her role as consulting with families to let them know what resources are out there. She visits and observes local places, but makes no recommendations.

Sharbrough, a former teacher and now senior housing referral specialist, operates Senior Seasons, which works with families to make decisions about senior housing. Through her agency, she constantly updates Avenidas' "Where to Live: A Housing Guide for Older Adults" so she knows the latest rates as well as reputations and care levels.

"Every time one of us goes in and has an interaction, we make notes," Sharbrough said. They then use that data to help families make decisions.

Sometimes a family needs more flexibility, she said, and she'll know the policies on everything from memory issues to smoking or whether or not they can keep their pets.

One of the tools she uses is a workbook that the family fills out, allowing for a "neutral discussion ... that really helps facilitate a conversation," she said.

The workbook has a checklist including the possible advantages of a senior community. Items on the list range from freedom from responsibilities and chores related to maintaining a home and garden and being closer to family members to avoiding the sense of isolation and loneliness that can lead to depression and illness.

Under location, the booklet lets people check that they'd like to be close to children/family, public transportation, church, doctors or parks and paths.

Sharbrough started her agency when her own mother was planning to move from Southern California to this area. She quickly discovered how challenging it was to get up-to-date information on senior housing.

Sharbrough sees this workshop as a quick survey course, an overview of senior housing, from size of facility (the "f" word in senior housing — the preferred word is "community," she said) to pricing on buy-ins or rentals.

"We talk about traditional senior housing, the village concept, co-housing," Simon added.

"We can pool our resources as we age," she said, explaining that the original Beacon Hill Village, which served as a model for Avenidas Village, was a manageable, small geographic area where seniors could share laundry, cooking or rides to medical appointments.

Avenidas Village extends from Redwood City to Los Altos, she added.

"Avenidas is a great resource for housing and seniors," Simon said. "The conference is one tool we have to let the community know about housing options."

Another workshop in the "exploring options" track concerns "Financial Planning for CCRCs," where Esther Szabo, of KK Wealth Advisors will talk about affordable options.

A quick rule of thumb for determining affordability, Sharbrough said, is people should have 1.5 to 2 times the entry fee in assets as well as 1.5 to 2 times the monthly fee in income.

The one area of senior housing that is not covered in the conference is subsidized housing, Simon said, but periodic events are offered at Avenidas dealing with low-income housing.

The conference is co-sponsored by Nancy Goldcamp, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker, Palo Alto, and the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center.


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Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at cblitzer@paweekly.com.