On Saturday afternoon, I met with a group of Ashby Village members who are interested in where they will spend the next stage of their lives. As many of you know, Ashby Village is an organization close to my heart. Many years ago, my good friend Judy Boe and I heard of a new organization in Boston called Beacon Hill Village whose purpose was to provide the support that the elderly residents needed to enable them to stay in their homes as they got older. A while later, we joined others in Berkeley, notably Shirley Haberfeld and Pat Sussman (the founding mothers of Ashby Village) in creating this remarkable organization.
The Ashby Village members I met with want to stay in their own homes as long as they can. They are considering expanding or remodeling their homes so they can have family members or caregivers living with them. Many of them are very interested in the new state legislation making it easier for homeowners to build Accessory Dwelling Units in their backyards. They also had questions about retirement communities and want to learn more about the facilities here in the East Bay. We are planning to have an architect with experience in helping homeowners adapt their homes for aging in place and an Eldercare Specialist speak to the group at a later date.
Everybody says they want to age in place, but what they really want is to age in community. Ashby Village is a good community resource, but it is important that people who live alone know their neighbors and have back-up plans in case of a fall or accident.
With a Little Help from our Friends by Beth Baker is a book that I recommended to them (and to everyone I know) about growing older in community. Ms. Baker writes about people all over the country who have identified problems in their living situations and worked to solve them. Many of them came up with very creative solutions, like the residents of Boston who created Beacon Hill Village and launched a movement, those in a senior mobile home park in Redmond, Oregon and the seniors who spend their lives travelling around the country in their RVs who built an assisted living facility in Texas specifically for people who live in RVs.
Many people in my generation do not want to follow their parents into retirement communities. They are genuinely interested in new ways of growing older. It is a very exciting time for all of us. We are living longer and healthier. Technology offers many opportunities for new ways of living. Exploring housing options for seniors is my favorite subject. I am looking forward to continuing the discussion with Ashby Village over the next few months.
This morning I received an email originally published in 2009 about Bay Area architect Susanne Stadler’s work, At Home with Growing Old. She is so knowledgeable and so eloquent about the residential needs of older people throughout the world. She has wonderful ideas for locating and designing senior residences that are meaningful to the community and to the residents. Every month, her organization sponsors forums on the issues of growing older. One month, it is in San Francisco, the next month, it is on the East Bay at Ed Roberts Center.
Click here to read the whole article. To learn more about At Home with GrowingOld(er), click here. You will be glad you did.
The California Property Tax Postponement Program (PTP) has returned for elderly, blind and disabled California homeowners. This program was suspended by the legislature in 2009 and has been reinstated in 2016.
The interest rate for taxes postponed under PTP is 7% per year. Funding for the program is limited and applications will be processed on a first-come first-served basis. Only current year property taxes are eligible for postponement.
To be eligible for this program, a homeowner must be:
At least 62 years old, blind or disabled
Own and occupy the home as a primary residence
Have a total household income of $35,000 or less
Have at least 40% equity in the property and
Repayment under the PTP Program becomes due when the homeowner:
Moves or sells the property;
Defaults on a senior lien;
Chooses to obtain a reverse mortgage.
For more information, go to the State Controller’s website or call them at 800-952-5661.
For several years I have been working with TTN-HOME to educate East Bay residents about the whole range of housing options for seniors. During the past two years, it has become apparent to us that shared housing is a very viable option.
Albany Vice Mayor Peggy McQuaid with support from the Diverse Housing Working Group is hosting a program on Shared Housing in Albany. It will be on Thursday November 17 from 7-9 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Albany City Hall at 1000 San Pablo Avenue. The purpose is to explore a range of possible options to increase both Albany’s housing stock and improve the residents’ personal housing flexibility. We at TTN-HOME are very excited about the Albany program.
A panel consisting of Loni Gray of ZODwellings, Lilypad Homes and Mary Doleman, an Albany resident who has opened her home to home sharers with talk about their experiences with shared housing and resources that are available to help. Videos from HIP Housing in San Mateo County, a leader in providing creative affordable housing solutions, will be shown.
Why Shared Housing?
Home Sharing is a simple idea: a homeowner offers accommodation to a homesharer in exchange for an agreed level of support in the form of financial exchange, assistance with household tasks, or both.
The community is also a beneficiary of Home Sharing. Shared living makes efficient use of existing housing stock, helps preserve the fabric of the neighborhood and, in certain cases, helps to lessen the need for costly chore/care services and long term institutional care. A home sharer might be a senior citizen, a person with disabilities, a working professional, someone at-risk of homelessness, a single parent, o r simply a person wishing to share his or her life and home with others. For these people, shared housing offers companionship, affordable housing, security, mutual support and much more.
Home Sharing programs can offer a more secure alternative to other roommate options. Many programs have staff who are trained to carefully screen each program applicant through interviewing, background checking and personal references.
I have had such a wonderful response to my last post about Bridge Meadows. Here is another inspirational article about this wonderful program.
I went to the Grantmakers in Aging Conference last week in Portland as part of my work for the East Bay Foundation on Aging. I had an absolutely wonderful time learning how people in other parts of the country and Israel are solving the problems of their aging residents. The people in the granting organizations are so committed to serving the needs of their beneficiaries. It made me feel much better about the future of our country, knowing that some of the best minds in philanthropy are dedicated to improving the lives of elders in their communities.
The lectures were about family caregiving, palliative care, social determinants of health, long term care financing and aging in rural America. Some of the sessions I attended were on using technology to address the needs of older adults and best practices for alleviating social isolation. I was part of a roundtable discussion on aging friendly communities. I learned so much from other people who are working with many of the same types of issues that we have here in Berkeley to become more age friendly. (It was notable that this conference was held in Portland on the tenth anniversary of their becoming the first World Health Organization designated Aging Friendly City in the United States.)
The highlight of the conference was my trip to Bridge Meadows, a unique intergenerational community in North Portland. Its residents are adoptive parents, foster children and low income elders who pay reduced rent in exchange for helping the parents with child care, homework assistance and almost anything else the parents need to support their families.
The children were at school when we were there, but we heard from many of the elders about how their lives had been transformed by being part of this amazing community. A newer resident told about how lonely she was before moving to Bridge Meadows; now she is so involved with the other elders and the families who live there. One of the elders told about taking her family on a camping vacation in the summer. Another told about her work helping a single mom take care of her children while taking on the responsibilities of a demanding job.
Here is a video that describes how the residents feel about their home at Bridge Meadows.
I am always interested in innovative housing options for seniors and Bridge Meadows is a winner. A group of foster youth who have aged out of foster care will be moving to a residence across the street from Bridge Meadows. There is also a second residence being built in Beaverton, Oregon.
Yesterday my friend Mona Kreaden spoke at the national Aging and Wellness Conference in Washington D.C. about the TTN-HOME program which we have been working on here in the East Bay for many years. She summed up our history, described many of the housing options available for seniors and talked about how others could form similar programs in their own communities. Click here for a video of her presentation.
The planning team for TTN-HOME (Mona, Susan Green, Christine Olsen, Andrea Mok, Lynn Richards, Arlene Reiff and me) have decided to take a few months off to figure out what we should do next.
Several years ago I attended a presentation by Anabel Pelham who is Professor Emeritus of Gerontology at San Francisco State University. She talked about her work in Los Gatos to become a Global Age Friendly City. I was so excited to hear her speak about their work in the South Bay and felt that this was something we really needed to do in Berkeley. After all, Berkeley is the home of the Independent Living Movement and as I have said many times, it is the best place I know of to grow older.
My enthusiasm was re-kindled a few weeks ago when I heard her speak again at the East Bay Foundation on Aging’s Celebration of its Grantees. I told her about my ideas and I also found out that there is a group of people in Berkeley already working on making our city an aging friendly city.
First a little background information. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) began an international effort to respond to two significant demographic trends: urbanization and an aging population. At that time, over half of the world’s population lived in cities. It was projected that by 2030 sixty percent of the population would be elderly, mostly due to improvements in public health and people living longer.
To help cities prepare for these trends, the WHO developed the Global Age-Friendly Cities project. They identified eight domains that age friendly cities must address to “optimize opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.”
The eight domains are:
- Social Participation
- Respect and Social Inclusion
- Civic Participation and Employment
- Communication and Information
- Community Support and Health Services
- Outdoor Spaces and Buildings
It is the Berkeley Age Friendly Project’s goal to assess the current needs in the city of Berkeley according to the 8 domains of the WHO Age-Friendly platform. Based off of this assessment, the group will start the process of applying to become a WHO Age-Friendly City.
The people working on Berkeley’s Age Friendly Project are Abbey Dykhouse, Coordinator of the project and Leah Talley, Director of Senior Services for the City of Berkeley. The key partners are:
- Ashby Village
- Lifelong Medical Care
- Center for Independent Living
- City of Berkeley, Aging Services Division
I am so excited about this project because I know that when our city takes the steps to improve the environment for older people it will be a better city for people of all ages.
This is Affordable Housing Week in the East Bay region. The East Bay Housing Organization is sponsoring several events around the area. I know what you are thinking—Affordable housing in the East Bay? You have got to be kidding. This is the most expensive housing market in the country.
But there are ways you can reduce your housing costs. How about shared housing? You could rent out rooms in your house to tenants or you could share your house with a housemate. You could go together with friends to buy or rent a house together.
You could build an Accessory Dwelling Unit in your backyard and rent it to a friend or family member. You could move into it yourself and rent out your main house. You could have a caregiver live there. Some cities in the East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland, Redwood City and San Francisco) have recently made it a lot easier for homesellers to build ADUs. Today the state legislature is voting on legislation making it easier for homeowners to build ADUs within the walls of their homes. The cities and state know that easing the process for homeowners to build infill housing will help relieve the housing crisis in our state.
You could sell your house and downsize to a condo or coop apartment. This could reduce your housing costs, reduce the amount of maintenance required for a house and free up time for travel and other activities. Some of the affordable coop options for seniors in the East Bay include Rossmoor and Berkeley Town House. If you move outside of the immediate area, you can find coop mobile home parks for those over the age of 55 years.
You could also start researching affordable senior housing facilities. This is a long term project. Many people are on waiting lists for up to five years.. Start with the Alameda County Senior Housing Guide.
Let me know if you have other ideas for helping to make housing more affordable in our region.
Click here for a video about Flossie Lewis, a 91 year old resident of Piedmont Gardens in Oakland. Ms. Lewis is a good friend of my friend Lloyd who had been telling me about her for years. It is so great to hear her secrets of growing older.