Joann Sullivan on December 29th, 2017







When I was in my teens and twenties, I made most of my clothes. I really loved sewing and many of my friends were also into sewing. We would spend hours going over pattern books and hang out at our favorite fabric stores. One of my first jobs after college was sewing men’s western shirts which I sold at local boutiques. It was great fun, but not very lucrative. After that I got busy with work and family and did not have time for sewing any more. My main sewing projects for the past several years have been quilts and things for the house—curtains, pillows, etc. That is fun, but just not the same.

A few months ago I was at a party and met a woman who was wearing a lovely skirt that she had made. It was a very attractive cotton fabric and fit her perfectly. Talking to her piqued my interest in sewing my own clothes again. For me the main questions are: what size do I wear and what styles will look good on me?

Yesterday I received an email from my neighborhood fabric store, Stone Mountain and Daughter. Suzan, the owner of the shop is on a mission. She and her friend Laurel began collaborating four years ago. “We started out with the idea that there is a whole world of people out there who “used to sew” garments for themselves and for one reason or another, they gave up. We thought we’d just start making clothes and blog about our sewing adventures, perhaps enticing those people to come back to sewing. “

Suzann calls it the Garment Sewing Revolution of 2017, but it does not look like it is going to slow down anytime soon. Her blog, The Fabric Lady, is full of ideas for making your own clothes. They have chosen to use the smaller independent pattern companies, many of them owned by women. The designs are great, the fabrics appealing and the sizing more true to our bodies than the traditional pattern companies.

One of my plans for the New Year is to start sewing some of my own clothes again. If you are also interested, check out The Fabric Lady.



Joann Sullivan on December 19th, 2017

www.eastbaysmartsenior has remedies loneliness






There are so many committed and talented people working on services and projects to help people as they age. Recently, I met Susan Hamilton who is developing a smart phone app to help family caregivers who are caring for a loved one with Dementia or Alzheimer’s. Her company is called Care Better.  Below is the description she wrote for her project.

Caring for Someone with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Susan Hamilton, Founder

Care Better

Alzheimer’s and Dementia caregivers are 16 million strong and will grow 40% in the next ten years.

Are you one of them? I could use your help testing our app. IT’S FREE AND TOGETHER, WE CAN DESIGN WHAT WE NEED TO HELP US DO THE BEST JOB FOR SOMEONE WE LOVE. Care Better connects those who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. It’s a community designed just for us, to find the support we need by texting each other and finding non-medical experts to advise us along the way.

I created Care Better after not finding the support I needed when I was caring for my Mom. She became ill while living in Connecticutt. It took years of trips to become her conservator, obtain Power of Attorney, prevent financial ruin and finally move her to California, sixteen cross country trips in one year alone. I thought, “This is nuts. It shouldn’t be this hard.”

Test users will participate with your own smart phones at your convenience. Get answers to questions or simply find the intimacy of someone asking, “How did you sleep last night?” It’s a miracle really.

With your help, we can create a meaningful community of people who understand and the experts eager to help us. Whether you are far away from your loved one or live with them, we need you. Join us. We can’t wait to meet you.

She is looking for Beta users to test the app. Please contact her if you would like to participate in her project.


Joann Sullivan on November 10th, 2017

On September 28, 200 people attended an ADU workshop hosted by Ben Bartlett at the South Berkeley Senior Center.   There is great curiosity and interest in the backyard Granny Flats.  Of the audience members at that workshop, 28% said they would use the ADU to house a caregiver, 32% said they would house an aging parents or returning adult child and 58% said they would live in the ADU themselves.

Additional workshops have been scheduled in the next few weeks.


District 8 ADU Workshop (co-sponsored by Council Member Lori Droste)

Thursday November 16, 6:00 p.m.

John Muir Auditorium

2955 Claremont Avenue, Berkeley 94705


ADU/Aging in Place Workshop (Co-sponsored by Ashby Village)

Tuesday, November 28, 2:30-4:00 p.m.

Ashby Village, 1821 Catalina Avenue

Berkeley, CA 94707

(Please RSVP for this event: or call 510-904-0201)


District 4 ADU Workshop (Co-sponsored by Council Member Kate Harrison)

Wednesday November 29, 6:00 p.m.

North Berkeley Senior Center

1901 Hearst Avenue, Berkeley, 94707


The workshops co-sponsored by Lori Droste and Ashby Village will focus on ADUs as an Aging in Place option.  Also, at the Ashby Village workshop, vendors will be present with information about their ADU products.

Joann Sullivan on October 30th, 2017

I attended the national Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) conference in Boston a couple of weeks ago. This is the second GIA conference I have attended and I feel honored to be a part of it. I learned about so many new and innovative projects to help older adults and learned about new initiatives and policies on aging. There seems to be a genuine bond between the people who attend the conference—everyone is just so nice. This year, there was a major focus on reframing the way we feel about aging.

The highlight of the conference for me was the field trip to the Urban Green House® at Chelsea Jewish Lifecare in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  Barry Berman, CEO of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, told the story of his mother who had been a patient in their facility several years ago. He went to see her the day after she was admitted and was told that she was down the hall in the dining room. He went into the dining room and did not recognize her; she had deteriorated so much in one day. At that point he knew that their facility needed to make big changes.

William Thomas, M.D., an internationally known authority on elder care, and Steve McAlilly of Mississippi Methodist Senior Services developed the Green House® model in 2003, based on the traditions of the Eden Alternative, a global organization that aims to deinstitutionalize long term care facilities by changing the culture of nursing homes.

Most of the models have been developed in rural areas, mostly in the Midwest where land is more plentiful. The Chelsea facility, completed in 2010, is the first urban Green House®. 10-12 elders are clustered into ten houses where each resident has his or her own bedroom and bathroom. Two of the houses at the Chelsea site are the first in the nation to be specifically designed for people with ALS and multiple sclerosis. Unlike most institutional nursing homes, the Green House® model is warm, smart and green.

Warm—A warm home is a welcoming place of comfort, safety and refuge. The interior materials, colors and furnishings project a sense of belonging for those living and working in the home. The elders’ private bedrooms allow ample sunlight and have easy access to a common hearth, with a living room, open kitchen and dining area.

 Smart –Technology is used to create a comfortable and safe environment that fosters the well-being of elders and those who work with them.

 Green—A green environment is one that supports growth through meaningful interactions with life-enhancing natural resources, such as plants, natural lights and therapeutic outdoor spaces.

In this homelike setting where staff dress in street clothes and consider the residents their bosses, many debilitated elders come back to life. They follow their own schedules and interact with staff, other residents and visitors. They develop relationships with one another because of the small community size and homelike atmosphere.   Many help with food preparation and eat in a dining room, rather than a cafeteria.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has provided much of the funding for the Green House® has called the model “a catalyst for significant social change.”  I have been hearing about the Green House® model for years and am thrilled that I actually got to see one in action.

Joann Sullivan on October 5th, 2017

I have said before that I am continually impressed with the entrepreneurial, creative and resourceful senior service providers who see a need and figure out how to meet it. Transportation is one of those needs that has been very difficult to address. I recently met Amy Stice co-founder of Arrive Rides. Their company dispatches on-demand rides for people without smart phones.


Founded at the the start of 2017, the service has developed a loyal customer base of people who do not own smartphones and have therefore been left behind by cost-effective transportation apps. Seventy-three percent of Americans over the age of 65 do not have a smartphone, and on-demand ride companies like Uber and Lyft do not allow people to call on the phone to order a ride. Relegated to calling taxi companies, waiting for senior rideshare vans or paying for private medical escort companies, many of Arrive’s customers were not getting out of the house as often as they needed to. Arrive solves that problem by offering Lyft and Uber rides dispatched over any phone.

One of their clients, a 70-year-old San Diego resident, travels with an oxygen tank and had been reliant on a combination of public transit and taxi services prior to his Arrive membership. It was a constant concern that he would not be able to make it home from his errands before his oxygen supply ran out. “When I’m using Arrive, I know that someone is watching out for me and is going to make sure that I get a car that will get me home on time. . . Before I found Arrive, I was dependent on the bus and friends,” he says. “This service has let me retain my independence.”

 Elizabeth Legg, Arrive’s co-founder and COO, says this is what makes Arrive unique. “Every time we dispatch a ride, we talk to the driver to give them very clear instructions to find the customer, and we monitor the ride to make sure it’s going as planned. We take on the responsibility of smoothing any bumps that can occur with on-demand rides.”

A Berkeley resident relies on Arrive’s guaranteed conversation with the driver to ensure a smooth pickup. She is blind and relies on a combination of public transit and Arrive to get to and from daily meetings. Whenever she orders a ride, her Arrive concierge tells the driver to look for a woman holding a white cane and to call out her name so that she can find the car. “Arrive keeps this request and all of my destinations in their database, so I don’t need to explain the help I need every time I order a ride,” she says.

You can sign up yourself, family members or friends on their website ( The membership fee is $10.00 per month and there is a $3.00 service charge for each ride. The dispatch service is available seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Until self-driving cars are more available, Arrive is a really good alternative.

Joann Sullivan on September 19th, 2017

The City of Berkeley is solidly behind the building of ADUs in our city as one way to address our multi-faceted housing crisis.  Most of the new housing built in our city has been created by developers.   ADUs are a grass roots effort to increase the housing supply which will benefit Berkeley homeowners, not the big developers from out of town. ADUs are small, family centered and stabilize neighborhoods. The magic of ADUs is that they are flexible and can be used in many ways at different times to serve the family’s housing needs.

Families with ADUs in their backyards who choose to rent to tenants typically do so at below market rates. Some homeowners build the units to house family members—elderly parents who need some support or young adults not quite ready to get their own places. A caregiver could live in the ADU, enabling the elderly homeowner to age in place in the big house.  Or the homeowner could rent out the ADU, providing income to help with mortgage payments or to pay for a caregiver.

Ben Bartlett, Councilmember for District 3 is hosting an ADU workshop  on September 28 at the South Berkeley Center, 2939 Ellis Street at 6:00 p.m. There will be a panel of experts there who will answer your questions about ADUs and provide valuable information about the process of building an ADU. Additional workshops are being scheduled in other councilmembers’ districts and I will post them as they are announced.


Joann Sullivan on August 25th, 2017






A few weeks ago, Kerri Moon, President of Retiring Internationally, spoke to our Realtors Resource for Seniors Committee at the Oakland Berkeley Association of Realtors. Kerri is a senior placement specialist who works with seniors and their families to find the most appropriate retirement communities for them as they approach that stage of their life.

Several years ago, she realized that lots of people are not interested in nor can they afford retirement communities in the Bay Area. She started looking for retirement communities in other parts of the world and has made some amazing discoveries.

First, it is much less expensive to retire abroad. Monthly costs range from $765 to $2330 per month and that is for everything.  In-home care is extra and ranges from $4.00-$8.00 per hour.

The most appealing locations for Americans on a budget are those where there is already an ex-pat community. The locations include:

  • Mexico (Lake Chapala region, San Miguel de Allende, Puerto Vallarta, Merida, Huatulco Region of Oaxaca)
  • Costa Rica (Lake Arenal region, several coastal towns for different lifestyles desires)
  • Ecuador (Cuenca, Quito, Vilcabamba, Olon)
  • Panama (Panama City, Boquete, Coronado)
  • Portugal (Lisbon, Cascais, Porto, southern coast)
  • Spain (Barcelona area, Valencia, many southern coastal towns)
  • Thailand (Chiang Mai, Koh Lanta)
  • Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, Penang)

Kerri is  interested in setting up intentional communities where seniors can have positive aging experiences.  She helps her clients find homes to rent or purchase either alone or together, co-housing communities, independent and assisted living assisted communities (ranging from $800-$2000 per month in Mexico) and tiny house communities.

She organizes several tours every year of retirees looking for housing options in foreign countries.  She also hosts house parties for groups to let them know about housing options in foreign countries.

Contact for more information.  You can also go to her Facebook page to see photos and other information about retiring abroad.


Joann Sullivan on July 14th, 2017

Almost every week someone calls me about affordable senior housing. They are usually in a crisis situation and are going to need a new apartment right away, but do not know where to start. Sometimes people get lucky, but generally it is a long process (up to five years) to find and move into affordable senior housing. There are many more people looking for housing than there are units available.


The first step is to find out what is available. For both Alameda and Contra Costa County residents, there are directories which lists all of the facilities in the county and the status of the waiting lists. For the Alameda County directory, click here.  For Contra Costa County, click here.

If you live in Berkeley, check out the website for affordable senior housing. This website lists the affordable senior facilities in Berkeley and several of the resources that can help you.

You may also want to check the Housing Authority of the County of Alameda website for information about the HUD facilities and other resources that might be helpful to you.

Finding good affordable senior housing is as time-consuming as a job. EBHO publishes a guidebook for finding affordable housing which is very useful. It gives basic information about the requirements for affordable housing and a comprehensive list of developers and management companies.

Every facility is different with different protocols, application forms and requirements. You will need to contact each one that you are interested in to see if you meet their qualifications. Talk with the staff there, call the management company to find out about waiting lists and potential openings. Write a letter telling them how much you would love to live in their building and why you would be a good resident. Go back often to see if anything has changed. Be sure to let them know if you change addresses so they will know how to get in touch with you if there is an opening. You want them to remember you.  If it were me, I would take a plate of freshly baked cookies to the office staff.

You should keep records of everything you find out so you will know what you have to do to qualify for an apartment.   It is a good idea to set up a binder with tabs for keeping all of your information on each facility. Be organized. Keep a calendar. Keep copies of your applications so you do not have to start over each time you fill out an application. I heard about a group of Berkeley women who started meeting monthly to help each other with the process of finding affordable housing for themselves

Good luck!

Joann Sullivan on June 6th, 2017







On January 1, new state legislation (AB 2299 and SB 1069)went into effect, making it easier for homeowners to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) on their property. To assist in the rollout of the ADU regulations, newly elected city council member Ben Bartlett formed an ADU Task Force. I am on that task force, as well as other realtors, architects, planners, developers, mortgage specialists and others.

May 31, 2017 was the public kick-off for Berkeley’s ADU campaign. We held a panel discussion at the Oakland Berkeley Association of Realtors which was attended by about 100 realtors. Later that afternoon, a group of us met with the new UC Chancellor and staff from the Terner Center for Housing Innovation to talk about how ADUs could help ease the faculty housing crisis at UC Berkeley.

The new laws require all cities to adopt ADU regulations that are not more restrictive than the state standards. Cities must allow the ADUs “by right” with no public hearing and must issue permits within 120 days if the units meet the new state standards.  Berkeley has adopted new standards based on the state law.

These new standards ease and/or eliminate the need for parking if the ADU meets certain requirements. Cities may specify the size and height of the ADUs. For Berkeley, the maximum size is 750 square feet; for Oakland, 800 square feet.

A third law, AB2406, gives cities the option of creating a “junior accessory dwelling unit.” This is a unit created within the house which has an efficiency kitchen and interior connections to the main house. It does not require a private bathroom.

The goal of the ADU Task Force is for Berkeleyans to create 1700 ADUs by 2020. The new laws will not come close to solving the housing crisis in the Bay Area. They will create options for middle-income renters who do not qualify for market rate apartments or low income housing. They could also help homeowners meet their mortgage payments, seniors stay in their homes with an on-site caregiver and multigenerational families live close, but not too close, to each other.

Joann Sullivan on March 20th, 2017

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.

Joann Sullivan on December 1st, 2016

salaburgThis 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.



Joann Sullivan on November 21st, 2016

pink shirt and computerThe 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

Other requirements.

Repayment under the PTP Program becomes due when the homeowner:

Moves or sells the property;

Transfers title;

Defaults on a senior lien;


Dies; or

Chooses to obtain a reverse mortgage.

For more information, go to the State Controller’s website or call them at 800-952-5661.

Joann Sullivan on November 7th, 2016

200572869-011For 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.



Joann Sullivan on November 5th, 2016

I have had such a wonderful response to my last post about Bridge Meadows.  Here is another inspirational article about this wonderful program.


Joann Sullivan on November 1st, 2016

Grantmakers in Aging 2015 conference, Oct. 29, 2015. Photo: Jay MallinI 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.

9984076The 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.

Joann Sullivan on August 27th, 2016

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.

Joann Sullivan on August 9th, 2016

Anabel_Pelham_updateSeveral 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:

  1. Housing
  2. Social Participation
  3. Respect and Social Inclusion
  4. Civic Participation and Employment
  5. Communication and Information
  6. Community Support and Health Services
  7. Outdoor Spaces and Buildings
  8. Transportation

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.

Joann Sullivan on May 16th, 2016








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.

Joann Sullivan on May 8th, 2016

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.



Joann Sullivan on April 22nd, 2016

senior-citizens-talkingI just finished reading Beth Baker’s With a Little Help from our Friends. This book is great for anyone interested in and considering alternative housing options as they get older.   Like Ms. Baker says, what everyone wants to do is to age in community. That is what this book is about. She presents lots of options:


1) *Villages (like Ashby Village and North Oakland Village)

2) *Co-Housing (like Phoenix Commons, the new senior co-housing community)

3) *Cooperative Apartments (like Berkeley Town House) and Mobile Home Parks

4) Naturally Occurring Retirement Centers (NORCs)

5) Community without Walls

6) Generations of Hope

7) *Affinity Groups (like the Burbank Senior Artist Colony)

8) *House-sharing

9) *Multi-generational Housing

10) *Universally designed Homes

11) *Assisted Living with Technology

If you have been reading East Bay Smart Senior, I am sure you recognize many of these options.   I indicated the options that I have written about with an asterisk.  If you want more information, enter the option in the Search box at the top left of the blog and you can look up the articles in the archives section.

Some of the examples of community living are new, though.

srs on the roadEscapee Cares is a retirement community for RV enthusiasts who can no longer drive around the country because they cannot take care of themselves or their spouse’s needs following an illness, injury, surgery or the progression of a long term health condition. The RVers drive to Escapees CARE (Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees) in Livingston, Texas where they can continue to live in their RVs and receive assisted living services like meals, transportation, housekeeping and laundry.   In 2012, the cost was $849 per month at Escapees CARE compared to $3550 per month, the national average cost for assisted living.

According to AARP, the sense of community at Escapees CARE is striking. RVers are special people (there are over 25,000 nomadic retirees living in RVs in the United States) and they established this center to care for their own.   Donations from members make up about half of the operational budget and volunteers keep the costs down.

1355358869-hope_meadows-2_srs_and_6yoAnother community, Hope Meadows is the brainchild of Brenda Eheart. This community was built on an abandoned air force base in Rantoul, Illinois in 1994. This site houses pre-adoptive families, foster children and elderly volunteers who help the families with childcare, tutoring and other projects in exchange for reduced rent in the community.   Other communities have been built on the same model and center around different vulnerable populations: disabled veterans, young mothers coming out of prison and adults with developmental disabilities and their caregivers. There are plans to build an intergenerational community around elders with dementia and their caregivers.

Both of these communities represent the development of a special community to fit the needs of seniors looking for very specialized communities.  They make me think that anything is possible if we can just figure out how we want to live our later years.