Seniors Return to Campus

This article was first published as “Seniors take advantage of vibrant campus life” in the September 30 issue of JWeekly. Click here to read it there.

Oct. 24 is “Homecoming Day” at the Moldaw Family Residences on the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life in Palo Alto. Though there won’t be a football game or harvest moon dance, there will be lots of celebration as the residents mark a year since the first of them moved into the facility.

Residents — seniors ranging in age from 71 to 93 — report that there is much to celebrate at 899 Charleston, as it is also known.

“It’s great here,” says Geraldine Kane, who moved to the Moldaw Residences from Westchester, N.Y., to be closer to her daughter. Since relocating to Palo Alto, Kane says she is “busier than I’ve ever been before.”

Sitting in the Moldaw’s spacious and inviting lobby during an interview, Kane says she has been amazed at how easily she has made new friends, many of whom share her passion for the cultural activities that are offered. Besides events held on campus, there are activities off-campus as well. Recently, for example, “A group of us went on an outing to a performance of the San Jose Rep, organized by the JCC,” she notes.

Moldaw Family Residences executive director Marilyn Israel (left) with Nancy Rossen, president of the residents' association

The Moldaw’s proximity to the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, also located on the campus, is a big draw for many of the residents.

The complex was designed to integrate the senior residence into the campus community, which serves a span of generations and Jewish interests.

The facility has 182 fully-appointed apartments — 12 different models ranging from 700-square-foot one-bedroom units to 1,500-square-foot three-bedroom ones — with a capacity of about 250 residents. Currently, 100 apartments are spoken for; they are either occupied, or their owners are in various stages of taking ownership and moving in.

There is no question that the economy has played a major role in the Moldaw’s slower-than-anticipated start. “Although houses in Palo Alto are still selling, people are staying in their home, waiting to see if prices will go up,” says Marilyn Israel, executive director of the Moldaw Family Residences. “Our biggest competition is our potential residents’ own homes.”

Entrance fees for Moldaw Family Residences apartments start at $489,000 (with a $2,805 monthly fee) and go up to $1,171,000  (with a $5,800 monthly fee).  Twenty-four units are available for below-market rates, starting at $270,000, in accordance with Palo Alto’s Below Market Rate Housing Purchase Program.

When prospective residents come for a tour, they are met by any one of 40 current residents who have eagerly volunteered to be ambassadors for their new home.

Although most of the residents hail from the South Peninsula and South Bay, some — like Kane — are transplants from as far away as New York and Florida. In fact, Israel has received several inquiries from prospective residents who have no personal or family connections to the Palo Alto area, but who are intrigued by the campus’ concept of intergenerational living.

The eight-building Moldaw facility includes 11 memory-support units, some of which are already occupied. There are also 12 assisted-living units, none of which are yet open. Living assistance by skilled nursing is already available, however, through partnerships with the Jewish Home and other institutions.

Ultimately, the Residences will encompass independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing care and memory-support care.

“As residents age in place, it’s all about focusing on health and wellness, so as to extend the period of independent living for as long as possible,” Israel explains.

Residents enjoy two outdoor areas, a spacious library, a dining room (kosher and non-kosher meals are available), and 11 shared activity and media spaces. Many of the activity rooms have kitchens.

While a few of the residents are still working full time, most are retired and taking advantage of the packed schedule of events and activities offered to them both on campus and off.  They can partake in yoga, tai chi, knitting, gardening, film screenings, mah jongg, museum and concert outings, to name just a few of the options. And with JCC membership included in the price of their apartment, many residents head over to the adjacent fitness center on a regular basis.

People are also attracted by the “maintenance-free lifestyle,” as Israel puts it — amenities such as a 24-hour concierge and on-site nurse, door-to-door transportation, and tight security.

Nancy Rossen, president of the residents’ association, says the sense of community is quite strong. Rossen is an active, 45-year resident of Palo Alto and member of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills.

“We have an active group that wants to get out into the broader community,” Rossen says. To that end, there are six standing committees of the association that support the staff in improving life within the Residences, as well as connections residents have with local organizations and institutions in the Palo Alto area.

In particular, “We are working on more alliances with the JCC,” Rossen says. Currently, the Residences runs its own program calendar, and the JCC’s seniors department runs its own. Rossen’s group is working toward a closer relationship and more integration between the two.

Children from the JCC’s T’enna Preschool, who deliver challah to Moldaw every Friday, have gotten to know residents. And several residents have been volunteering at the school.

Rossen looks forward to the residents “continuing to mature as a community. Our job is to service the community’s needs and to bring more people into active participation.”

Says Israel, “We are well on our way to making the vision of a fully integrated Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life a reality.”

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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