What do you do when the home you've lived in and loved for decades becomes too much to maintain? What do you do when cooking and keeping up the house and yard are just not that easy any more? Or if your health needs dictate a move that you really don't want to make?
This is a difficult and painful crossroads for those of us who are lucky enough to live so long.
In my own family, I was blessed with maternal grandparents who lived a very long time (appx ages 100 and 104) and who required a succession of downsizings - each one difficult, but none more so than the first. And I have seen this with my own father, too, as his needs have increased and his moves were required for his own benefit. And we've seen it with many, many other relatives too in various parts of the country.
But the fact that it's necessary, even when everyone agrees, doesn't make it easy.
Since I have been through this process with aging relatives, and many clients too, a few years ago I got special training to assist seniors in these types of situations and others, and earned the Seniors Real Estate designation, Seniors Real Estate Specialist. Today I'd like to discuss senior housing options in and near Los Gatos for residents who need to downsize, but don't want to leave the area.
The first major hurdle in deciding to go to smaller, easier to manage diggs is to work through all the "stuff" that we tend to accumulate over the years. Downsizing is difficult and I want to let you know that there are people who can assist you in this if you don't have family or friends to help you sort through decades of stuff. These folks will go through your boxes, closets, desks and so on to help you make the painful decisions about what to keep, toss, give away, etc. One service I found online that seems to be quite comprehensive is Clutter Free Services, www.clutterfreeservices.com.
The second big hurdle is deciding where to go.
Let's start by discussing the variety of housing options available to seniors, in addition to the obvious choice of living with family members. The general categories (with many sub categories) are these: Independent Living, Assisted Living, Nursing or Convalescent. These refer only to the TYPES of living, not the financial arrangements that go with them. That is another issue.
Silicon Valley generally does not have a lot of senior residences for sale. (There are plenty for rent, however.) In Los Gatos, there are some condos along Alberto Way at the Los Gatos Commons (off Highway 9, close to town) which are independent senior living places. These types of condos usually have a minimum age of 55 or 62 years for one resident - it's 62 at The Commons. Homes in the Los Gatos Commons run in the 400s to high 500s - considerably lower than other comparable homes close to downtown (later edit - this post was written in July 2007 - by late 2008, prices were far lower, so if you are interested in these homes, please contact me). These condos are completely independent. No one will cook meals for the community, provide cleaning, etc. The plus to living there? Great price and a quiet setting with more mature residents. And yes, you'll still need a car or to use public transit. No shuttle bus here. And that's it for senior condos you can purchase in Los Gatos.
There are a few senior condos in Morgan Hill and then there's San Jose's The Villages near Silver Creek. In many parts of California, there are lots of senior communities where one may buy a below market priced condo. This is particularly true near Rocklin and in the "gold rush" country. But not in our area, unfortunately. (I do know Realtors up there if relocating is an idea that appeals to you or your loved ones.)
Would renting be a better option than buying? What about an apartment with services provided, like cooking, cleaning, and some transportation? If a better arrangement for you or a loved one is a place where meals are provided, cleaning is done, and group outings are scheduled, perhaps an independent living rental is a better option. There are apartments that are strictly for seniors available (one near Almaden Fashion Plaza, another along Almaden Expressway in Willow Glen - just two examples) and there are facilities that provide apartments AND meals, cleaning etc. There are no such places in Los Gatos, per se, but there are some within 10 miles of town.
There are quite a few options near Los Gatos where a senior can lease an apartment in a community with other seniors and recieve meals, housecleaning, social activities, outings, laundry service, etc. (Not medical care though.) One that my family has experience with locally that I can endorse is The Atrium in San Jose (adjacent to Oakridge Mall in the Blossom Valley area of San Jose - it is also on the light rail, a real plus!). With my relatives, I found that moving to a place like The Atrium rejuvenated them as they were suddenly not isolated, but making new friends and being able to do things without having to drive themselves. In Santa Cruz, I would endorse Dominican Oaks and also Aegis of Aptos. There are many, many places like these in the greater Silicon Valley area.
I should add that in my experience, it is a tough transition to being in one's own home to moving to one of these independent living apartments where meals are provided. What I've seen is that it can take 6 months to get comfortable and really be happy about the move. Eventually, most seniors develop friendships, get used to the routine and actually blossom. But at first, there may be regrets and comments like, "I never should have sold my home". Transitions are hard.
If medical care of any kind is needed, it's likely that Assisted Living is a better fit. The difference between Independent Living and Assisted Living is simple. With Assisted Living, there's help with the functions of daily living, whether it's dressing, bathing, medical management (keeping the pills or medicines straight), being pushed in a wheelchair, and so on. A nurse (usually an LVN, not an RN) will be on duty. You will pay considerably more for this level of care. It is not the same as convalescent care by a long shot. It's like Independent, but help where you need it. Got a broken leg and need to be pushed to meals in your wheelchair, and need help dressing? That's assisted living, not independent. Need help remembering to take your medicines? Again, that's assisted living. Just need more of the staff's time? Again, probably assisted living - they have a higher ratio of employees to residents.
A place my family has been fairly happy with is Belmont Village (next to Santana Row, across from the Winchester House). I say fairly because they have had management changes and a bit of nursing turnover in recent years, and there have been some glitches. The location is excellent and so is the food. And for those who might need it, there is Alzheimer's care available in a separate wing of the residence.
Because this level of care requires more assistance, what I've usually found is that there are more residents in this environment who are not as "clear headed" as in independent living. This can be very disturbing to the clear-thinking senior who needs help due to medical needs that don't affect his or her thinking to suddenly find that half the residents have some form of dementia. I think this is the toughest thing about this level of care. For folks who are "clear", they can feel more isolated if there's no one they can talk to. So interview carefully before deciding that this is a fit. Also, most of these places are smaller than the independent ones, so there's a smaller pool of people to talk with anyway.
Multiple Levels of Care Available: In Los Gatos, The Terraces provides both Independent, Assisted, and Nursing Care - but it's a buy-in (except for nursing). It has a pool (rare for this type of home) and is walk-to-shops-and-banks. So too does Los Gatos Meadows, but it's a Life Care Facility, which means that the senior turns over his or her assets to the facility but will never be kicked out even if the money disappears. In essence, it's an insurance policy too. In nearby Saratoga, all levels of care are available at Saratoga Retirement Community. What is nice about all of these places is the fact that if the needs change, the senior doesn't have to leave his or her friends. He or she might change buildings, but remain on the same campus and be able to eat at the "old" dining hall. In my family, I was sad to see relatives be forced to move from one comfortable home to another beause needs changed and more care was needed. So I see a great value in being able to stay on the same campus if needs change. There are smaller homes with very few residents too. I do not have experience with these myself but am inclined to prefer a larger group so that there is more stimulation and a greater possibility of friendships.
Nursing or Convalescent Care is another thing altogether and my hope would be that no one would need this level of care. Very few people would move directly from their own homes and into nursing care. But sometimes it happens, especially if there's an acute need for convalescing after surgery, for instance. I have been impressed with Vasona Creek Healthcare Center in Los Gatos (no website that I can find).
Finally: Sometimes the need to move is apparent for a long time, and it's difficult to get the senior relative or friend to agree to it. Other times, something happens out of the blue - a car accident, a stroke - but something unforseen that creates a rush to find more helpful housing options. Silicon Valley's Council on Aging is a great resource for a variety of services for our seniors, whether you're seeking placement, advice, questions to ask, or have a complaint to lodge.
Los Gatos is a wonderful place to live. Downsizing is diffcult at best. It takes time and planning to help seniors be ready and able to move on. So many factors need to be considered. The internet is full of good information. But for personal guidance, please call me. I've been there with a couple generations of my own family plus many clients. I'm happy to share with you any resources I have, plus questions to ask, red flags to look for, and ways to help your beloved senior (or yourself) to transition. Call me. I'm happy to help!
Alternatives for Seniors http://www.alternativesforseniors.com/searchform2.php?area=11&submit=%3CIMG+height%3D24+alt%3D%22%22+src%3D%22images%2Fsearch.gif%22+width%3D64+border%3D0%3E
Mary Pope-Handy, Realtor, CRS, ABR, e-PRO, SRES, ASP, RECS, CNHS
Helping Nice Folks to Buy & Sell Homes Since 1993
Co-Author: "Get The Best Deal When Selling Your Home In Silicon Valley"
408 204-7673 (Cell)
Blogs: www.LiveInLosGatos.com and www.ValleyOfHeartsDelight.com