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Living it up Older adults aim to age in place

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Local enthusiasts flock to the Los Altos Senior Center to play bocce ball. The center hosts informal games four days a week and occasional tournaments.

As baby boomers in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View nose toward their sunset years, many plan to age in their own homes, leaving retirement communities to their parents.

Traditionally, communities for those 55 and older have provided safety, social activities, transportation and medical care. Many older adults want the same amenities without moving out of their homes.

Studies reveal that socializing - maybe even more than staying fit - leads to a longer life. Isolation causes seniors to become depressed and stressed, resulting in a failure to thrive.

Several local organizations offer classes, sponsor luncheons, organize hikes and even provide concierge services. Sharing the spotlight with youth theater, sporting events and special-interest clubs are a host of activities and organizations geared specially to older adults.

Gathering places

• For a $35 annual membership - $45 for nonresidents - the Los Altos Senior Center, located at 97 Hillview Ave., invites seniors to socialize, learn to play bridge, take classes through the Recreation Department, watch movies and travel on day trips. Holiday and monthly birthday luncheons offer opportunities to celebrate, bocce ball games and tournaments promote healthy competition and Technology for Seniors events with tech-savvy teens - sponsored in concert with the Los Altos Hills Recreation Department, the Los Altos Community Foundation’s Center for Age-Friendly Excellence and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s linkAges TimeBank - promote intergenerational interaction.

The newly opened Grant Park Senior Drop-in Program at 1575 Holt Ave. operates 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays. The program offers social opportunities, presentations and coffees. Annual membership is $26 for Los Altos residents, $40 for nonresidents.

The over-50 set can get involved by volunteering at the center. Call Barbara Smith, the city’s volunteer coordinator, at 947-2897 to pitch in.

For more information, call the Senior Center at 947-2797 or visit losaltosca.gov/recreation/page/senior-program to download the bimonthly Spotlight newsletter.

• The Mountain View Senior Center caters to local residents 55 and over. Free activities offered weekdays include billiards, card games, puzzles, movies, a computer lab and bingo. Aquatic Fitness and Deep Water Exercise classes are available at Eagle Pool.

Located at 266 Escuela Ave., the full-service center boasts a community garden (see article on page 16), provides social services and health screenings, serves nutritious lunches and organizes outings to casinos, festivals, musicals, museums and vacation hot spots.

For more information, call 903-6330 or visit mountainview.gov.

Out and about

• The Los Altos History Museum offers group tours for seniors. Volunteer Marilyn Henderson organizes free, docent-led tours noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. After-hours tours cost $3 per person.

In the past year, two assisted-living facilities toured the museum and gardens, located at 51 S. San Antonio Road.

"We divide the group in half and each docent takes charge of a group," Henderson said. "It works very well."

Seniors come from all over the Bay Area to see what the museum has to offer. A large East Bay senior museum-touring group recently visited, and they praised "what a feeling of community our museum has," Henderson added.

"We enjoyed (the East Bay group) tremendously, as these folks are docents in their own right," she said. "We had as much fun with them as they did with us."

Two garden groups - one from Petaluma and the other from Gilroy - dropped by the museum recently. The Gilroy club came to see the gardens.

"These ladies were happy to see our fabulous gardens - in bloom year-round," said Henderson, adding that the women took plenty of photos.

For more information, call 948-9427 or visit losaltoshistory.org.

It takes a Village

Avenidas Village - built on the model of neighbors banding together to share services, home repairs and more - offers seniors all the amenities of a retirement community without having to move out of their homes.

According to Los Altos resident Ellen Gonella, who serves on the advisory council, membership is more expensive than the average senior center.

The Palo Alto-based Avenidas Village - which Gonella called "the cream of the crop" of collaborative models - offers concierge services for seniors, with help available 24/7.

At $900 for a single membership, $1,200 for a couple, Gonella said Avenidas is "not something everyone will want to do." She and her husband, Paul, a member of the Los Altos Senior Commission, also stay active at the Los Altos Senior Center and donate time and goods through Los Altos Legacies.

For older adults who want to remain in their homes, "this kind of a service enables people to do this pretty safely," said Vickie Epstein, program director. Vetted providers help seniors with home repairs, transportation, home care, medical advocacy and legal services, among other aspects of maintaining their independent lifestyles.

In addition to offering a menu of services at negotiated discounts, Avenidas Village introduces people to social groups, or "clusters."

Membership connects seniors with "clusters" of other older adults who live nearby. According to Gonella, the Los Altos and Los Altos Hills cluster has had four or five meetings in the five years she’s been a member.

"I’ve put on lunches and arranged visits to the Los Altos History Museum," she said.

Members are aging in place - Gonella estimated that the average age of people she interacts with through Avenidas Village is 80 years and older.

"These people truly do need help staying in their homes," she added.

For more information, call 289-5400 or visit avenidas.org.

Fit after 50

• El Camino Hospital in Mountain View offers a range of senior programs and services, including the Health Library for researching illnesses and the Senior Health Program, which connects seniors with primary-care physicians who take Medicare.

The hospital sponsors an eight-session Senior Balance and Exercise class for $50 and schedules events such as elder-care summits that feature presentations on topics including dementia and fall prevention.

For more information, call 940-7000 or visit elcaminohospital.org.

• The El Camino YMCA, adjacent to El Camino Hospital on Grant Road in Mountain View, has targeted the senior demographic with a number of Active Older Adults classes and lectures. From Enhance Fitness to Zumba Gold, students can proceed at their own speed.

Kim Lopez teaches a Tone and Stretch class, which concentrates on light weights and stretches. Some students had fallen and needed to concentrate on strengthening their balance, but most said they came for the teacher’s style and the camaraderie.

"If anything doesn’t feel right, modify it or ask me," said Lopez repeatedly, as students worked on their bicycle exercises.

Flo Oy Wong has attended the class for a year, after she began experiencing a hip problem.

"I knew I needed to move," she said.

For more information, visit ymcasv.org/elcamino.

• The nonprofit Bay Area Older Adults website lists outdoor, social and cultural activities for adults 50 and older. The online calendar is divided by region and subject - art and history, the sciences, fitness, food, volunteering, etc. A recent listing mentioned the Foothill College Bamboo Garden, with 30 varieties of the rods, as a good field trip.

Founded by Anne Ferguson in honor of her late grandparents, Bay Area Older Adults’ mission is to stimulate the hearts, bodies and minds of older adults through easy access to arts and culture, nature and new friends. Membership, which includes discounts, special offers and a monthly newsletter of group events, is free.

For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit bayareaolderadults.org. ◆

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