by Jeff Green, BCHD Community Outreach Consultant
As a kid, I remember watching the great Willie Mays, then in his early 40s, playing centerfield during his final year in baseball. The most talented, graceful ballplayer of his generation was chasing a routine fly ball when, for no apparent reason, he wobbled, stumbled and lurched face-first onto the outfield grass as the ball rolled to the wall. That was the early ‘70s, and though I figured I’d never get wobbly and stumbly, that image has stuck with me.
When you’re a child, aging is such an abstract concept. You’re pretty sure it’ll happen to you, and more certain to your parents, but it’s so far down the road, you can worry about that in another 50 years or so. Well, for my parents and me, those worries arrived almost simultaneously earlier this year.
Until this January, I knew little about senior living communities. There was no need. My four 80-something parents (hey, divorce and remarriage happen) had been in their respective homes for 40-plus years, they were relatively healthy, aging reasonably well and still very self-sufficient.
My dad, an Energizer Bunny who’s survived three heart attacks, was taking his nightly walk in early March when he decided to pass a slower person. That next step was a doozy. He didn’t navigate the curb correctly, fell into the street and has been in a rehab facility ever since. Nobody’s sure if he’ll ever walk again. Simultaneously, my stepmom admits she’s not as “with it” as she once was. One of the smartest people I know, her memory is waning, which frustrates her and creates challenges from a caregiver perspective.
During the same period, my mom also fell. She wasn’t able to get her hands in front of her in time, so she landed directly on her face. The multi-color bruising is scary, but thankfully she didn’t break anything. Second time in three years this has happened, though.
By sheer coincidence, I began as a community outreach consultant for Beach Cities Health District (BCHD) a few months ago, and the insights and knowledge learned by working with the staff and doing quite a bit of research have helped me achieve pseudo expert status on older adult living for both sides of my family. When I talk with my sister and various step-siblings about senior villages, communities or villas, I ask about the level of independent living that’s available. Is there a campus-like atmosphere? Nearby pharmacies, libraries and grocery stores? What about the onsite medical facilities and specific types of care? Are the walkways flat and without cracks, and are they lined with benches and shaded by trees?
Oh, and both sets of parents, while not excited about moving, want to stay as close as possible to their current homes.
Another component of the aging puzzle turns out to be Baby Boomers; the 76 million people born from 1946 to 1964 who are getting a little creaky. Trust me, I know. Today’s Boomers are basically healthier and more active than their predecessors, but the generation named “Man of the Year” in 1966 by Time magazine now averages more than 60 years of age and is going to face some unique challenges in the near future. Some quick stats about the forthcoming “Silver Tsunami:”
- Today, a large percentage of Baby Boomers in their 50s and 60s are caring for their parents, but that pool of assistance will soon evaporate.
- In ensuing decades, when Boomers will require care, there will be fewer adult children to assist.
- According to AARP, in 2010 there were more than seven potential caregivers for every person 80 and older. By 2020, there will be only four and by 2050 there will be less than 2.5.
Getting older ain’t for the faint of heart. The process, though, can be tempered if older adults have access to a hub of vital services, which in the Beach Cities region is not always readily available. Some more quick stats:
- There currently is up to a three-year wait at some older adult living facilities in the Beach Cities; essentially, there’s a lack of housing to serve the 65 years and older crowd.
- A recent study by Gallup found that 94 percent of older adults in Hermosa, Manhattan and Redondo Beach want to remain living in the Beach Cities community.
- The Beach Cities’ older adult population has reached nearly 15,000, and it’s expected to double in the coming decade.
Which brings us to BCHD and their proposed Healthy Living Campus Project. The 11 acres of BCHD property in Redondo Beach, with the four-story medical building on 514 N. Prospect at its core, will be a self-contained hub of well-being for residents that promotes health and independent living.
“By modernizing our existing medical campus, which includes renovating existing facilities and developing new structures, BCHD can address a growing community need, invest in the future and prosper; growing the enterprise to support our overall mission,” says BCHD CEO Tom Bakaly. “We want the campus to reflect who we are, which means taking a broad, holistic approach.”
The remodeled Healthy Living Campus is intended to provide everything the local aging population may require, ranging from dementia care, geriatric social workers, cancer treatment and primary/preventive medicine to a medically-based exercise facility (with yoga, weight training, medically-certified staff and more), housing and outdoor facilities featuring walking paths, bikeways, outdoor gathering spaces and shuttle carts to ferry guests and residents across the property.
“Our campus is the ideal location to develop a residential community for older adults because of the health programs and services onsite,” says Kerianne Lawson, a licensed geriatric social worker and BCHD’s director of lifespan services. “Increasing access to this hub of services will allow our aging residents to remain socially and physically integrated in their community, age gracefully in place and maintain the level of independence and quality of life that they deserve.”
The Healthy Living Campus will even incorporate Blue Zones Project principles and concepts, which means re-engineering the campus to create a more livable environment where it’s easy for campus visitors, residents and tenants to use active transportation, connect socially and make healthy choices “that nudge people to eat well and move more.”
BCHD, which exists to provide health and wellness programs throughout the lifespan of residents in the three coastal communities, is intent on meeting the growing demand for older adult residential living options and providing a continuum of care. It’s all about livability, offering independence as well as the foremost health programs and services, and creating an all-inclusive campus where residents of all ages, including older adults and those with disabilities, can enjoy a high quality of life.
Trust me, I now know about these things.