Going For International Recognition

Posted on October 11, 2011 by  
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Based on the 2010 census, 20 percent of the residents in Los Altos were over the age of 65.  When compared to Santa Clara County, at 10 percent, Los Altos has twice the senior population on a percentage basis.

Does this mean Los Altos is getting “old”?  Of course not.  It simply means that we have more residents retiring, and remaining, in their homes than the average Silicon Valley community.

Hopefully, this blog has helped convey what living in Los Altos is really about.  As I have previously mentioned, this is a destination community.   To begin, we have some of the best educational choices in the nation, from pre-schools to top tier universities.  Many of our seniors volunteer in helping future generations realize their potential, as tutors, mentors and advisors.

In addition, quality of life in Los Altos is superb … from access to health care, to outdoor recreational activities, to the supportive volunteer social structure found in the community.  Our senior residents have compelling options at their disposal.

Recently, Kristen Marschall (Daily News) wrote about the City Council applying to be designated “age-friendly”.  Below, is a slightly edited version of her article.  Enjoy …

With the highest concentration of seniors in Santa Clara County, Los Altos thought it was time to make it official.

After receiving the OK from the city council, Los Altos has submitted an application to Geneva, Switzerland, to be recognized as “age-friendly” by the World Health Organization.

The title doesn’t come easily. Since the program began in 2005, New York City and Portland are among the few cities in the nation dubbed “age-friendly.” Los Altos would be the first in California.

For Karen Jenney, chair of the Los Altos Senior Commission, it was an easy decision to go for it.

As first, the relatively new commission mailed out questionnaires to about 4,500 residents older than 55 in both cities, asking what concerns them as they age.

The commission received more than 1,000 responses and compiled a list of comments that totaled 100 pages.

If the two cities are deemed by the World Health Organization to be “age-friendly,” the commission will be expected to go to work right away on projects that benefit seniors. Jenney said some changes must be implemented within five years.

Possible projects include improving street lighting and adjusting traffic lights to allow more time for crossing the road, Jenney said. The commission estimated about $8,000 would be needed, and at the Los Altos City Council’s request it will prioritize improvements based on costs and community impact.

Among the many Los Altos residents who chose to stay in the community as they age is 94-year-old Muriel Perkins, who with her husband moved to the area in 1941 when homes were cheaper and schools abounded. When it came time to choose a retirement community, she said her husband had a carton box of options from San Jose to San Mateo, but they opted to move to The Terraces at Los Altos.

Established in 1949 as Pilgrim Haven, the retirement community is home to 73 people in independent living, 14 in assisted living and about 50 in skilled nursing, executive director Rae Holt said.

The community is about to build additional units and a memory support center to accommodate those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which Holt said will make The Terraces the only retirement community in the area to have such a facility.

Residents must be at least 62 but most are around 85, Holt said, noting than many come from the Los Altos and Palo Alto area.

Arvid Hamer, 90, is a second-generation resident, following in the footsteps of his mother, who lived there in 1963. There was no question about where he and his wife would go when the time came, in 2003, Hamer said.

“I’d been here a couple of weeks and I said, ‘What am I doing with all these old people?’ And then I realized I’m one of them,” Hamer said.



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