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Disparities Clear At Senior Living Communities In San Diego

Evening Edition

Above: One of the most difficult decisions facing seniors is where to live in their final years. In the next in our Envision series on Aging in San Diego, KPBS reporter Alison St John takes us to two senior communities that offer independent and assisted living,: one upscale, the other low rent.

Aired 11/17/11 on KPBS News.

One of the most difficult decisions facing seniors is where to live in their final years. Our series 'Aging in San Diego' continues with a visit to two senior communities that offer independent and assisted living.

Ina and Irwin Rubenstein live in an airy, seventh-floor apartment at Vi, an upscale continuing care retirement community east of La Jolla.

Ina and Irwin Rubinstein in their apartment at Vi, La Jolla
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Above: Ina and Irwin Rubinstein in their apartment at Vi, La Jolla

“We decided a long time ago,” Ina said, “we needed to find a place where [we] could age in place and not have to worry about getting sick later on.”

The Rubensteins, who are 76 and 80, wanted a community that has assisted living and skilled-nursing care for residents.

“We looked for one where the monthly fees do not change when you move from one section to another,” Irwin explained. ”There were only three in the area.“

They chose Vi because it is close to where their daughter lives and because they loved the apartment they were offered.

Theresa Latosh, Vi‘s community relations manager, said that to qualify to live at Vi the Rubensteins had to be both financially and physically healthy.

“The idea is that you come in when you are healthy and active,” she said. ”You live with us for the rest of your life at whatever level of care you should need. If you need to move to higher levels of care you don’t need to pay any more than what you did in independent living.”

Vi, La Jolla Village
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Above: Vi, La Jolla Village

Residents at Vi pay an entrance fee of between $220,000 and $1 million, depending on the size of their apartment. The monthly fee runs from about $3,000 to more than $6,000. All residents have access to the community’s amenities.

There are six dining rooms, each with its own menu, and Executive Chef Jim Smith caters to every taste.

“In the restaurant downstairs, we have more comfort foods,” he said. ”We have your meatloaf, your roasted chicken, turkey, that sort of thing, and we also have fresh fish every day. Upstairs, it’s more like you’re going out to dinner at a nice restaurant downtown.”

Theresa Latosh took us to the workout room and the pool, where they have "aqua fit" classes three days a week, and an arthritis class.

We visited the spa, which offers everything you might find at a full service salon and spa. “Even things like pumpkin facials,” Latosh told us.

She said that there was a waiting list to get into Vi - until the economic downturn.

“However, in 2008 things changed a bit,“ she said. “And it happened to have coincided with our new tower with an additional 184 apartments. Things slowed down.”

Now Vi is at 80 percent capacity. The facility offers potential residents advisers to help them figure out how to sell their homes so they can make the financial commitment to join the community.

In this economic climate, upscale senior living communities often have trouble filling their space.

At the other end of the financial spectrum there's City Height Square, an "affordable" assisted-living complex, which has a waiting list. It’s run by a private non-profit, Senior Community Centers.

Josie Davis in her studio at City Heights Square
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Above: Josie Davis in her studio at City Heights Square

Seventy-six-year-old Josie Davis lives on the second floor in a studio apartment. Her late husband was in the military, and she has his pension of about a $1,000 a month.

“The rent is cheap,” Davis says. “It is $577, because I cannot afford the one-bedroom apartment – it is more than $600.”

Davis lives alone, but she's surrounded by her memories. Photographs of distant family members in the Philippines - and of herself as a 17 year old - cover the walls.

“When I was young,“ she said wistfully, ”I didn’t have as many wrinkles as I have now.”

Activities here are limited.

“Some residents play dominoes and card games in the lunch room,” Davis said. “And they have movies every Friday.”

Breakfast and lunch are served in the small dining room, and Davis goes to the Food Bank to cook for herself in the evening. There’s a nurse, a social worker and a mental health worker for several hundred residents.

City Heights Square, Senior Community Center's affordable senior housing
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Above: City Heights Square, Senior Community Center's affordable senior housing

Paul Downey of Senior Community Centers said rent is subsidized so residents don’t pay more than 60 percent of their income. The housing was built with a combination of federal tax credits, state redevelopment money and private philanthropy.

“If we can provide people with an affordable place to live,” he said, “ we provide nutrition, we provide supporting services, people can live here for the rest of their lives and die here. (That is) actually is a good thing, because it means they are not dying in an emergency room or a hospital or in a long-term care facility.”

Downey is concerned about the future of low-income senior housing.

“We look at the gaps in services and the number of seniors who don’t have adequate income in San Diego and the state of California, and when you double the number of seniors in this country between today and 2030, it’s a real problem,” he said.

Up in her little studio, Josie Davis said she is grateful.

“What I have here is a place to sleep,” she said. ”A place to come home to. So I am thankful for that, that I am not on the street.“

Research by the Oakland Insight Center suggests 46 percent of seniors in San Diego struggle to make ends meet. The center's Elder Index calculates that a single senior needs an income of $23,000 a year to get by in San Diego, and a couple needs $30,000.

Downey says most of the seniors living in City Heights Square live on less than $12,000.

He says it’s becoming more difficult to build affordable housing, and the number of seniors is expected to double by 2030.

Health and Human Services: SD Senior Health Report

Above: A report from the Health and Human Services Agency on San Diego County senior health.

Comments

Avatar for user 'ViRisks'

ViRisks | November 17, 2011 at 7:45 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Residents at Vi’s La Jolla community have had problems getting their refundable entrance fees back. Residents also brought a class action lawsuit against the company in response to rising monthly fees that was eventually settled. You can read more about it at www.ViRisks.org.

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Avatar for user 'jmarcusnewman'

jmarcusnewman | November 17, 2011 at 11:14 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Professional Fiduciaries can assist in placing people in living situations that are best suited to their needs and capabilities. They can also assist with any legal challenges that may come up. My practice, although open to all prospective conservatees, focuses on assisting members of the LGBT community and assuring they are treated respectfully in environments and with caregivers who understand their special needs. Please contact me if I can be of help: J Marcus Newman jmnconservator@gmail.com or https://sites/google.com/site/fiduciarysandiego

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Avatar for user 'Frank_N_Blunt'

Frank_N_Blunt | November 18, 2011 at 12:46 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Seize the opportunity? Why do some seem to promote a need to specifically designate LGBT as a distinct community? Do some people want to continue remaining so instead of assimilating into one community? Isn't acceptance a key motive, need, or purpose? Whether nature, nurture, or preference is considered to influence the person's physicality, emotions, drives, & desires, why aren't the private lifestyle aspects kept discreet?
It just seems that there is outward derision of exceptionally special people like myself because I am as I am while being accepting, tolerant, & sensitive of others; yet without knowing me there is initial judgment of external appearance. There is more baseless derision when they find that I happen to be a hetero Caucasian male. All without actually getting acquainted or taking the time to discover me. That is hypocrisy as well as prejudice & stereotypical behavior. Unfounded categorization is harmful, insensitive, & promotes ignorance. See, I have come to suspect that everybody else is the same in suffering from social myopia. But I am patient enough for somebody else to come along & show me that they can accept me as an individual, without continuing to be persecuted or suffer from unfounded accusations for anything that was caused by others that happen to have some common outward features or vague demographic characteristics as myself but which I share no other association, action, part, nor belief. Just saying ...

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Avatar for user 'Frank_N_Blunt'

Frank_N_Blunt | November 18, 2011 at 12:46 a.m. ― 3 years ago

Even worse is to retire from the USN into poverty without any of the entitlements or benefits provided as all the propaganda from the politicronies, kleptocrats, & any of the parasitic facilities or agencies would like others to believe. I've dealt with utter injustice since retirement, as well as when I was serving, that has been exacerbated by injury that has affected my life, well-being, & outlook past the point of health & financial hardship. Believe me, I know about suffering from injustice, hypocrisy, & corruption.
To me personally, there has been no greater threat, harm, offense, or injury than from domestic causes. Whether it be from systemic dysfunction, inherent corruption, abusing rule of law, perps harming others without recourse, disabling protections, disregarding prevention, deteriorating social institutions that have been heisted & are being exploited for profit, exploiting the suffering or misfortune of others for profit, & many other dubious conditions exhibiting blatant denial or outright hubris in spite of the declining moral foundation ... ScAmerica has more mounting shame than claim to exception.
For every alleged noble achievement there was an injustice, opposition, harm, or other malevolent condition that had to exist in the first place but was due to domestic causes. Think about that to realize how far this nation has receded, devolved, become unstable, become rife with injustice, & promoted socio-economic disparity ... all due to internally generated causes that are much greater & more heinous than any supposed external threat. Then recognize what must be done to resolve all the present issues that are upsetting the present & threatening the future whether caused locally, regionally, or nationally. Mostly it's requiring the implementation of a wholesome value set to instill a sound ethical & moral base. It doesn't infringe upon harmless, preferential, or unpreventable personal matters & lifestyle choices but concerns responsibility, accountability, protections, equitability, access, opportunity, matters of public good & trust, truly caring for the sick & injured with standards of treatment toward providing remedies without any exploitation or imposition of hardship, community & infrastructure stewardship, fiduciary oversight, & other positive matters that would overcome the problems. All of our lives would be enhanced by participating as stakeholders where contribution was encouraged throughout all ages & abilities. I hope that you are aware, energized, & able to be personally involved or else provide support & hope the best for others that can take the front.

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Avatar for user 'tonyjacobs'

tonyjacobs | November 21, 2011 at 6:45 a.m. ― 3 years ago

I've read your article and the comments thoroughly, and I think personally that there's nothing wrong with having a facility that can provide quality care for the elders. The only thing that concern me is the first comment that saying that there are unlikely changes. I'd like to know more about that issue.

San Diego Senior Services

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Avatar for user 'tonyjacobs'

tonyjacobs | November 21, 2011 at 6:47 a.m. ― 3 years ago

I've read your article and the comments thoroughly, and I think personally that there's nothing wrong with having a facility that can provide quality care for the elders. The only thing that concern me is the first comment that saying that there are unlikely changes. I'd like to know more about that issue.

San Diego Senior Services

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'KristanaJenson'

KristanaJenson | June 4, 2013 at 12:22 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

This was a nice article and news piece, and certainly showed the disparity range of providers for senior housing and services in San Diego, but the helpful part that most seniors need is missing. Most seniors are in between, somewhere in the lower middle of the spectrum. They’re not Josie, whose income is under twenty-six thousand dollars a year with no savings, and they are not the Rubensteins at the Vi paying a million dollar entrance fee. There are a lot of choices in between. In fact at my last count in May 2013, there are about 14,920 spaces available at licensed assisted living providers in San Diego. 11,170 of those are in larger assisted living communities, and the other 3,750 are in residential care homes scattered throughout suburban neighborhoods in the county. They provide all levels of care. Some active seniors only need meals and light housekeeping. Most frail seniors need assistance with medications, dressing, bathing, transferring and incontinence care. Late stage Alzheimers patients and other seriously ill patients may need full transfer assistance, behavioral management, and other heavy care needs. Most seniors who need moderate care can find very good care providers for about $2500 to $3000 dollars a month, and minimal if any entrance fees. I wish there were more articles about all the great services that are available to the average person in San Diego. Checkout http://www.careplacement.com/assisted-livings/california/san-diego-county for some these options.

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