Laguna Beach Seniors Looks to the Future
Stu News Laguna (Reprinted by Permission)
Friday January 23, 2015
by Chris Quilter
Laguna Beach Seniors Looks to the Future
By CHRIS QUILTER
Before the Susi Q opened in 2009, the Board at Laguna Beach Seniors accepted a generous offer by savvy marketing consultant Carrie Reynolds to facilitate a “branding” session. Branding? To some of us, that sounded like round-up time at the Susi Q Corral. But brands matter, Carrie taught us, because they are expressions of the promises organizations make to their communities and customers.
After listening to our hopes and dreams, Carrie branded us with a label that startled us: “senior ambition.” Yet it was true, and it still is. Laguna Beach Seniors was founded in 1985. But our celebration this year — “40 Years Strong” — is not a look back. It’s a launching pad.
“This is a pivotal point in our history,” Board President Tina Haines has said. “We are committed to a transformation that will take us beyond the walls of the Susi Q.”
Riding the “Silver Tsunami”
The senior center — which was an absurdly ambitious project for the dinky “Mom and Pop” operation we were back when we launched our capital campaign — is now operating at close to capacity. That’s gratifying but not that surprising in a town where more than a third of us qualify for the senior discount down at South Coast Theatre. This unprecedented social change is called the “Age Wave” by some and “Silver Tsunami” by others. The question is: will we ride it or be swept away by it?
Our response at the Susi Q has been a host of supportive services, clubs, classes, and activities that stretch the mind and body. This programming will continue to expand, but the Susi Q also will become a hub for services that reach into the community. The most exciting program on our drawing board is Lifelong Laguna, whose goal is to help us “age in place” in our homes — which nationwide surveys have shown is what the vast majority of Americans want.
Achieving this goal in any community will require comprehensive and affordable in-home services and involve emerging technologies. In Laguna, we have the advantage of being a wealthy community, but disadvantages too. Half our homes are on hillsides, all of them are expensive, and the housing options for seniors on limited incomes are, well, limited.
Still, there are positive signs. The City’s efforts to create “complete streets” will benefit seniors on walkers as much as mothers with baby carriages. “Ride-on-demand” transportation would be a lifeline for seniors who no longer drive, and driverless cars would be a game changer. The City’s new Senior Housing Task Force, chaired by Kristine Thalman, who is also on our board, recently recommended that the City explore the feasibility of a “virtual village” as an alternative to the assisted living facility, which the town lacks.
The Village Movement
The Village Movement began as a volunteer-intensive, grassroots effort to connect seniors with services to help them live at home. One of its distinguishing features, however, is the variability of the “villages” in the communities where they take root. In Laguna, for example, many village-like services are already in place at the Susi Q. We also have a wealth of churches and community groups that have long functioned as villages for their senior members.
Is Lifelong Laguna the prototype of a virtual village? It’s way too soon to say. “It’s a new venture for us,” Tina says, adding that partnerships — including the support and involvement of the City — will be key to the shape and success of Lifelong Laguna. “We have wonderful congregations and organizations in town that are lifelines for their older members. We want to partner with them, learn from them, support their efforts, add our services to the mix, and fill in the gaps that we discover.”
There are many unknowns and much to learn. But whatever shape Lifelong Laguna takes, Laguna Beach Seniors is enlisting in a global “aging in place” movement, and, as Tina says, “deepening its commitment to those who have made Laguna Beach the town we love and never want to leave.”
These are the people who have made Laguna Beach Seniors “40 Years Strong,” and we think they would approve this latest example of senior ambition.
LAGUNA BEACH SENIORS
Laguna Beach Seniors is a community nonprofit, and we depend on people like you to help us make the town we love the best possible place to age gracefully. Please join our special circle of friends.