In September seven people from Life Plan Humboldt visited two life plan communities, Willamette View and Rose Villa. We were invited to see the layout of the homes and amenities, meet some residents, and especially get a chance to talk with the staff and board members of two well-established communities.
The CEOs, staff, and residents from these nonprofit life plan communities warmly welcomed us and shared information about how the places developed and how they are run today. The guiding values of these two are very similar to ours, and we now have supportive friends to the north whom we can turn to with questions in the future. Here is some of what we learned.
The histories of these two senior communities are linked, and they are now located right next to each other. Willamette View (WV) began forming in 1954 as the dream of a group of people who wanted a place to age in community (sound familiar?).
The people who developed Rose Villa (RV) were part of that group who branched off with a slightly different vision for how they wished to live. Both groups were members of the Methodist church, but while the church was supportive to the projects each community had to start their developments on their own.
At Willamette View the founding group found land, created a design, and sold apartments to “Charter Members” based only on renderings of the homes. That funded construction and they opened in 1956. Today WV has 435 residents living on 27 acres.
Most residents live in apartment buildings ranging in height from three to eight stories, all are linked by covered walkways and passages. While there are a few freestanding 2 to 3 bedroom homes with attached garages on the property, overall you never have to go outside if you live at WV.
The offshoot Rose Villa group found land right next door in the same neighborhood in 1957. Rose Villa was originally envisioned as a neighborhood of single-level, garden-apartment style homes for middle- income elders. Initial plans for the site included 90 units on 6 acres, but these plans expanded to 195 units on 13 acres before construction began, and today RV is 22-acres with 260 residences but it is still mostly single story homes.
The RV community facilities are set up in a three-story “Main Street” area. Although RV has added a couple of apartment buildings in the last few years, they still “bake-in” exercise by encouraging people to walk to the RV restaurants and community activities. They feel getting outside, strolling past gardens in the sun and rain, keeps people fitter and in touch with their neighbors.
So, one place is more like a village you walk through, the other is high-rise living with lots of “people contact” in the hallways. Today the facilities are friends and neighbors. No longer associated with the Methodist church, both still have: not-for-profit values, are resident-led, and are independent from any national chains. Both places are welcoming and open, and each has “a culture that supports wellness in mind, body and spirit” (from the Willamette View website).
Both facilities had excellent places to eat with chefs on staff (pastries!). Alongside the restaurants there was a full-service bar featuring wine, draft beers, spirits and cocktails. There was a “Marketplace” store where you could pick up “grab and go” pre-made salads, soups, sandwiches, fresh fruit, pastries and cookies, and ice cream to take home.
Resident have full-sized kitchens but everyone gets a certain number of points to use on food per month. You pay out of pocket for alcohol.
There are lots of activities, exercise areas, gardens and rooms for crafts at both places. Both facilities had areas for memory care. Resident-led foundations raise money for staff or to help if a resident runs into financial difficulty. There is active involvement of residents on the board of directors and on all committees. The paid staff are smart and caring – you can see they really support the nonprofit resident-led life plan models.
The trip was well worthwhile. If you are in an area with a life plan community take time to visit.
You will find each place has their own culture and ways to do things. Bring ideas home!
Many thanks to our hosts at Willamette View, CEO Craig Van Valkenburg, Mark Hollis and residents Eva Laevastu and Kathy Blume.
Heartfelt gratitude to Rose Villa CEO Vassar Byrd, her staff, and the board of directors who invited us to visit and who were such great hosts.
Observations from the LPH visitors:
It struck me that at both places the people just seemed happy. Everybody said hello. We saw golf carts with staff out delivering things to the Rose Villa houses. The landscaping helped the homes feel private and the fourplexes all had deep front porches and their own little yards. Some homes had fencing for dogs. The Rose Villa lighting at night was really nice.
Community was made of mostly multi-story structures (up to 8 stories high) which were connected by enclosed passages. Being outdoors seemed to be deemphasized.
Main restaurant was modern with spacious views of the river.
Upper floors of the buildings offered beautiful views of the river and surrounding areas.
Had tennis and pickleball courts.
Community garden was large with a variety of crops.
Health and fitness resources were available.
Residents were friendly and appeared to enjoy living at WV.
CEO and marketing director met with us and answered our questions.
Community had mostly single story housing with a few buildings 2 and 3 stories high.
Many residents had colorful landscaping and a few had private gardens with veggies, etc.
Landscaping was an integral part of the campus.
Building exteriors were attractive and well maintained.
New buildings were modern looking.
There were multiple mini neighborhoods with individual meeting areas.
Designed to make residents walk outdoors to get around the campus.
Community garden was large and offered a variety of vegetables, fruits, etc.
Main dining area was attractive but small.
Health and fitness resources were available.
Residents were friendly and appeared to enjoy living at RV.
Preparing to open preschool to bring young children to campus.
CEO, several board members, and other dept. leaders met with us and answered our questions.
I liked that the staff and residents were so friendly. People seemed to know each other and it looked like they were actively engaged in activities around the campus of RV.
I liked the 2-acre garden. Resident gardeners ate what they grow and sell the rest at a “farmers market” on site, donating the proceeds to the RV Foundation.
Residents can ask the Foundation or RV for money for a project they propose.
Rather than memory care, they have a supportive living neighborhood in Madrona Grove with 8 studios with a common kitchen, eating and living area.
They can help us with explaining the financial transition from home to life plan community.
I liked that the triplexes were painted 3 different colors and had different landscaping.
I liked that the apartments had varied siding and the facade was varied, not uniform.
I liked that there was a neighborhood feel including outdoor gathering spots surrounded by a cluster of houses.
I liked that they interviewed dogs before they moved in and required a dog trainer if the dog is problematic.
I liked that they screened the prospective resident for a good fit.
RV felt more like a community we would be trying to create. People were going about their day- to-day whether it be in the garden, the pool/fitness center, Main Street (eating at the restaurant or waiting for the ice cream truck) or milling in their neighborhood or in front of their place. WV was a mostly indoor experience and although I saw people about (mostly in the hallways or corridors) I saw no one in the garden or outside much.
RV was an outdoor experience: cottages, dup/tri/quadplexes, great landscaping, pathways. People mostly had to go outside to get anywhere. At WV, by design, you didn’t have to go outside to get to any of the other buildings or common areas and they did not encourage outdoor activities.
The number of resident-led committees (especially at WV) that were there to get things done. Want to build a place to gather & sit, form a committee to get it done. Recycling, artwork, train club, ham radio, computer technology, etc…form/join a committee
Two of our group also visited Rogue Manor in Medford on the way back home. At this 368 acre facility residents could call a golf cart to transport them around. They also had a section of their library for vision impaired that had a variety of assistive devices.
Many thanks to Glenn and Star Siegfried, George Williamson, Pat Girczyc, Marc Chaton, JoAnn Schuch, and Ann Lindsay
for making the long drive north and returning to Humboldt to share their insights.