SENIOR CARE: Contra Costa County Attracts Boom
Hoping to "cash in on the legions of well-off Baby Boomers about to enter retirement age," many Bay Area corporations are investing millions in developing senior care centers, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Contra Costa County is leading the "growth boom" that is changing the old, nasty image of nursing homes into "one of vibrant communities that look more like bed and breakfast hotels or country inns," and offer high quality of care and "Cadillac-style" services. Contra Costa is especially ripe for growth because of its large senior citizen population, high property values that allow residents to afford high-end homes and a strong economy that leaves many children financially able to help their Baby Boomer parents. Over the past two years, the county has seen "an 'overwhelming' number of new homes open, with more than 700 new beds becoming available," according to Judith Weitzner, manager of the county's Senior Information and Referral Office.
The growth of these homes has some worried, however, that low- income seniors and smaller facilities will be left in the dust. "You're going to have more competition," and that could mean smaller homes will close, said Lois Truelson, administrator of Kensington Place, a 178-bed home in Walnut Creek. Others agree that it will be harder for smaller homes because they "cannot offer as wide a menu or as many activities" as larger homes, such as swing lessons, Internet access and violin concertos. One Alzheimer's center, Aegis of Pleasant Hill's "Life's Neighborhood," even designed its quarters with old-fashioned telephones, kitchen appliances, clothes and furniture "to elicit memories from residents that are dear to them." Still, some operators of smaller homes aren't worried about the competition. Claudia Green, administrator for 32-bed Friendship Manor in Antioch said, "A lot of people are looking for" small, but homey "instead of the bigger facilities you get lost in. It's like a family" (Johnson, 4/15).