‘Aging-in-Place’ is a concept that’s gaining traction across the country, but in Laguna Beach, Calif., where the quality of life is so attractive, it’s especially hard for many seniors to face leaving their beloved longtime homes in favor of safer options. The area’s steep topography and strict environmental zoning mean that building senior housing developments for residents who have contributed so much to the community’s appeal is out of the question. So, over the past two years, the Laguna Board of REALTORS® has used Housing Opportunity Grants to partner with the local agency for senior services, Laguna Beach Seniors, in addressing the challenge.
The Laguna Board of REALTORS® has a long history of community involvement and believes in giving back; in fact, it has supported Laguna Beach Seniors, a non-profit agency, for more than a decade. Says Association Executive Bobbie Jordan, “Securing the first grant in 2017 was part of our ongoing mission to lend a helping hand and be part of the solution to assist seniors with staying in their homes.” That initial Housing Opportunity Grant supported Lifelong Laguna, an aging-in-place program administered by Laguna Beach Seniors. This was augmented by a second grant earlier this year; all told, the funding has enabled Lifelong Laguna to conduct focus groups with numerous partners throughout the community, and to engage in outreach about the Lifelong Laguna Home Modification Assessment. More recently, it has supported workshops on Accessory Dwelling Units, which, once a revision of municipal ordinances is complete, could benefit seniors wanting to age-in-place.
The Home Modification Assessment, just emerging from its pilot stage, has been very effective on a fundamentally practical level, explains John Fay, Program Specialist at Lifelong Laguna. “We go out to a house and identify interior and exterior safety and accessibility issues that could be upgraded, often with slight modifications. Small fixes like installing handrails, improving lighting, even eliminating loose area rugs can all make a difference. Maybe a doorway needs to be widened to accommodate a wheelchair. Sometimes it’s a matter of behavior modification, and we can help with that, too,” he notes. “We have a team of retired contractors volunteering their time and their expertise, and seniors in the program can be matched with volunteers who provide support throughout the process, to build a sense of security and trust. Our volunteers are trained and guided by professional care managers. Our goal is to educate and empower our seniors, giving them the confidence to stay in their homes when it’s possible.”
“REALTOR® involvement brings so much value to what we do with Lifelong Laguna,” continues Fay. “Many folks who bought their homes decades ago worked with REALTORS® who are still active, and several REALTORS® are now volunteering with us at Lifelong Laguna,” he points out, adding, “The REALTORS® are the main funders and volunteers for this community model, and we really couldn’t do it without them!” Jordan adds, “In addition to our volunteer participation, we have many seniors among our REALTOR® members. This partnership between Laguna Board of REALTORS® and Laguna Beach Seniors/Lifelong Laguna is a wonderful way to stay connected with our seniors and to provide assistance where and when needed.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Laguna Beach are using REALTOR® Party resources to help local seniors age in place, contact Association Executive Bobbie Jordan at 949-497-2474 or John Fay, Program Specialist at Lifelong Laguna, at 949-715-8107.