Bernard Rosen was a bit apprehensive. Born and raised in New York, and then based in Washington, D.C., during a long career in government and academia, he was suddenly considering a move to San Francisco.
In his 80s.
Rosen’s son is a San Francisco dweller, so the plan was for dad to move all the way across the country and into the Rhoda Goldman Plaza assisted-living facility in the city’s Richmond District.
However, it took three separate visits to the facility to cement the deal for the elder Rosen.
“I made sure to sample the meals before I committed to the move,” he explained with a smile. Rosen, now 89, moved in to Rhoda Goldman Plaza last year.
“Moving is difficult at any age,” said Susan Koster, the executive director of RGP for the past five years.
And it must be even more difficult for elderly people who are moving into an assisted-living facility — especially if they’re moving in from another state — right?
Not necessarily, Koster said.
“When you’re older, moving can be made easier,” she said.
For example, moving to an assisted-living facility can ease seniors’ anxieties about daily chores and managing medications, Koster said. And seniors who come from other parts of the country are often happy to escape the harsh East Coast winters, or leave Midwest summer heat waves behind.
Still, moving is never easy — even if the move is a short one.
Take 96-year-old RGP resident Jean Lindt, for example. Lindt immigrated to California from Germany in 1940, and 64 years later her children in San Francisco inspired her to move in to RGP. Initially, the move was difficult for Lindt, always an active woman.
“I had a nice one-bedroom apartment, and I had to get rid of more than 200 books and a music collection,” said Lindt, who grew up with music and was married to a Mozart scholar. “I didn’t want to lose my independence.”
Lindt said she misses being able to drive a car, as well as the spontaneity of merely getting around. “I [also] miss the San Francisco Opera, the philharmonic and going shopping on a moment’s notice,” she said.
Koster said such transitional challenges are offset by the facility’s welcoming approach There is a hospitality committee, for instance, made up of RGP resident volunteers.
Moreover, the facility’s social worker and residents team up with newcomers, sitting down with them at mealtime, introducing them to fellow residents, and informing them of leisure, enrichment and social activities around the facility.
“A bond begins,” Koster said, “and it starts with this team approach.”
Built in 2000, Rhoda Goldman Plaza is an assisted-living facility that is home to retired physicians, academians and homemakers among many others.
Floor plans at RGP range from studios to two-bedroom apartments, with all units initially unfurnished. Amenities include housekeeping services and three meals a day, prepared in a kosher kitchen. Outings take RGP residents on city and community tours, to casinos and elsewhere. “And if we can think of a reason, we’ll have a party,” Koster said.
Rosen said the programs at RGP — his favorites include daily exercise, current events discussions and field trips to concerts — help him cope with his own feelings of loneliness.
Framed pictures of Rosen’s late wife and her oil paintings decorate his apartment, along with black-and-white photos of handshakes with politicians and foreign dignitaries. Rosen has quite a few of those: He worked in the State Department for six years, including a stint in Greece, and was the deputy executive director of the United States Civil Service Commission in Washington, D.C. for four years, before becoming a professor of public administration at American University and an author.
Although the photos and paintings are nostalgic keepsakes of his past, the memories don’t keep him from moving forward.
“I haven’t been a hermit,” Rosen said. “I’ve sat at many tables in the dining room, and I settled in at one round table with six residents who have very interesting backgrounds. We can talk about current events and music, and the women are educated and articulate.”
Moving to RGP does require a tradeoff, however. For Rosen, it meant letting go of outings at Washington’s famed Kennedy Center and giving up his longtime membership in a professional/social club.
For Lindt, leaving her old friends behind to make new ones was a challenge. However, like Rosen, she too, has found a table of five core friends whom she joins for every meal.
Still, “I keep in touch with former girlfriends,” she pointed out.
Koster said situational depression is something that confronts many people who move into assisted-living and other senior living facilities.
“One of the hardest transitions is switching from individual to congregate living,” she said. “Group meals, activities and transportation are offered at specific times. The transition is hard.”
Another challenge, she said, is the senior’s loss of independence (to a certain degree) and the necessity to scale down his or her amount of personal possessions.
Lindt, who has lived at Rhoda Goldman Plaza for six years, considers her apartment “cozy” – adding that it’s even nicer than her old place.
“The fact that everybody calls me by my first name makes it feel very much like home,” she said. “Besides, the place is luxurious and immaculate.”