Its your move, seniors are told at a Marin housing forum

With that in mind, the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children's Services and the Marin Commission On Aging recently sponsored a senior housing forum at the Marin Jewish Community Center.

Titled "It's Your Move," the forum was designed to help Marin County's growing elderly population learn more about the options that lie ahead.

"We in the baby boom generation often have more parents than we have children," said Jeanette Kadesh, a geriatric social worker at Jewish Family and Children's Services in San Rafael. "There comes a time when we may find that we can't do everything by ourselves and we may need help."

"This forum is about planning for the future and the value of interdependence. We have to communicate…If you see growing old as a great adventure, there are lots of choices out there."

Speakers at the forum, which drew about 100, addressed decision-making, family communication, financial considerations and having the resources needed for staying at home.

Beth Ashley, a columnist for the Marin Independent Journal, told the mostly elderly audience the story of a friend who sold her home and bought a bigger house, by combining her savings with her willing son's resources. The mother took the bottom floor of the new house and the son took the top. It was a perfect solution for an elderly woman who did not want to give up the independence of living in her own home, rather than moving into a planned retirement community.

Other speakers included Wilma York, a volunteer housing counselor and retirement community resident, who gave pointers on "Assessing Your Needs"; Leslie Klor, of the Marin Independent Elders Project, who addressed the topic of "Housing Information and Resources For Staying at Home"; and Marian Snyder, who focused on "Financial Considerations."

After the speakers finished their presentations, attendees visited the tables set up around the room with information about everything from Meals On Wheels, which delivers prepared foods to the elderly, to "residents' rights" and how to choose a nursing home.

For those who can no longer live at home, Audrey Zavell, the volunteer coordinator with the Marin Jewish Family and Children's Services, offered some reassurance about group living situations.

Moving does not meant that you must leave behind long-held Jewish customs, she said. For example, Shabbat candle-lighting and holiday ceremonies are held regularly at many senior housing and nursing home facilities.

"We have an outreach program where rabbis and volunteers visit about 25 Marin elderly homes" to help them prepare for celebrations such as Sukkot, Chanukah and Passover," Zavell said. "We include recipes, crafts, tapes and singing presentations.

"There's nothing as touching as watching an elderly patient, ill with Alzheimer's, whose eyes light up when they hear a familiar Jewish song."