The Family: A Place in the Sun

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New Help. The more lavish retirement centers will probably never be within the reach of most people who retire. But in recent years, the U.S. has slowly gotten around to helping with the housing of what the politicians like to call "our senior citizens." In 1956 Congress passed a law making public housing funds available to housing projects for the elderly. Subsequent laws and amendments authorized direct loans for private, nonprofit housing of old people—sponsored by church groups, labor unions, individuals, etc.—at extremely liberal rates (interest as low as 3⅛% on mortgages running as long as 50 years). There is also an FHA mortgage insurance program to be applied to old-age housing, under which a nonprofit organization needs only about 2% in working capital to finance an old-age housing project. In addition FHA mortgage insurance is also available for recreational facilities in old-age projects, as it is not for ordinary multiple-dwelling developments.

Utilizing one aspect or another of this federal support, a variety of new projects has begun. One is a new cooperative apartment community called Leisure World, about 25 miles south of Los Angeles, and designed eventually to provide some 6,750 units. Along with their apartments, Leisure Worldlings are supplied with free drugs, 24-hour visiting-nurse service, laboratory facilities, and a staff of ten fulltime doctors and 26 registered nurses—all at a cost of roughly $100 a month after a relatively modest down payment of $963.

Satellite Units. Leisure World is frankly aimed at the infirm: all electrical outlets are placed two feet above the floor to minimize stooping; all stairs are replaced by ramps. Designed to provide a busy life for the more active (but making provision for the hovering possibility of illness) is Olympia, whose organizers visualize it as a kind of Le Corbusier "Green City" of high-rise apartment buildings set in the green New Jersey countryside near Freehold, served by its own shopping center, medical and recreational facilities.

The United Church of Christ intends to sponsor an elaborate series of projects diametrically opposite to Webb's concept of entire cities for the elderly. The United plan is to scatter clusters of dwelling units through an existing city—some in downtown areas, some on the outskirts—to keep the oldsters near their families and integrated in the community. The satellite units will have a centrally located core containing health services, a common dining room, and recreational center. With FHA support, the United Church figures that people with as little as $1,800 a year income can afford to live in United Church projects. The first one is scheduled for Vermilion, a resort town some 35 miles from Cleveland, with others to follow in Ohio. Still other United Church projects are planned for Baltimore, Santa Clara, Calif., Sarasota, Fla., and Walnut, Iowa.

Village & City. One of the biggest projects set up under the newly liberalized federal financing is California's Senior Citizens Village near Fresno. Like Webb's Sun City, it is an oldsters-only community, with many recreational facilities.

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