Hillcrest Homes – where seniors grow young again.
There is an exclusive community tucked away in downtown La Verne that many of us are not even aware of. It has cozy homes, nice landscaping and the safest streets in the entire city. It also has its own chapel, library, exercise facility and swimming pool, and offers dance classes, ti chi and live entertainment. There are a few prerequisites to join: you must be at least 65 years old, have sufficient funds, and be healthy enough to live independently. At 21, it looks like I’m out of luck for now. But in 44 years, you’ll know where to find me.
The Brethren Hillcrest Homes is a retirement community in La Verne with about 400 residents on a 53-acre site. The community reminds me a little of life in a college dorm but with more freedom, choices, space—and much better food. Hillcrest residents are given the option to choose from single-family homes or apartments with special features and amenities.
Betty and George Mellard, like me, have lived a majority of their lives in La Verne, and decided that they were not willing to leave just because they began sprouting a few gray hairs. The Mellards moved three blocks just to become part of this wonderful community. “It was a very wise move for us,” Betty Mellard said.
Paul and Opal Wilkinson had a similar experience. “We moved from one side of town to the other,” Opal said. The Wilkinsons have lived in La Verne for many years. Both are University of La Verne graduates, and always knew that they wanted to become a part of Hillcrest when they were finally eligible. The couple actually signed up in 1980 just to reserve a spot. “You have to keep yourself at the top of the list,” Paul said. Looks like I should reserve my spot right now for July of 2052, when I finally hit 65.
Hillcrest has been serving seniors since 1949, and was the first retirement community in California to be accredited by the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission. It was founded by the Church of the Brethren, which still plays a major role within the Hillcrest community. It is a Christian-based community, but people of any religion are welcomed and encouraged to join.
The community provides utilities, maintenance, groundskeeping and security. All residents have to do is relax and enjoy the social and recreational activities offered. When asked what they like to do in their free time, almost all respond with a laugh and ask, “What free time?” With committees, activities and travel arrangements, most residents admit having a chaotic schedule. “I used to read a novel a week, but now I can’t get through one in a month,” Paul Wilkinson said. “If anything, I’m going to have to get less involved.” With so many activities to take part in, Hillcrest is a great place for seniors to make new friends, connect with lost acquaintances and maybe even find that special someone.
“We were interested in a community that would help us in our later years,” Opal Wilkinson said. Currently, the Wilkinsons live in independent living, but feel at ease knowing that as they age they can continue to the next level at Hillcrest. Betty Mellard agrees. “We knew we could live independently and have so much freedom but still be part of a retirement community.” The Hillcrest community also offers assisted living and dementia care for those who need a little extra help. Dementia care is provided at Southwoods Lodge, where employees try to make the facility more like a residential environment than a medical facility. Those involved in the program follow personalized daily routines focusing on their individual needs. They are also given daily activities and chores. Families can choose studios, suites or one-bedroom apartments for their loved ones.
Due to increasing demand, Hillcrest has been building on its 19 acres of undeveloped land and upgrading older buildings.
“We reduced the number of units to provide the size and amenities that residents require,” said Charles Cable, president and chief executive officer of Hillcrest. They recently completed building an indoor swimming pool and spa, an exercise area, a physical therapy area, an outpatient clinic area for residential living, Pinecrest (20 residential living apartments), Birch Court (34 manor living units) and an enhanced Mountain View Dining Room. Some facilities currently under construction include the Village Center Meeting House, 10 residential living units, the café, library and lounges, the gift shop, administration offices, Maple Court (26 residential living units) and the chapel. “We want to provide the kind of living that people want to have for many years,” Cable said.
I look forward to spending my future in these newly upgraded facilities and taking advantage of everything Hillcrest has to offer. Only 44 more years to go!
On Sept. 29, the Hillcrest retirement center held their Annual Country Fair. “There is more stuff than I can possibly do in one day,” said 16-year Hillcrest resident Betty Mellard.
The fair began at 9 a.m. with a breakfast of muffins, doughnuts and pastries and a performance by the Funster Square Dancing group. The dancers were Hillcrest residents dressed from head to toe in elaborate country-style costumes with boots, hats and colorful kerchiefs. The community offers square dancing classes for residents, who did not hesitate to show off their dancing skills.
Booths along Hillcrest’s streets provided guests with the opportunity to purchase hand-made crafts, baked goods, linens, plants and raffle tickets. There was also a silent auction with several items up for bid, including wine, weekend get-aways, jewelry, gift certificates and even a University of La Verne spirit basket. “I had to drag my husband away from the bake sale,” Mellard said.
At 11 a.m., the Hillcrest Wranglers performed, continuing with the country theme. “They have performed for us before inside,” Mellard said. “They are really good.” The group was followed by FireHouse Stomp, which provided a slight change in pace with a very upbeat music style consisting of a wide variety of horns. “They’re pretty good as long as they don’t play that siren too much,” said Hillcrest resident Anne Waddelow.
A hamburger and hot dog barbeque lunch was offered outside, while inside the Mountain View Dining Room residents and guests enjoyed a more formal lunch including southern fried chicken, honey baked beans, mashed potatoes, gravy and fresh fruit. “The fried chicken was wonderful,” said Joe Schechter, a 12-year Hillcrest resident who worked the information booth. “Most of the people here today are friends of residents, people interested in moving here, and employees.” All of the proceeds from the event were contributed to the Hillcrest Good Samaritan Fund.
“I’ve looked at everything and now I’m going back again,” Mellard said.