"I'd be out in the streets... Thank God that LOEL housing is here."
I don’t know if you guys have heard the news, but there are a lot seniors. Especially in Lodi. And as Baby Boomers are no longer the babies they once were, the senior population will continue to grow at a faster pace than ever before. America as a whole has been bracing itself for how that change will impact us, and one of the big questions revolves around senior housing. Many of us don’t realize how big this problem is until we have a loved one going through it and then it’s like woah! There is so much more going on than we realized. With the senior population living much longer than previous generations, coupled with the ever increasing cost of living and medical care, we’re finding ourselves in a pickle. How do we take care of our loved ones? How can we afford to take care of people? I mean, it’s not very likely that someone who is in their late 80’s can simply go out and find a part-time job to pay their unexpected expenses.
Luckily for Lodi, there is a wonderful nonprofit whose soul mission is to love and care for the seniors of Lodi, and they do a helluva a job. This organization is LOEL (pronounced low-el). It's shortened from Lodi Elderly. The LOEL hosts a bunch of programs throughout the city of Lodi, from Meals on Wheels to weekly exercise classes. For the sake of this article, I’m focusing on is their senior housing projects program.
LOEL was inspired to take on this project because there was no affordable housing for seniors in Lodi. They saw a huge need in our community and decided to step up to the challenge. In 2003 LOEL opened their first housing property, and today they have 14 units. It’s independent living, which means there are no nurses or caretakers to help with daily living. Seniors can stay in those units until they either need to go to another living facility that can provide more care, or until the person passes. No one is kicked out, and that feeling security brings tremendous relief to residents. Can you imagine being in your 80's or 90's and not knowing if you're going to have a roof over your head from one day to the next? The anguish and additional stress that would bring you? Knowing you will never lose your home, your shelter, provides a huge sigh of relief for these tenants.
I had the joy (it really was fun) to sit down and chat with Della, who has been living in the senior housing for a while now. She’s a fun spitfire, a veteran, and someone who has worked most of her life. The one thing Della kept circling back to over and over again, is how grateful she is to the LOEL Center.
JAMIE: Tell me a little bit about yourself?
DELLA: Well let’s see, I’m 82 years old and I was born and raised in New York. I’ve lived in California for more than 60 years, so I’m kind of a native now. I’m a highschool graduate good kid, never been arrested. I have three kids and I love life. My kids’ father passed away and I’ve been alone a long time. I’m very active and I like to talk a lot (laughs).
J: Did you stay at home with your kids or were you working?
D: Both. When they were very young I stayed home, and when they got older I went out and worked.
J: What work did you do?
D: I was a dental assistant for many years, and I retired from Lodi Memorial. Medical field mostly, Jamie. I was also in the service. I was in the Air Force for 3 years, from 1953 to 1956. That was super great. I got an education I could never pay for and they offered me so much. But then I got married so... (laughs and shrugs her shoulders). But it was all good.
J: How long have you been living in the housing complex?
D: 10 years.
J: How did you hear about it?
D: I was in trouble. I was losing my house, I had a mobile home and I couldn’t keep it. Jamie, it was going to be one day, I had one day and then I was going to be out on the street. Luckily someone had told me awhile back about this list for senior housing so I had put my name on it. And thank god Tracy (LOEL Director) was here, because she called me and told me there was an available spot. I had one day. One day between losing my mobile home and moving.
J: That’s crazy. You only had one day before you were out on the streets when you got that call?
D: Just one day. Tracy, you’re an angel.
J: Amazing. So what has it been like living in the housing complex?
D: Oh it’s been absolutely wonderful. I don’t have to do anything, if anything breaks down it’s a matter of minutes before it gets done and fixed. I have absolutely no complaints at all. Not one. Because like I said, everything that I need is right here, I just call up and say hey, I got this problem and they’re right there. I don’t have a negative thing to say.
J: Do you have to pay a stipend amount or how does rent work?
D: It’s all according to your income, so I pay but not the same price I would pay somewhere else.
J: What has living in the housing complex allowed you to do that you wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise?
D: Well, I don’t drive anymore and I’m centrally located so I can get to everything I need here. Like I said, Jamie, I don’t have one negative thing to say. I’m very comfortable. I’m very satisfied. And at my age and I don’t have family here. Thank god I’m healthy I can walk everywhere, so thank god I can just walk across the street and say, hey I’m in trouble here, and they help. And there’s so many services here I can use, plus the other good things like games and meals, it just a big good world I live in right now.
J: If the housing complex wasn’t here, what do you think your living situation would be?
D: I’d be out in the streets. I’d be homeless. I would because I didn’t have any place to go. And at that time my daughter who lives here now drove 18 wheelers so they weren’t here so I was by myself mainly. Thank god that LOEL housing is here. When you think you’re gonna hit bottom, there’s always somebody there with that hand that comes up saves you, and that’s them (LOEL).
Round Up Questions
J: What do you want people to know about LOEL’s senior housing?
D: The only way I can describe it is they’re convenient, they’re understanding, they’re patient with us, if we need something it’s right there. And if they don’t know they find out. They don’t just apologize and say, “I don’t know.” they go find out. They go the whole 9 yards to get what you need. If you’re down and something happens they’re there. But at the same time they don’t interfere. It’s just a really comfortable feeling at my age to know that I can have someone help me. And above all things they listen. They take the time to listen. More so than your own family sometimes!
J: What problem does this project solve?
D: For me, housing and a support system. They’ve taken me to appointments. They don’t usually do that or make a practice of it but they were able to help me when I really needed them. I’m not able to drive like I said and I was having these bad spells so they took me right to the doctor.
J: If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
D: There would be more chocolate (laughs)! I’m a chocoholic! Haha, but that’s probably not the answer you’re looking for though. If I could change one thing, besides more chocolate, more people would be friendly, open, loving and kind.
J: Is there anything I missed?
D: Well, if there’s any seniors reading this, and they’re feeling down and out, they just need to talk to someone or get a paper, come to a place like this. Because it just seems like that door, all the problems are out there (waves towards the street) in here (at LOEL) it’s a different world. And especially seniors. A lot of the time we’re too proud to ask for help. I’m not, never was, but as a whole we are. People don’t want to be embarrassed, or be put in a negative situation, but you’re not here. There’s not negative anything here, people want to help you. They’re more helpful than family sometimes, and they’re here with open arms and they engulf you and almost make living worthwhile. It’s okay and you’re okay. I’m blessed. I’m totally blessed.
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Thanks to Tracy Williams for setting me up with Della, and thanks to Della for taking the time to chat with me. If you are interested in learning more about LOEL's Senior Housing, or would like to support this program, click here to visit the LOEL's website.