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Sonoma County Gazette

When I began my career as a chef, I never imagined I would eventually fill the position of Culinary Services Director at two senior living communities in Santa Rosa. Over the years, I worked alongside renowned chefs Wolfgang Puck and Nancy Oakes; cooked for political dignitaries in Washington, D.C. at the Morrison-Clark Historic Inn & Restaurant; worked as a sous chef at the legendary Chez Nous in San Francisco; and then, became an executive chef first at Belden Taverna before taking a position at the historic Presidio Golf Club, also in San Francisco. 

It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I took a leap of faith from the restaurant world of fine dining to find a new happy home in luxury retirement living. So, here I am: Culinary Services Director for Varenna and Fountaingrove Lodge, which are two Oakmont Senior Living communities in Santa Rosa. What changed? One reason: I came to realize that these facilities are of the same caliber as the fine establishments on my résumé. From the living accommodations to the lush grounds, and from the concierge services to the indoor and outdoor dining spaces, Oakmont Senior Living has created an opulent world where the culinary journey is just one aspect of the experience.

But like many people, I realize that words like “gourmet,” “delectable” and “tantalizing” are not traditionally associated with the meal options offered at senior living facilities. By and large, senior facilities have gravely underserved their guests when it comes to food quality. That’s why, from day one, I was excited to be a part of Oakmont Senior Living’s quest to change that. That was two years ago; since then, we have assembled a team of highly skilled restaurant chefs [...]

By |November 19th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off|

San Francisco Chronicle

Fountaingrove Lodge, an Oakmont Senior living retirement community, has been honored with the prestigious Multi-Housing News Excellence Award for Best New Development and Design in the 55+ category!

As the nation’s first luxury lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender and ally independent senior community with the option of continuing care services, Fountaingrove Lodge was recognized for outstanding achievements in environmentally-friendly features, quality craftsmanship, and design.

Covering approximately 9.25 acres, Fountaingrove Lodge is a world-class retirement campus that combines Craftsman-style architecture and classic luxury, embodying the rich, artisan culture of Sonoma County’s wine country. Fountaingrove Lodge’s exterior is designed to conserve the natural beauty of the surrounding oak woodlands. Inside, the community is thoughtfully adorned with custom-crafted walnut beams, multi-story glass windows, stone fireplaces, stone and hardwood flooring, and an eclectic mix of contemporary craftsman furnishings.

Oakmont Senior Living has taken pride in creating a resort-style, independent retirement living community with 64 apartment homes and six stand-alone bungalows at Fountaingrove Lodge.

The apartment homes range from 833 to 2,001 square feet; each residence features full kitchens with granite counters, stainless steel appliances, stone fireplaces, 10-foot-high ceilings, crown molding, large windows with low window-sills, walk in closets, and bathrooms spacious enough to accommodate wheelchairs and master shower walk/ roll in.

Residents enjoy a full-service retirement campus with gourmet indoor and outdoor dining prepared by world-class chefs; they have access to a full cocktail bar, elegant wine cellar, café, fully equipped fitness center and heated swimming pool/spa, hiking trails, pet park, flower/ vegetable gardens and a hen house, in addition to an onsite salon, library, craft/billiard rooms and 22-seat movie theater with plush leather chairs.

Winners of the Multi-Housing News Excellence Awards were announced at a special cocktail reception in New York City on Oct. 16, and will be [...]

By |November 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off|

Bay Area Reporter

It’s not just about marriage equality anymore. Progress for the LGBT community is usually measured by two criteria: public opinion polls about gay acceptance in the general population; and, the number of jurisdictions which recognize our right to be treated equally when it comes to marriage laws and benefits.

Traditionally “old and gay” meant “old and invisible.” Or worse. Many providers of services for people over 60 were cruel and even punishing to clients who were perceived as LGBT. Years ago, the New York Timesreported on the mistreatment, neglect, and denial of services from retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes (“Fearing Isolation in Old Age, Gay Generation Seeks Haven,” October 21, 1999).

In the past, gay partners were not allowed to share an apartment in senior residences. In many instances, according to the Times article, gay people were totally isolated in these facilities because they were shunned and shamed by other residents and patients. Staff members, too, might refuse to provide care and proper assistance to “those kind of people.” But there are now pockets of great change and our future is a lot brighter.

Marcy Adelman, Ph.D., a lesbian activist in San Francisco, started Openhouse in 1998 with the long-term goal of developing housing and social support services for LGBT seniors. Its long-awaited project is under construction at 55 Laguna Street and the first phase should be ready for residents at the end of 2015.

Last week, Openhouse and two other progressive retirement communities were cited by the Commonwealth Club as forerunners in creating safe, secure, caring, and accepting environments for gay people as they age.

This is a big deal that the respected Commonwealth Club is giving public attention to the needs and civil rights of LGBT seniors. [...]

By |August 26th, 2014|News & Articles|Comments Off|

Northbay Biz

As the first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)-friendly retirement community to provide continuing and progressive care, Fountaingrove Lodge provides a safe place for residents and staff to be themselves

Amazing. Gorgeous. Incredible. Residents and staff are using superlatives like these to describe life at Fountaingrove Lodge, a 10-acre retirement campus that opened in November 2013. The estimated $52 million project, in the works since 2005, includes Fountaingrove Lodge, which offers resort-style, independent retirement living in 64 apartment-homes and six standalone bungalows; and The Terraces, a 33-unit community offering specialized services for individuals with early to advanced stages of memory loss.

Fountaingrove Lodge features craftsman-style architecture, spacious living areas and a long list of upscale amenities—five-star dining, a wine cave, fitness center, movie theater and much more. “Fountaingrove Lodge offers the ultimate in luxury living, 365 days per year,” says Ira Lubell, a 77-year-old retired physician and public health professional, who moved in three weeks after it opened. “Everything is done with great taste. I feel completely relaxed here.”

The openly gay Lubell and his partner, Louis Bonsignore, feel comfortable in their new home for another important reason: As the first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)-friendly retirement community to provide continuing and progressive care, Fountaingrove Lodge provides a safe place for residents and staff to be themselves with no explanations, no euphemisms and no shame.

“No one needs to hide or pretend here,” says Heidi Charette, executive director. “You can be whomever (I think “whoever” is grammatically correct)you want to be and the community will embrace you.”

An idea whose time has come

The idea for an LGBT-friendly retirement community has been growing for decades, according to Lubell. “About 35 years ago, I was among a group that started talking about creating [...]

By |May 7th, 2014|News & Articles|Comments Off|

Forbes

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force estimates 3 million LGBT elders live in the United States. As Baby Boomers age, that number will grow. In some places, aging members of the LGBT community are driving a nascent movement. Forward thinking people are creating LGBT friendly retirement communities, building in acceptance and a supportive environment.

Can we do this otherwise, without special, prejudice- free facilities where aging LGBT folks are welcome?

Maybe not.

For LGBT older adults, a lifetime of employment discrimination and other factors contribute to disproportionately high poverty rates, according to the National Consumer Law Center. Discrimination in care facilities likely mirrors society-wide discrimination, adding to the difficulties any aging person must face in deciding where to live and how to receive care in a dignified way. For low income LGBT senors, many of whom do not have children, there may be little or no family to take on the task of caregiving.

The Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) is the only federal law that prohibits discrimination in most private and public housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability and familial status. There are no explicit protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression for LGBT individuals under the FHA.

See more at:

http://www.lgbtagingcenter.org/resources/resource.cfm?r=400#sthash.BSGniYU7.dpuf.

Theoretically, housing itself may be available to LGBT individuals but those who are growing older need more than just a place to live. They may need assistance and care.

World News reported recently that Spain is getting its first LGBT retirement center in Madrid. The article quotes Federico Armenteros, founder of an NGO for Spain’s LGBT community. He cites the reason for building the center is that “elderly LGBT don’t exist” in the eyes of most [...]

By |April 25th, 2014|News & Articles|Comments Off|

The Bohemian

When plans were first announced years ago to establish an upscale LGBT retirement community in Sonoma County, the idea was nothing short of revolutionary. The first of its kind in the nation, Fountaingrove Lodge was dreamed up as a place where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors and their allies could spend the post-work years of their lives in a beautiful location, with luxury apartments that offered an option for continuing care services. With a golf course, a gourmet restaurant, unbeatable views and 10 acres on which to roam in safety, security, comfort and beauty, the project was immediately controversial—not due to the idea of same-sex couples retiring in peace, but because the size of the facility caused concerns to locals eager to protect the environment.

Any way you look at it, that’s social progress. After addressing the environmental concerns, developers Bill and Cindy Gallaher, who’ve created a significant senior-citizen empire through building state-of-the-art housing complexes all over the country, forged ahead and brought the long-overdue dream to life. In November, the first residents moved into Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove Lodge, and the only shockwaves caused were from the realization that, until now, no facility of its kind had existed anywhere in the country.

As the first generation of LGBT Americans to have lived the majority of their lives out-of-the-closet, Fountaingrove’s inaugural group of residents know the truth: while things may be about to get better, the present is often not so great for gay and lesbian seniors, who experience far higher incidents of abuse and neglect than straight seniors. Reports show that many LGBT seniors are at increased risk of depression and suicide. There are also numerous reports that many gay and lesbian seniors, fearing discrimination, [...]

By |March 20th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off|

New York Times

PHILADELPHIA — DENISE SAMEN, who is 65 and a military veteran, has not had an easy life. She lost an arm in a train accident, supported herself by working a series of low-paying service and clerical jobs, needs a wheelchair to get around and came of age when homosexuality was considered a psychiatric disorder. And though she has never hidden who she is — she often dresses in men’s-styled clothing — she doesn’t play it up, either.

“I was guarded,” she said.

At the Brooklyn apartment complex where she used to live, she edited the community newsletter, and one June day, she decided to include a banner headline reminding residents it was gay pride month.

“There was this one woman who didn’t take that kindly,” Ms. Samen said.

The neighbor taped an anonymous and disparaging note on her door (Ms. Samen sleuthed out the perpetrator’s identity). And though Ms. Samen fired back with a July 4 editorial about respecting your fellow Americans, it left a bad taste.

So it was with great pleasure that she recently moved into the John C. Anderson Apartments here, a new, rent-subsidized 56-unit building for older adults where about 90 percent of the tenants are gay. “You don’t have to explain yourself,” she said. “You don’t worry about anyone putting you down.”

Among her new neighbors is Susan Silverman, 65, a retired social worker whose lesbian activism dates to the 1969 Stonewall riots, when street protests after a police raid on a bar in Greenwich Village helped kindle the gay rights movement; Elizabeth Coffey Williams, also 65, a transgender woman who appeared in a number of John Waters films; and Jerry Zeft, 70, a former Internal Revenue Service administrator who was in the closet for [...]

By |March 14th, 2014|News & Articles|Comments Off|

SF Gate

Matile Rothschild and Joan Zimmerman lived more than a decade in their San Francisco home, in a quiet neighborhood near Lake Merced where they had a community of friends who were like family.

But in recent years that started to change as their friends retired and moved away – settling in cheaper areas outside the city or moving closer to family. The women began considering their own options, even checking out a retirement home in Portland, Ore., near Rothschild’s son.

“It was gorgeous up there, and I seriously considered it,” said Rothschild, 80, even as her partner shook her head with a grimace. “But I knew I’d stand out there.”

That Portland home, Zimmerman said, was “a straight place.” The assisted living home they finally moved into late last year – called Fountaingrove Lodge, tucked among the oak trees in Santa Rosa – is touted as the first continuing care center in the country geared specifically to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors.

“You’d have to hide who you are at a straight place,” said Zimmerman, 77. “Everyone here (at Fountaingrove) is in the same boat. It’s like immediate family.”

Rothschild and Zimmerman are among the first generation of men and women who are entering old age after spending most, if not all, of their adult lives without hiding their sexual orientation.

Risks for gay, lesbian seniors
Gay seniors, studies show, often are at greater risk than their straight peers for depression and isolation, and the associated health problems, as they get older. Last year, a survey of gay seniors living in San Francisco – the first poll of its kind – found that 58 percent of LGBT men and women age 60 or older live alone, compared with just [...]

By |January 9th, 2014|News & Articles|Comments Off|

Sonoma County Gazette

Ho Hum another retirement development in Sonoma County – what’s news about that!? Well – it IS news because it’s the very first LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) planned community in the WORLD!

Fitting for Sonoma County because we have considered ourselves a safe-haven for the LGBT community for decades – maybe longer.

California is known to be the first in many innovative topics – technology and environmental issues being the most well-known…but we also take pride in our social consciousness.

Part of that spills over into a higher tolerance of gender complexities. Here, we know there are not just males and females who mate with the opposite sex. Entire communities have become safe havens for people who don’t fit into the “union of a man and a woman” mind-set. But neighborhoods in cities, or towns where “tolerance” is tolerated, are not intentional communities, more ones that evolved over time.

When I walked into the grand opening evening at Fountaingrove Lodge, I was immediately introduced to Gary Gielow and Tom Shamp who are the first residents of this first community. They have been life partners for 47 years, a fact that few of my heterosexuals friends can claim, including me. I will die before I see that anniversary with Alan! And yet these two men have never been allowed to marry until now and they are considering being the first couple to marry at Fountaingrove. Why not? Now that our entire country has seen fit to allow gay marriage, there’s hope for everyone who loves someone!

So with the opening of this LGBT retirement community, there is recognition on a level that is unprecedented. THAT’s the news.

The fact that this is a luxury community – like I asked Gary [...]

By |December 4th, 2013|News & Articles|Comments Off|

Bay Area Reporter

Excited about their imminent move to what is probably the country’s swankiest LGBT senior living community, Gary Gielow and Tom Sharp were sipping wine last Wednesday in a first-floor anteroom of Fountaingrove Lodge in Sonoma County.

“We’ve been thinking about something like this for years,” said Sharp, who is 70 and a retired computer programmer and graphic artist. “But they [senior communities] were all straight. And, when it [Fountaingrove Lodge] was this quality it was even more appealing.”

“Life is going to be like a resort. It’s not my dad’s old people’s home,” chimed in Gielow, who is 78, a retired winemaker, and in 1957 founded K101 Radio in San Francisco.

Built on the flank of the oak-studded hills overlooking downtown Santa Rosa, Fountaingrove Lodge features 64 one and two bedroom apartments in a three-story main building and six one or two-bedroom bungalows.

Amenities include everything from an art studio, a fitness center, wine cave, and private bank branch to a main dining room with a glamorous deck, a heated pool, both community and kitchen gardens, and walking trails.

At the grand opening held November 20, Cindy Gallagher, who developed Fountaingrove Lodge with her husband, Bill Gallagher, took a quiet moment to confess that she would be happy when the evening was over. The couple owns and operates several senior communities in California, Washington state, and Nevada under the company name Oakmont Senior Living.

Some 500 people had responded to the open house invitations and the building was abuzz with well-dressed couples and singles, media reps, local dignitaries, and helpful staff members. Parking was valet only and there were several wine bars and hors d’oeuvres stations set up to receive the guests.

“We’re really excited to finally have it happen,” Cindy [...]

By |December 4th, 2013|News & Articles|Comments Off|