Los Al Council approves Senior Master Plan

Courtesy Photo The Los Alamitos City Council has given its Recreation Director approval to begin working on a Senior Services Master Plan to service the senior community.

The Los Alamitos City Council gave a thumbs up to a proposal from the Recreation Director to begin thinking about ways to provide expanded services and recreation to its senior population from 50-100 years old.

City Manager Chet Simmons said he was especially proud to see the city moving into an area of specialization that currently, only Orange County itself seems to be developing.
“I am personally incredibly excited about this particular item,” said Simmons, “for a city of our size to take on this type of programming, or this kind of master plan is, I will have to say, is best in class simply because there is no class. The only entity that I’m aware of is doing this is the county,” he said.

Recreation Director Emeline Noda, who has been employed by the city for 16 years, told the Council that she has overseen the city’s senior programs that entire time.
“I’ve done a tremendous amount of work to figure out our population and their needs,” she said, “as they are different than in other cities I’ve been employed with.”
“You will not find one of our seniors at our center five days a week because they go to all kinds of different centers around the local area,” she said. “Our seniors are active,” she said.

But, said Noda, the challenge has been with a growing number of seniors, how does the city actively handle activities as the senior population expands in the future.

Currently, she said, “a total of 34 percent is over 50,” suggesting it will not be easy to properly program activities for the spectrum of ages from 50 – 100.
Noda asked for approximately $70,000 to prepare a “Senior Services Master Plan” that would create a working model for programming in the city to accommodate the next 20 years.

“It will model a pathway for seniors for the next 20 years,” said Noda, noting that “we are honored to take on this challenge.”

As an example, she said activities for 50-year-olds will include adult sports while activities for seniors 80 and 90 might also include sports but would accommodate the additional years. “And there are some that are just bingo players,” she said.

Noda said the city will engage with local universities and their gerontology departments as well as consultants to do outreach. She said the city did a senior needs assessment in 2022, but it was a smaller sample of 100 seniors already participating in the program.
She said there are many seniors in the community who don’t participate either because they don’t know about the programs or do not have transportation to participate.

“I have a passion, our team is dedicated to serving this population,” said Noda.
“We want to find what is going to work for our particular community,” she told the Council, “and reaching further, we want to serve our veterans and this plan will incorporate them.”
“We want to go into the community and find the answers,” said Noda, adding that funding would “help us do it right.”

Simmons said such a senior master plan would play well with the city’s active transportation plan and its town center plan.

“Having these plans in place allows us access to (state and federal) money that is out there because we’ve shown that we’ve already done the research to show that there are partners in the community that are willing to be a part of this,” he said.

“And the simple fact that we have two universities willing to partner with us is impressive,” said Simmons. “I do believe we are getting some benefit of being the small, little mighty city that COULD.”

“I feel like it would be an investment into the future,” said Mayor Tanya Doby. “We become forerunners for any funding that does become available because our program will be shovel ready,” the mayor said.

Noda told Council member Trisha Murphy that the plan would cover only 20 years because “that’s typically what general plans and master plans of this kind foresee because facilities do age so this plan would give us insight into what type of Infrastructure we would need to build.”

Council member Shelley Hasselbrink said she liked the general “socialization” envisioned by the plan.

“I’m a firm believer, my grandmother lived to be 97 and the reason is because Palm Springs has an amazing senior program. Every day, she had a reason to get up, get dressed and go out with her buddies, so I’m really excited about getting the community involved with volunteer activities,” said Hasselbrink.

“We take really good care of our youth which, in turn, takes really good care of our parents. It’s time we take care of our seniors because they are not going anywhere,” said Hasselbrink.

The Council unanimously approved the motion to fund the Master Plan.