Not long after the sun rises on a bright Tuesday morning, residents start arriving at the main dining room at White Sands La Jolla, a be.group senior living community White Sands La Jolla, a be.group senior living community in La Jolla, California.
As people walk in, one resident waves to a couple headed to the beach for a pre-breakfast walk. Another greets a woman with a yoga mat and a man on his way to the fitness center to lift weights. One resident asks if anyone else is planning to catch a ride to the nearby outlet mall in the community’s van—free rides are provided to residents who prefer not to drive.
Just down the hall, Administrative Assistant Barbara Brown unlocks the door to her office, where she finds a note from a resident who needs assistance organizing the next Lola Lund dinner, which is only a few weeks away. Twice a year, the welcoming committee at White Sands organizes the steak-and-lobster dinner to introduce new residents to their neighbors and help them get to know more about their new home.
The welcome dinners are named for a former long-time resident, explains Brown. “[Lola Lund] had such a fondness for making new residents feel at home that her sons established the Lola Lund Fund in her memory. The fund is used to provide flowers for each new resident and the welcome dinner twice a year.”
Back in the dining room, Server Adriana Valdez warmly greets the breakfast crowd. After 15 years on the job, she already knows what they’re craving. She knows that some will immediately gravitate to the day’s special—pancakes on Monday, biscuits and gravy on Thursday—and others will start slowly, with coffee.
And of course, there’s the man who loves eggs. Poached eggs, to be specific. It might be one, it might be two, but his eggs must be poached. Valdez affectionately asks him if he’d like his “usual” and watches him smile.
“And he always says, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’” she says.
This special brand of comfortable familiarity between staff and residents is one of the hallmarks of life at White Sands. Residents know that staff members will take the time to get to know them and their preferences. They know that Valdez will remember who wants a side of salsa and who prefers ketchup—and that knowledge is comforting.
So are the spectacular ocean views. This alone distinguishes the community from many others. While the beautiful private beach, amenities and gorgeous living spaces make White Sands irresistible, it’s the people who really make the community stand out from the crowd.
A group of vibrant, active seniors call this community home—authors, business executives, clergy members, artists, teachers, doctors. Some are retired and others are still on the job. Their enthusiasm for this special community is palpable.
While more residents drift into the dining hall, ready for Valdez to take their breakfast orders or direct them to the omelet bar, Brown is already hard at work. She’s just finished creating an updated phone directory for all the residents, and has a dozen other projects to tackle. She might be notarizing documents or creating flyers for upcoming meetings. She’s in constant contact with residents, arranging meetings for them with her boss. Her title is technically administrative assistant to Executive Director Gary Boriero but, in a very real sense, she’s the residents’ administrative assistant, too.
She does more than solve problems. Brown’s door is always open for residents who need a sympathetic ear or a sounding board. “Something may be troubling them, and they want to talk about it,” she says. “I listen to them and give them suggestions when appropriate.”
Residents are grateful that people like Brown and Valdez pay such close attention to their needs and even their smallest wishes. One resident even told Valdez that she could never leave her job because he’d miss her too much.
The feeling is definitely mutual.
“I like everything at my job. I really like the residents. I like what I’m doing,” says Valdez. “Maybe that’s why I’ve been here for 15 years!”
Brown agrees that she finds daily inspiration in the people for whom she works. “Many of the residents here have had highly successful careers and ‘retirement’ hasn’t slowed them down,” Brown says. “I’m inspired by their energy and their involvement in so many activities. I’ve always believed you’re as young as you feel, and they prove it to me on a daily basis.”