Mill Valley Living Magazine, Jan. 2022 — You are likely aware of The Redwoods, or at least the Seniors for Peace rallies on the corner of Miller Avenue and Camino Alto, but there is probably a good bit about this “Community Gem” that most of us who live in Mill Valley don’t know.  For example, did you know that it is a locally managed, one-off, non-profit that started their 50th year of operations last December 3rd?  Did you know their campus is about 10 acres in size and serves over 300 residents?  Did you know they are one of Mill Valley’s largest employers and the largest provider of affordable housing?  To those of you who are really “in the know” and said yes to all the above, keep reading and we bet you will find a few facts new to even you.  For the rest of us, here’s a surprising primer on a wonderful asset in our own backyard!

In the mid 1960’s a dedicated group of members of the Community Church of Mill Valley saw there were a lot of people in town who no longer wanted to keep up their homes, but didn’t want to leave our idyllic area.   They decided we needed a retirement community.  They developed a preliminary plan, pooled some resources and, thanks to one member taking out a second mortgage, were able to buy about 10 acres across from Tam High.  That got the ball rolling and soon more funds were raised, initial buildings were built, and on December 3, 1972, The Redwoods, A Community of Seniors became a reality by admitting its first residents.

Based on the ideals of the founders, The Redwoods, was set up as a non-profit retirement designed to meet the needs of area citizens for high quality residential care for seniors at a cost all could afford. The mission was, and continues to this day, to be: to promote good health, well-being and security to a diverse group of seniors.   Of course this is Mill Valley, so that wasn’t all.  The founders also wanted to transform attitudes and practices so that aging was recognized as a dynamic phase of renewal, discovery, service and choice, so they wrote that into the mission as well! This philosophy was, and is, attractive to life-ling activist who don’t want to slow down (see more on some of them in the related articles).

This approach, combined with excellent programs, services and staff, has led The Redwoods to be named a “model facility” by LeadingAge, the nation’s top education, research and advocacy organization for nonprofit aging services. Over the years The Redwoods has grown and adapted to meet residents’ needs and current desires.  In part, that is why it has consistently won the Marin IJ Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Retirement Community, and Pacific Sun’s “Best of Marin” for Best Senior Living Facility.

So what exactly is The Redwoods?  Well it is a multi-level retirement community that provides rental housing, services and care to more than 300 seniors. They offer three living styles: senior apartments in the Headlands; Assisted Living Apartments in the Creekside; licensed skilled nursing services in the Meadows and Grove portions of their Health Care Center.  The Redwoods provides a full spectrum of programs to enhance residents’ health and well-being including fitness classes, spirituality discussion groups, organic gardening, chair yoga, political lectures, music groups, an artist’s studio and local sight-seeing and cultural excursions.  Residents’ ages range for the 70s to several well over 100 with 88 being the average.

All residents have direct access to an outdoor patio and many have their own personal gardens. In addition, residents maintain both an outdoor succulent garden and a much larger organic fruit, vegetable and flower garden.  Recent additions include a “Wellness Center,” called the Dynamic Center for Aging that is home to a gym equipped with modern, computer-programmed weight machines, a large and naturally lit classroom studio, a therapy pool and a hot tub.  Also, The Redwoods converted a portion of their Health Care Center into the North Bay’s only in-patient hospice center, the Grove.

The Redwoods long-standing commitment to affordability is alive and well. When compared with similar communities in the area, they are consistently offer a high value and they are the only one in Marin County that offers a continuum of care without a large, up-front commitment.  More than a third of the Headlands Apartments are occupied by residents using a federal subsidy and usually about a third of Health Care Center residents have their charges covered by Medi-Cal.  Plus, the Redwoods provides additional aid through their internal Support Housing Assistance at the Redwoods, or SHARE Program, which assists residents facing unexpected financial challenges.

Many retirement providers approach to serving seniors is to congratulate them for getting to 80 years of age or older, then say, “We’ll take it from here.”  The Redwoods turns that concept on its head.  They celebrate the rich, full lives people have led and then ask:  What would you like to do to enhance The Redwoods community? They pride themselves on being able to provide the resources to nurture the interests and passions, talents and abilities of the residents.  In fact they have a 26-page guide to programs that is regularly updated as new items are added.  Further residents, yes the residents, run more than half of the over 100 different programs and events that occur each week.

Also The Redwoods encourages, reaches out to, and embraces people of all ages and interests within the surrounding area.  This includes programs with children in the nearby pre-school, as well as those in the Middle School and at Mount Tam.  They are actively engaged with many of the area’s music, entertainment, religious, business and educational groups.  Some of the unique programs the residents engage in include: Seniors for Peace weekly meetings, discussions, lectures, films and Friday afternoon protests on the corner; fundraising events such as the annual Bazaar; and the Student Scholarship program in which Marin high school seniors are recognized and given awards.  Truly, The Redwoods and its culture are intertwined in both formal and informal ways within the very fabric of Mill Valley and beyond.

That was a lot of information.  We bet even the most informed of you learned something new.  If you want to know more, please give them a call, visit their website at www.theredwoods.org or yes, you can check them out on Instagram, Facebook and even their YouTube Channel which contains lots of fun videos! Also keep an eye out this year for your opportunity to celebrating The Redwoods – 50 years young.

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