And the winner is … our senior loved ones

Past Oscar acceptance speeches keep rattling around in my head.

Remember Will Ferrell, when the music awkwardly interrupted his fellow presenter Jack Black’s speech and he said to Black, “See? You’re boring!”

I can certainly relate to Sandra Bullock’s, “Did I really earn this, or did I just wear you all down?” moment.

But my favorite was Julia Roberts’ Erin Brokovich admonishment to the orchestra conductor readying her exit music, “So why don’t you sit,” she said, “Because I may never be here again.”

I wish I had taken Julia’s cue during my own high-emotion, high-adrenaline, too-brief-time-to-say-everything-I-wanted-to-say moment at the Rona Barrett Foundation’s recent Big Band Celebration Ball — a spectacularly successful fundraiser for the soon to be opened Golden Inn & Village.

Thanking you, our community, for your continued and unprecedented generosity, kindness, and volunteerism was foremost on my mind. This took some time because there were so many reasons to thank everyone.

Then, all of a sudden, I heard the magnificent Harry James Orchestra start my “exit” music. “This is just like the Oscars!” I heard myself protest.

Scooting off the stage I said to myself, “Why didn’t you say this…? You didn’t thank… You needed to tell them…”

Well, here’s what I needed to tell them, and so I will tell you as well: We still have more work to do — Phase II of the Golden Inn & Village — 60 affordable light assisted living and memory care units for those suffering with Alzheimer’s and those seniors and veterans needing light assisted living care at an affordable cost.

Our first challenge will be for the Rona Barrett Foundation to once again find the best partner so together we can raise the necessary capital to construct this “aging in place” building on the 2.2 acre parcel reserved for that very purpose on our 7.3 acres.

Our next challenge will be to figure out how we will be able to offer affordable Alzheimer’s and assisted living care to our low-income seniors including orphaned seniors and veterans.

Here’s the bottom line based on research completed by experts here on our Central Coast.  In California, the average base cost of providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s is nearly $5,000 per month. A private room in a nursing home costs more than $6,800 per month. The average assisted living community cost for a resident with dementia runs about $4,600 per month.  Additional costs vary widely depending on the facility, its location and the individual needs of the resident.

And of course, the total of this extraordinary price will be impossible for our low-income senior loved ones to pay.

Can we in our Santa Ynez Valley Shangri-La complete yet another Herculean task? Can we become a prototypical model for other communities with a high density of marginalized seniors by providing one of the first affordable senior residential “aging in place” facilities — the last place our seniors will call “home”?

Based on what we’ve accomplished together over the last sixteen years — I believe we can. We must.

Until next time…keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her The opinions expressed are her own.