Lisa Hendrickson, president and CEO of the nonprofit Avenidas, floated the idea by the Palo Alto City Council Jan. 14, saying her organization is running out of room and will face an onslaught of aging baby boomers in the next few years.
The wellness center is "a big, audacious idea" that would also offer services to the larger community as well as seniors, Hendrickson said.
The consortium includes Avenidas, the Cardiac Therapy Foundation, Betty Wright Swim Center and Pacific Stroke Association, which would provide services at the center. The group is looking for a fifth partner to provide land within Palo Alto, she said.
"Our over-65 population is growing twice as fast as the total population growth. It's a large population — 17 percent of the total population in 2010 — which makes Palo Alto one of the oldest cities in Santa Clara County," she said.
People older than 65 make up 11 percent of Santa Clara County's population, she said.
Palo Alto's population ages 55 and older is now about one out of three.
"So we've got our work cut out for us," she said.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about capacity and resources, and what are we going to do to continue to be as relevant to everybody that knocks on our door in the coming years as we have been in the first 40 years.
Boomers, she said, will have different needs and expectations and will live longer than previous seniors.
"We're going to have to figure out how to be there for them — or for us, I should say," she said, noting the number of gray heads sitting in the council chairs.
Avenidas is currently housed in the city's old fire and police building.
"We are bursting at the seams at Bryant Street," she said. "It's a charming building, and a lot of folks that come into Avenidas have history with the building. They remember getting parking tickets and going in front of the judge and spending time in the holding cells — and every once in a while they'll tell you that.
"But that is a history that boomers don't have with our building," she said, adding that other local organizations serving seniors have "wonderful, brand-new facilities."
Two of those facilities, the 25,000-square-foot Mountain View Senior Center and the 45,000-square-foot Santa Clara Senior Center, opened in 2007. Avenidas' newest facility is the six-year-old Avenidas Rose Kleiner Center in Mountain View, which offers health care and senior day care.
Avenidas currently leases 450 Bryant from the city for $1 a year, but its lease runs out in 2026. The organization would like to keep 450 Bryant and expand and upgrade the facility, but it also wants to build the wellness center in south Palo Alto, Hendrickson said.
Avenidas serves 6,000 people annually. The organization offers social services, care-management coordination, case management, transportation, caregiver support and many classes and connections with other agencies serving seniors.
Thirty-two percent of Avenidas' $4.1 million budget comes from fees, 28 percent from the endowment, 18 percent from community support and 12 percent from other sources. The City of Palo Alto provides 10 percent of the budget, which Hendrickson called "significant."
That figure is down from the 30 percent the city provided in 1978 when Avenidas first started. Hendrickson did not make an overt appeal to the council for assistance other than to ask that they spread the word that Avenidas is looking for land.
On Tuesday, she told the Weekly that she spoke to a committee deliberating on the future of Cubberley Community Center "to plant the seed with them if there is a way for land there to be utilized."
She stressed that although the consortium has been considering the possible size of the facility and its potential cost, the numbers are speculative at this point.
"It's a very exciting idea, but it's far from being firm," she said.