The $42-million Vineyards of the California Armenian Home features a theater, four restaurants and a wine sampling room. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz

published on January 16, 2018 - 10:07 AM
Written by Donald A. Promnitz

At first glance, the Vineyards of the California Armenian Home looks more like a resort than a retirement community. With its theater, four restaurants and wine sampling room, one could easily mistake the residence for a hotel.

The Vineyards, however, is the culmination of more than six decades of planning from the California Armenian Home’s board of directors.

“65 years ago, our founding fathers of the California Armenian Home decided this was something that was needed for the Armenian community, and the community as a whole,” said Ren Ramshaw, director of sales and marketing. “So they purchased the 43 acres for $10 million.”

The $42 million luxury community has proven to be the largest current project in Fresno County to be privately funded. Alongside its 60 independent living apartments and 50 assisted living units, the Vineyards has 36 more rooms available in its Memory Care area and 12 independent living villas. It’s located on Kings Canyon Road just east of Armstrong Avenue.

George Juarez, the executive director, said he remembers board meetings about what would later be the Vineyards when he started working at the California Armenian Home 43 years ago.

“The founding fathers of this community — the board — their dream was to see what was happening today. But it took 43 years to see that happen,” Juarez said. “This is what the founding fathers would have wanted to see — to see this community built.”

The Vineyards is coming at a time when retirement levels are expected to rise sharply over the course of the next decade. In California, the number of senior citizens (over age 65) is expected to increase to 4 million people, an 87-percent rise from 2012, according to the California Department of Aging In Fresno County, the number is expected to go up by 100,000 people.

The aging of the baby boomers has led to an increase in housing for the elderly, with more retirement communities being set up to meet the demand.

“I think everyone’s looking into that,” said Michael Sigala, board president and founder of Magnolia Crossing. “Our model is in between the boarding care and the traditional community, so I don’t know to the extent that our model is a trend, but I know meeting the needs of the growing demographic is a trend, and a lot of people are thinking about opening senior living communities.”

Magnolia Crossing is one such Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE) to be opening. Sigala stated that the $10 million, 48-bed community in Clovis operates on a smaller, more intimate setting that focuses on communal living and quick service due to the smaller number of residents. This gives the residents and staff an ability to combat the isolation that can sometimes come with a move.

“And that isolation and loneliness [is] one of the main factors of deteriorating health in seniors as they get older,” Sigala said. “So our design is to combat that.”

Aiding in the rising tide of retirement-aged citizens in California are six-bed facilities, which offer a small, communal-style living environment for the elderly, which is similar to a single-family home. Such facilities currently make up approximately 80 percent of RCFE homes.

One supporter of six-bed facilities is Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), who introduced AB 1437, a bill aimed at easing certain regulations deemed unnecessary in opening new facilities and in the operations of existing ones. The first main point of AB 1437 would allow for the opening of new facilities by certified administrators without having to undergo initial training. Another part of the bill will allow for facility workers to go from one house to another (owned by the same operator) without filing the transfer paperwork if they have already passed the necessary criminal clearance check.

The bill has already cleared the Assembly floor, and is now being adjusted to expand its reach to all state-licensed facilities regarding background checks.

But the increase in housing comes at a time of potential financial difficulty. According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the median annual cost for assisted living facility residence was $40,860 in the Fresno area with a five-year annual growth rate of 3 percent. In the Madera area, there was a cost of $41,964 at growth rate of 5 percent. Assisted living was even higher in the Visalia and Hanford areas, with costs of $43,200 and $48,600 respectively. Visalia, however, had a lower annual growth rate of only one percent.

Despite the projected prices, Ramshaw said the monthly bill at the Vineyards includes the price of transportation, housekeeping, Wi-Fi and other amenities. This, she stated, helped make costs worthwhile.

“So when people pencil out what that net is every month they’re paying for in their own home, it can translate to something that is surprisingly and affordable, and the peace of mind is huge,” Ramshaw said. “They really can’t put a price tag on that.”

The Vineyards staff aims to move new residents into 15 apartments and villas per month.

For its part, Magnolia Crossing features some affordable senior care units due to its being financed, in part, by the New Market Tax Credit Program.

For more information on the cost of living for the elderly in the Central Valley, visit:

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