Villa Riviera


Mavis Hansen arrives every Friday to lead the Villa Riviera Band. Strumming her ukulele with deliberate rhythm, she encourages a group of seniors to play along. John Flowers plays the bongos. Castanets and a tambourine join in.


Some of the band members, Rollo McMahon for example, just sit back and enjoy the music. Rollo is 101 years old and has been living in Santa Barbara since 1925. He started his first job in the city; cleaning up the local Buick sales lot a day after the big earthquake struck. And when did he retire? Rollo is quick to reply, "I haven't retired! If you get down to brass tacks, I'll work with a 45-year-old and make him tired."


Villa Riviera resident Rollo McMahon



With the average age of the gathering just under 100 years, keeping a tune or staying in time is not as important as participating. Teresa Gritt, the manager at Villa Riviera, maintains a lively and varied schedule that not only encourages this, but also speaks of a deep commitment to dignified aging, well-being and quality care in later life.


Where does Teresa's motivation come from?


"They can teach us so much because they have been around so much longer than us. Seeing how patient they are, and how they have lived and how they have loved, helps me learn about patience and love. And now I'm part of that for them, and I can make a difference in their lives," she says.


Villa Riviera provides a comfortable home with capacity for assisted living. Assisted living emerged in the 1990s as an option for people, normally seniors, for whom independent living is no longer appropriate, but who do not need the 24-hour medical care provided by a nursing home.


"Residents are assisted with medications and daily living tasks, and we offer social and cultural activities and multi-generational programs with kids, using dance and art," says Teresa.


"I have the best room in the place," smiles Ruth Spvak, who is 94. "The view over Santa Barbara is just beautiful." Ruth's daughter Joan, now 62, was born with cerebral palsy. Joan visits her mom every day at Villa Riviera.


Ruth is proud that she has 25 friends on an email list, and that she can pay some of her bills online She wasn't sure that she was ready to move into Villa Riviera when the time came, "But after a few months here I knew it was right for me," she says.


When asked to choose an unforgettable day in her life, she does not hesitate-it's August 6, 1944. "They dropped the atom bomb on my husband's birthday and it meant he didn't have to prepare for the invasion of Japan. He came home."



Mary Toth, now 95, and her younger sister Ernestine arrived from Italy, landing at Ellis Island in 1930 after their mother had taken ill and died. Their father had been in the US since 1920 and was working as a stonemason in Santa Barbara. "We didn't know him when we arrived, but he was very good to us. He taught us discipline and also how to cook," says Mary with pride. Ernestine visits Mary every day as well.


The work that Villa Riviera staff does provides a home-a safe place for residents to live with dignity, laughter and love. With so many wonderful anecdotes to choose from, Teresa's favorite recollection is telling. "We once had a resident with dementia, but in her final moments she became suddenly lucid. She told her family how much she loved them and that she'd had a good life, and then she was able to pass."


As the little Villa Riviera Band wraps up its final song-one everybody seems to know, but can't sing too well-the words ring true. Made popular by Frank Sinatra, the lyrics rise up in the living room:


Days may not be fair, always
That's when I'll be there, always
Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But always.


A typical assisted living facility resident is a senior citizen who does not need the intensive care of a nursing home but prefers more companionship, and needs some assistance in day-to-day living. Age groups will vary with every facility. Some residents may have memory disorders including Alzheimer's, or they may need help with mobility, incontinence or other challenges. Residents are assessed upon move-in, or any time there is a change in condition.



It is customary for assisted-living facilities to have a central kitchen and dining room where three meals are provided each day. The dining room also allows for a comfortable gathering place for visits with family and friends. This greatly reduces the isolation that elderly people may suffer if they live alone and become afraid (usually for physical reasons) to leave their homes.


For more information or to discuss possible openings at the Villa Riviera, contact:


Teresa Gritt, RN, BSN, Administrator RCFE
Villa Riviera License #425801016
1621 Grand Avenue, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
phone 805-568-5840  |  fax 805-568-5844


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