In 1969, the Senior Coordinating Council (SCC) of Palo Alto (now called Avenidas) was formed to help older adults find critical programs and services. Working with the City of Palo Alto, the SCC persuaded officials to allow space in the main library for information, referral and counseling. Soon transportation and health services were added, along with directories of county-wide services and research into transportation and housing needs. In 1974, following an initial survey a decade before, the SCC sponsored a comprehensive study of seniors in the area. From this grew a city-sponsored task force, “When We Grow Older in Palo Alto.”
Observers peg the 1974 study and the task force recommendations as the basis for the development of senior services in the area. Among the 1974 recommendations was a home maintenance program at below-market rates to help seniors remain in their homes. Known as the Avenidas Senior Home Repair Program, it started in 1976 and continues to operate today as the Avenidas Handyman Program.
In 1977, the notion of seniors volunteering their time in the community was a novel idea, but Avenidas proved to be a catalyst for popularizing and facilitating volunteering by establishing the local Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). RSVP enabled seniors to contribute their time and talents to public and non-profit institutions throughout Northern Santa Clara County and at one time had more than 500 active volunteers who contributed more than 80,000 hours of service annually to approximately 110 institutions.
Another recommendation was a Senior Day Care program, later expanded to Senior Day Health, to allow semi-dependent seniors to stay in their homes. Avenidas Senior Day Health Center, now known as The Avenidas Rose Kleiner Center, began operating in 1978 on East Meadow Drive in the Palo Alto Baptist Church, was the first state-licensed adult day health center in Santa Clara County.
But the most ambitious recommendation was a central senior center to house mushrooming services and programs. In 1978, following a $1.2 million fundraising effort to renovate the building, that center opened in the city’s former Police and Fire Station on Bryant Street. That year also marked the beginning of the public-private partnership between Avenidas and the City of Palo Alto, which has outsourced senior services to Avenidas under contract ever since.