Enhancing quality of life for the elderly

COSTA MESA — The annual SAGE awards, which recognize people, projects and programs that have enhanced the quality of life for the elderly, will be held Thursday at the Turnip Rose, Grand Newport Plaza.

The awards presented by the 50+ Housing Council, a special-interest council of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California, considered nominees in four awards categories: Person of the Year, Program of the Year, Project of the Year, and an "On the Boards" category.

"One of things unusual about SAGE awards is people really do come to learn," said Annie Gerard, this year's Person of the Year honoree and principal of Costa Mesa-based Apt Market Research.

Gerard is a former member of the council's Board of Directors and has specialized in market research on senior housing since 1985, conducting more than 400 market studies for leading developers, lenders and municipal agencies in California and the Southwest, according to a news release.

"Having been on the board for [20] years, this is an opportunity to really look back and celebrate where we've come, what we've learned and what has happened to the senior housing community," Gerard said.

The SAGE Awards help promote awareness and education of the shifting needs of the elderly, which is especially important now as the Baby Boomer generation influences the senior housing demographic, Gerard said.

The Project of the Year honoree is the Santa Ana-based Council on Aging Orange County, a nonprofit that aims to promote adult empowerment, prevent abuse and advocate for the rights and dignity of those experiencing health and aging challenges.

"We're very honored to be recognized and it was through the efforts of one of the board members, Scott Hysler, that we were nominated for this award," Chief Executive Officer Cheryl Meronk said. "He really felt that the programs and services really embody our mission of enhancing the quality of life for seniors."

The steady rise in Orange County's older population has been a challenge to keep up with — and not just with the Baby Boomers themselves, but with a growing body of families that faces choices on how to care for their elderly loved ones, she said.

"The awards help us build credibility and spread awareness of our services," Meronk said. "We still get people at every single presentation that say 'I wish I had known about you six months ago when I was taking care of my mother'… I want people to know who we are so that they can find us when they need us, not when it's too late."

The four winners for the SAGE Award for Project of the Year, which recognizes innovative residential developments targeted to the "50+" market that can serve as a model for other housing developments, the Plaza at Sierra, San Sebastian, Valencia Terrace and Vintage Burbank, according to a news release.

The "On the Boards" SAGE award showcases "50+" residential communities still in the design stage. SAGE judges selected Long Beach Senior Artists Colony by Meta Housing Corporation.

In conjunction with the council's 20th year anniversary, Del Webb will be presented with a special "Legacy" award honoring their outstanding record of achievement as a leader in "active adult" housing.

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