Advice for parents moving from NYC to South Orange

After many years of convincing, my parents (ages 81 and 82) have agreed to move to South Orange to be closer to us.  They will likely move to Gateway apartments or Avenue at South Orange. 

Dad is in pretty good shape - active, in good spirits, able bodied.

Mom is not in great shape - effectively needs 24/7 help for activities of daily living.


1) Are there senior groups or a support places in this area?

2) Are there nursing services in this area?

3) How do you manage transportation - esp. in a wheelchair for mom?  Are there transportation services in this area?

Thanks in advance

Did your dad serve in the military? If yes, look into VA services for your mom. Also, contact Bethany Joseph - she's wonderful and is helping me with my elderly mom.

South Orange Senior services is at the library on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Please call 973-762-0230 and ask for Marion. I’m sure she’ll be able to help

SOMA Two Towns For All Ages is an umbrella organization serving seniors in Maplewood and South Orange.  Call Cathy Rowe at 973-762-8120 for more information about senior programs and services.  

SO has a club for seniors called South Orange Seniors.  Senior activities are provided at the Baird and at the SO Library.  Maplewood has a senior club which meets at the Maplewood Senior Center, with some programs next door at the DeHart Community Center.  Residents of each town can participate in the other town's senior events.  There are also some shared activities/events with Winchester Gardens in Maplewood.

Senior Share is a club for seniors with members from both towns.  

Both Maplewood and South Orange have a Senior Advisory Committee which advises the town legislative body on ways in which to make it easier for seniors to remain in our towns.

Both Maplewood and South Orange have Senior Bus Service available.  SOMA Two Towns For All Ages is presently working with a consultant to find ways in which this service can be improved and optimized.  South Orange has an accessible bus but you may find that NJT's paratransit service is the best way to go if Mom is wheel chair bound.

SOMA Two Towns For All Ages plans to come out with a directory listing a wide variety of public, private, and not-for profit services (including nursing and home health care services) available to seniors in Maplewood and South Orange.  The directory will hopefully be available some time this year.  In the meanwhile, Bethany (who Joy referred to above) should be able to help you find the service which would work best for your Mom.

Please PM me if you have further questions.

Do not overlook Essex County Division of Senior Services, which may provide services of value to both your mom and your dad.

dickf3 said:

Do not overlook Essex County Division of Senior Services, which may provide services of value to both your mom and your dad.

Do you have a reliable contact at the Essex County Division of Senior Services who will actually pick up the phone?  One of the most frequent complaints I get from town officials and seniors is that this office is extremely difficult to reach when services are needed.

First, Have you looked into the "independent living" option at Winchester Gardens in Mapelwood ?  If your parents budget allows that might be a good option.  There are different levels of support at Winchester and they could use independent living and bring in extra help, or choose an option with more support. 

When my elderly and ailing mom lived with me  I soon realized I needed additional help.  I hired a helper to come in several hours a day.  I had someone come in while I was at work, prepare her lunch, get her dressed, drive her to dialysis, pick her up and get her settled in bed upon return home.    I placed an ad in Maplewood Online and found several lovely people.  You get some losers responding to the ad as well but if you take the time to interview them and check references you do can find someone good.  

Thanks everyone.  This is very helpful.

Joy - he is not a veteran.  So, that door is closed.

I will look into the Essex County services as well.  Will call Library.

Sarah - thanks for the tip on the Winchester apartments.  The reason we had picked Gateway or Avenue was that it was in South Orange.  But Maplewood is close enough and familiar enough that if they have additional senior services which outweigh the extra distance, then it would make sense to at least review.

Does anyone have experience with NJT Paratransit?  I looked up their website and it appears to helpful and similar to NYC's Access a Ride.  But does anyone have real world experience with them? 

Parents would primarily use it to go to a doctor's office.  And mom would be in the wheelchair.


Joan - thanks for the very helpful message!

Being in a place with peers is an invaluable part of aging. It is nice that you and your parents want to be close to each other but relocating from NYC to SO or Maplewood is a dislocation for anyone, and certainly for older people who've lived their native lives elsewhere. It would be one thing to try to age in place in the towns, another to come to an apartment complex and be "the old people" on a floor or in a quadrant, tied largely to a daughter's family. (I spent most of my adult life in Maplewood and raised my family there but have since left and am about a decade younger than your parents, and think it would be very difficult to come in as an elder with no existing social network and a lack of the very real public transit options available in NYC.) If Winchester Garden is an option, I'd say that it might be a wiser choice and nicer (dare I say fun?) overall for your parents. 

Moving into multifamily housing in Maplewood or South Orange should not be an issue for seniors looking to move to our community for the first time. We have been seeing an increasing number of seniors moving into multifamily housing in Maplewood and South Orange, especially seniors who have family in the immediate area.  There is a wide variety of activities for seniors (check out the events calendar from SOMA Two Towns For All Ages for those on offer for January 2018, available on-line or in hard copy).  SOMA Two Towns For All Ages is  collecting one-off and on-going volunteer opportunities for seniors in our community. Aim being to keep seniors in our community from being socially isolated.  

Thinking back to when my parents were in a similar situation, mother pretty much house-bound, father still active, I think they would have preferred living in an apartment in town rather than in a senior facility on the outskirts. My father wasn't much of a socializer, but he really enjoyed his daily routine -- buying the paper, going out for lunch, dropping off the mail at the post office, cashing a check at the grocery store. If they move to Winchester Gardens or a similar facility not near a town, he'll be dependent on their buses (does he drive?) and might miss the independence and freedom. (Or he might love it! It's a great place.)

if you need a home health aide, the model has a lot of advantages -- you get to pick the aides, and the aides are paid much better than through regular agencies. I haven't used them personally but have written about them. Getting them thru MOL can be tricky unless you have backup for when they get sick or don't show up or turn squirrely.



Have had some experience with NJT paratransit.  When it works it is fair.  When it doesn't work it sucks.  Have had experience where the patient was dropped off, but pick up was way late an led to big problems.  Use at your own peril.

Using public transportation is the best way of guaranteeing that it will be there when you absolutely need it.  We stand to lose a major bus route through Maplewood and South Orange (if we haven't already) because not enough people use it to make it economically viable to continue the service.  This is not a redundant service.  There is nothing to replace it that serves the route it follows.  County transportation for seniors and the disabled is difficult to arrange for in Maplewood and South Orange because there is only one person (both towns combined) who uses this service with any regularity.  Not enough mobility challenged seniors in Maplewood use the inaccessible senior bus to make a case for getting an accessible senior bus, possibly because the mobility challenged seniors are unable to use the current bus due to it's not being accessible.

If more of us with medical conditions supporting our use of NJT para-transit apply for and use it, even occasionally, we will be in a better position to advocate for improvement to the system.  There are structural issues with the NJT para-transit system that also need to be addressed.  This service only operates within a specified distance from an NJT bus route.  This limits where one can board the bus and where their destination can be located.  Another reason why loss of the major bus route (31 which goes along Valley Street in Maplewood and South Orange and along South Orange Avenue) is such a major problem, even for those who do not use the bus with any regularity.

Great advice!  Keep it coming!

Regarding apartments vs senior housing communities -

The reason why I wanted them right in town is that I can then frequently and easily stop off after I come back from the NY train.  The kids can stop by after school and use their apartment as a rest stop between activities and my wife can visit easily as part of her in-town run. 

Coming from the Upper West Side in Manhattan, they will not adjust easily to a life where everything depends on a car.  Which is why I picked Gateway or Avenue Apartments.  They can walk right out the door and go to Ashleys, Dunkin Donuts, Bunny's, Hot Bagels Aboard, the bank etc. etc.

In fact, I rejected Gaslight Commons and also 3rd and Valley for this reason - a little too far.

I looked at Winchester - but I don't think their budget would allow that option.  And also for the reasons mentioned above.

In selecting an apartment, check to make sure that it is handicapped accessible.  Are there any stairs that have to be negotiated, either on entering the building or in going from the building entrance to the apartment?  If the apartment is above the ground floor, is there a reliable elevator?  Make sure the doorways within the apartment are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.  Can the cabinets and surfaces in the kitchen be lowered so that someone in a wheel chair can reach them safely?  Can the bathroom be modified, if needed, to accommodate a walk in tub or shower; and grab bars?  Is the flooring suitable for a person in a wheel chair?  Are there door jambs between rooms that could impede wheel chair use?  One of the reasons some of the posters above are suggesting a facility like Winchester Gardens is that their units are designed with the mobility impaired in mind.

joan_crystal said:
Do you have a reliable contact at the Essex County Division of Senior Services who will actually pick up the phone?  One of the most frequent complaints I get from town officials and seniors is that this office is extremely difficult to reach when services are needed.

I haven't been in contact with the Division in over 10 years. Back then,  phone pick up was a problem, too.  A call to the County Exec's office resulted in a prompt call back from the Division, and reliable phone numbers were subsequently provided (personal cell #s).  I no longer have that info.

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