West Hollywood is honoring Janet Witkin, an early local advocate of housing options for the aged, by declaring Dec. 7 Janet L. Witkin Day.
Witkin, whose birthday is Dec. 7, died in 2009 at the age of 62. In 1978 she founded Alternative Living for the Aging (ALA) after discovering a lack of options for seniors while caring for her aging father. Witkin experimented with cooperative living and roommate-matching to test her idea that seniors could maintain their independence through interdependence. Witkin’s tenacious spirit convinced early supporters, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and former Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel, to promote her vision of creating housing to provide seniors with enhanced access to affordable housing and care. To this day ALA’s roommate-matching service is the only one of its kind that serves seniors in the area.
On Nov. 7 ALA celebrated the grand opening of The Janet L. Witkin Center. ALA’s newest affordable senior housing development, it is located at 937 N. Fairfax Ave. south of Romaine, the site of ALA’s former offices in West Hollywood. The Center will help low-income and formerly homeless seniors age in place while coping with the challenges of increased frailty.
According to a 2013 Community Study in West Hollywood, seniors over age 80 are more than twice the percentage of the general population in West Hollywood when compared to Los Angeles County.