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Dick Turpin

'Old Is In' for Pioneer Developer

September 28, 1986|Dick Turpin

One of the nation's innovative housing pioneers has introduced a timely new dimension for the housing needs of senior Americans.

His concept relates directly to the 28 million who are currently 65 years old, a group whose size is growing in unprecedented numbers.

The 65ers represent, for the first time ever, the largest segment of the nation's population.

As for food, clothing and shelter, they are the best-fed, best-dressed and best-housed generation of Americans. And in 10 years, their count will top the 33 million mark, Census Bureau forecasters predict.

We just have to concede that "old is in!"

Ross W. Cortese, who originated the nationwide chain of Rossmoor Leisure Worlds a quarter of a century ago, has known that for some time.

His newest phase for the housing of retirees started this week with ground-breaking ceremonies in Orange County's Laguna Hills. (See related story by Evelyn De Wolfe on this page.)

He got into the conventional housing business in 1941 and did most of the actual construction himself on the first four homes in a Culver City tract. After that, he followed with the building of 400 homes in Downey, 1,000 in Lakewood and 500 in Anaheim.

Starting in 1960, Cortese moved into the virtually untested arena of building for those of retirement age. His Rossmoor Corp. built more than 25,000 units in Leisure Worlds in Seal Beach, Walnut Creek, Laguna Hills, and outside California, in Arizona, Florida, New Jersey and Maryland.

That qualifies him for a place at the top of this speciality in the housing industry.

In addition, he developed other conventional housing projects elsewhere throughout the nation and delved also into commercial ventures, ranging from service stations to shopping centers, office buildings and restaurants.

He has been honored as "Builder of the Year" by the National Assn. of Home Builders and inducted into its Housing Hall of Fame, and was instrumental, through philanthropy, for the establishment of the Gerontology Center at USC, first known as the Ross W. Cortese Institute for the Study of Retirement and Aging.

Cortese, a reticent, yet canny individual, long ago adopted this philosophy, unchanged in all of his efforts:

"Among the many blessings of every American should be responsibility of honoring our family and friends approaching their later years.

"Along with love and respect, it is our duty to see that this large segment of our society has an opportunity and place in which to enjoy life with dignity."

It has proven useful, highly satisfactory and profitable.

Of course, his efforts have been designed for the upscale elderly, described by today's demographers as the "wealthiest, best-fed, best-housed, healthiest and most self-reliant in our history."

The Census Bureau also projects a population of 36 million senior citizens by the year 2005, and 64 million by 2030 as the present baby-boomers reach age 65.

More than half of the nation's elderly now live in eight states, California being one of those with more than a million 65 year olds.

The report adds that between now and 2000, our population will grow by 40% among the 65ers, while the corresponding increase among those under 65 will be only 16%.

Politically, led by the American Assn. of Retired Persons, this vast bloc carries a tremendous voting clout (68% of all 65ers vote, symbolizing the most active segment in elections.)

As conceded earlier, old is really in, and very visible. Television's four "Golden Girls," just won an Emmy. Don Ameche won an Oscar. Ray Floyd, at 43, became the oldest golfer to win the U. S. Open and who can forget Willie Shoemaker's ride into geriatric history.

Then there's the ageless Dr. Seuss whose newest best-selling book, "You're Only Old Once," sums up life pretty well.

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