By Sean Murphy, Daily Nexus, October 15, 1976
With its tall white walls inconspicuous among the multitude of residences lining El Colegio Road, one might think it to be merely another student apartment complex. In fact, many students pass by it daily, unaware of its existence. Closer inspection, however, reveals many features distinguishing it from its neighbors.
A huge wrought iron gate serves as its entrance. Through the bars of the gate may be seen a concrete walkway lined with trees, and a bench in a shady spot where several elderly people relax. Other senior citizens stroll back and forth, enjoying the sunshine. Incongruous among the youthful populace of Isla Vista, the residents of Friendship Manor often arouse the curiosity of those who see them on buses or in shops.
Friendship Manor, located on El Colegio Road near Los Carneros Road, offers low-cost food and housing for the elderly, in a system very similar to that of the off-campus college dormitories. In fact, until several years ago when it was taken over by Christian Services for use as a retirement home, it did function as an off-campus dormitory, under the name of “College Inn.”
For a short period of time, while the transition was made from student residence to retirement home, Friendship Manor actually housed both retirees and University students, but according to Bill Anderson, one of the first of the elderly tenants, “There was no problem… we all got along just fine.”
Friendship Manor is not, however, an old folks’ convalescent home. According to Bob Scott, the resident manager, all residents must be ambulatory, mentally alert, able to care for themselves independently. Tenants live in small, but adequate, studio-type apartments with private bathrooms. Meals are served cafeteria-style in the large communal dining room. No medical care is provided for residents.
Are there many conflicts between the aged and the Isla Vista student community? “Heavens, no,” says Edythe Marquis, a Friendship Manor resident and former social worker for the elderly. “I’ve met so many nice students who’ve helped me up stairs and into the bus… you read so many terrible things about young people in the paper, but the good ones really out number the bad.”
There have, however, been several recent cases of muggins of Friendship Manor residents, and according to Dick Gregory, who has been living at Friendship Manor for the past year, “We’ve been ripped off two or three times. Some residents will not even walk through Isla Vista anymore.” He suggests that students should “look out for the elderly… if a student sees someone with a cane, he should keep an eye out for them.”
Friendship Manor offers a variety of services and activities to residents. Classes are taught by college instructors in watercolor, Spanish, and current events. For recreation, there is everything from a swimming pool to badminton court.
Jan Acord is Friendship Manor’s social director. Her job is encouraging residents to “get out into the community and keep active.” She also organizes such activities as bingo and card games, and athletic tournaments such as last weekend’s Bocce competition. Bocce is a game similar to lawn bowling which, Acord said, “many of the residents have recently gotten turned on to.”
“There’s always something you can do here,” says Belva Chamberlain, “There’s no need to be lonely. It really lives up to its name.”
Complaints seem to be of a relatively minor nature. Ida Jung dislikes “being too far from my nieces and nephews and brothers and sisters,” while Florence Dozier doesn’t enjoy being on the sunny side of the building, because “it gets really hot.”
In many respects Friendship Manor is a community unto itself. A general store, beauty and barbershops, and laundromat provide services to those who find it difficult to travel elsewhere. For the more adventurous, a van provides transportation to movies and shows at UCS, as well as for periodic shopping trips to Santa Barbara and other nearby areas.
Bob Scott is a former priest who started at Friendship Manor as a security guard, and went on to become their resident manager. He feels that his experience in the priesthood has served him well in his present occupation, as both professions require “a lot of listening to people’s problems.” Scott believes strongly in the Friendship Manor system of living for the elderly. As he puts it, “I don’t say it’s the ideal system, but it’s certainly the best that exists.”