There’s Something Amazing About the People at Channing House

Marcia Pugsley riding in a desert adventure Jeep

Marcia, a Massachusetts native who spent 25 years as a clinical social worker (CSW) mostly in private practice but also working in psychiatric units and schools, found she had a problem when managed care companies took over. That was when she decided it was time to switch careers. By that time, Marcia was living on the West Coast, having been hired years before by Santa Clara County. However, while still working as a CSW, Marcia stumbled on a new passion.

“I started taking painting lessons at the local art center,” she says, “when I happened to walk through their courtyard and saw people outside painting and I thought, ‘oh, I want to do that.’ At the time I was still working as a social worker. I figured I could never afford to retire, so I thought if I want to do this, I’d better start taking lessons now.”

Pugsley holding a sign that reads Truth, Respect, Social Justice for All.

Early on, Marcia found herself doing a lot of watercolor landscapes. But it was on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, with her art teacher and other students that Marcia discovered her favorite style — urban sketching. “We started walking around the city,” she remembers, “and found ourselves sitting on the sidewalk painting the cathedral. I was using pen and ink and then some watercolor with it. I found that I liked doing things from a sidewalk café. Where we were staying was quite colorful, it being Mexico, and it really works well when you travel for two reasons — one is that you really see things. The other is, it’s a nice way to just stop and be in a place and get with the rhythms of the locale. So, I’ve been doing the urban sketching part for quite a while now.” 

So just how did Marcia, who thought she’d never be able to retire, end up at Channing House? “Both me and my husband, Kent, who’s 10 years older than I am, had parents who moved into communities like Channing House,” Marcia explains. “The one my parents moved into in Middleton, MA, was just a couple miles from their home, just like Channing House is less than a mile from our home. They did it to make sure they were taken care of, and so they wouldn’t be a burden to my sister and me.”  

Pugsley playing a card game with a child

“Like our parents,” Marcia explains, “we wanted to make sure we were taken care of. I don’t have children. Kent has two sons and a daughter. Moving here was a way to ensure I would be within a community for my aging years. We looked at a few places, but this was the one we liked the best.”

“You’ve probably heard it a million times but the location. You need that, especially if you don’t want to drive all over creation, which is what you do in California. From here, you can walk or bicycle every place. You can go over to Stanford, or easily get to movies and restaurants.” When Marcia talks about location, she’s not kidding. “I can look out the window and see the Stanford campus. I always kid my husband, who goes to the Stanford football games — I say, ‘I can see you from our apartment, you know?’ It takes 20, maybe 25 minutes to walk over, so we’re very close. There’s a clinic where we go, just down the street. It’s much easier to walk and not have to worry about parking. There’s also a Peets coffee and Whole Foods nearby.”

Listening to Marcia describe life at Channing House is better than any advertisement for the community could be. “Well, I’m a voting board member,” Marcia explains, “so I get to have input on activities and other decisions the board makes. I also share the responsibility of making sure the organization stays financially sound, which is probably the major fiduciary responsibility of any board. We also set the strategic plan for Channing House. I was chair of the strategic plan committee. One of our major responsibilities is helping to recruit and retain employees, which is a big deal.”

Pugsley posing in front of a wall with colorful wings painted on it.

According to Marcia, unlike other Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) around the country, California law mandates that at least one resident serves as a trustee. At Channing House, the residents serving on the board are the ones determining the direction of the community. “We have a resident association,” Marcia says, “and the executive team of the association interviews people who want to be on the board and decides who’ll move on to the next step which is talking to the governance committee. We have a pretty good mix of people, and a good balance of men and women.”

An 11-story high-rise in the middle of a city like Palo Alto may not be the ideal place for seniors looking to retire to a quiet setting with a large campus. But for those seeking an active lifestyle within walking distance from pretty much everything the city offers, Marcia believes you can’t do better than Channing House. “When we moved in,” she says, “it became really apparent that I’m an extrovert. I could be tired and not feel like going to dinner. Then I’d go down anyway, and it perked me right up because people do that for me. You’re with different people all the time and the conversations and people are fascinating. That’s one of the things for people when they stay at home and age in place — it’s a lot of work to keep your social life up.We have a social life here we’d never have had if we’d stayed in our house. It keeps your mind active and alive. What could be better than that.”

If you’d like to see for yourself what makes Channing House the amazing community it is, call 650-529-4871 to schedule your personal tour.

Return to the blog.