For Wein, proximity to high-end boutiques has not led to sudden cravings for clothing or home furnishings priced beyond her means. “I’m definitely not the Rodeo Drive type,” she said.
“I struggle between ‘This shouldn’t be happening to me’ and being very grateful,” she said. “Even though this is not the Taj Mahal, and it’s as big as a button, you tell me how else I could afford to live in Beverly Hills.”
Elderly residents with low incomes point out that groceries, the dry cleaner and the pharmacy are nearby. Safety is not much of a worry. But there are also trade-offs: Some residents unable to afford Whole Foods take shuttles or drive to grocery stores elsewhere. Others qualify for deliveries by Meals on Wheels.
“People don’t want to move because it’s like a cocoon,” said Regina Sgroi, a longtime Beverly Hills resident who volunteers with the city’s senior lunch program. “Beverly Hills Police Department. Beverly Hills Fire Department.” She snapped her fingers. “They’re on it. Like that.”
In a bare auditorium at La Cienega Park, Sgroi served up disposable trays of glazed sweet potatoes and roast turkey to elderly diners who forked over anywhere from $2.25 to nothing at all. One woman with glitzy pink earrings raved about the city’s free senior shuttle, calling it “the best deal in town.”
Able reels off stories about her eclectic career as a professor, therapist and filmmaker. She counseled teens and families, produced a documentary about the guru Baba Muktananda and his followers, and says she once led “assertiveness trainings” for timorous New York University students afraid to confront their landlords.
Ill health landed her on disability at age 55. Able said that before she snagged one of the coveted studio apartments at Menorah, she was living lean in Beverly Hills. She managed to make the $700-a-month rent at her old apartment by renting out space to UCLA medical students. Sometimes she borrowed money from her kids. Today, she says, she lives on about $1,100 a month.