Homeless at 92: Mass eviction has seniors scrambling to find new dwelling



92-year old Emil Meisel is outraged.  He, his wife of 66 years, and all the other senior citizens who reside in an apartment building in Los Angeles recently learned they’re being evicted from their homes–and each other.  A new owner plans a $50 million renovation–and needs everyone out to complete it.

Meisel, a retired IBM executive who served in the Navy during World War II, turned to his blog, Ole Guy Ramblins, when he heard the news.  His anger intensified when he realized that under local laws, people over the age of 62 need to be given a year to relocate, not just the four months residents were told they had to leave.  For now, he’s not planning on going anywhere, but he’s watching, sadly, as others in the tight-knit community scramble to find new places to live.  The anguish of seeing his widowed friends, alone in their rooms ruminating about their futures at such an advanced age, in particular is immense.

Many of the residents are over 90, some are over 100, and have lived in the 14-story tower for years.

“There are just some folks that can’t live with uncertainty,” he writes.  “In addition, there are others that have not been here long enough to build up those personal attachments — that I have called “camaraderie” in other blogs. This latter issue — the feelin’ of family with exceedingly close relationships  — particularly amongst the very, very, very old women — is an extremely serious matter to consider….like a homesick child away from family — these older women can go into a depressive state that could never be reversed.  There could be severe health consequences — and the ‘ole guy’ doesn’t need a psychiatrist or psychologist for verification.  It’s just a horrible thing to do to a 98- or 104-year old.”

Meisel and his wife moved to the building fairly recently, after spending the first 24 years of their retirement in Mexico. Needing more help three years ago, their family found this centrally located building, a converted UCLA dorm, for the couple. It’s a short walk to shopping, movies, and most importantly for an elderly population, doctors.

The displacement at the building is not dissimilar from a wave of others around Los Angeles. A new owner, by law, can evict tenants if they plan to renovate and change the nature of the building. In this case, Watermark Retirement has said they want to convert the facility into a higher-end one focused on memory care and assisted living. (Right now, it’s simply a building for seniors, not one in which care is given.)

I talked to Mr. Meisel by telephone as a technician helped repair his lifeline to the outside world, his computer.