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When it comes to senior services, the Newquists are keeping it in the family.
Sensitivity, understanding, and compassion are so important when it comes to helping people with the big changes in their lives. When seniors are moving out of family homes — either to “rightsize” into something more suitable, or to transition into life in an assisted living environment — it can have a dramatic impact on the entire family. The brother-and-sister team of Dana Newquist and Nancy Newquist-Nolan works closely with families to help them through these changes in this emotional time in their lives.
Dana Newquist, who owns and operates the downtown Santa Barbara assisted-living dementia care specialist Mission Villa, has been in the memory care business for 24 years. He started his career in the early days of tech, founding Computer Plaza in 1981 (near Harry’s Plaza Café), as well as Montecito Video and Summerland Video. He was looking for a new venture in the mid-1980s when his sister Lyn Dorenzo, the oldest of the seven Newquist siblings, came to him with her gerontology degree in hand and a thesis project describing a new assisted-living model that was more like a home and less like an institution.
She’d taken the thesis to the bank for a loan, but they wanted a business plan. “Well, my sister was a great gerontologist, but she wasn’t very well schooled in business,” said Dana. “So she called me to write her a business plan.”
That plan turned into Country Village in Chico, California, which is still operating. “She was very progressive in her thoughts,” said Nancy about her admired oldest sister, who is now 78 and still actively involved.
The family ties keep coming. Nancy’s husband, Keith Nolan, principal of ON Design Architects, designed both Country Village and Mission Villa senior care homes. Meanwhile, Nancy is Coldwell Banker’s senior real estate specialist, with training from the California Association of Realtors on understanding what seniors need when they go to sell a house.
Dana is also a Realtor and frequently works with Nancy on deals. In addition, Nancy used to own an estate liquidation business and brings years of experience in working with seniors and their families to sell the contents of their homes.
“When you’re going into a house to liquidate everything, you learn about so many aspects of life,” laughed Nancy. “When they get older, they stuff everything in their pockets or in books or in weird places. I always tell the family prior to us coming in: Please go through your family members’ pants pockets, coat pockets, flip through their books, because they tend to get dementia and start putting money in those places, and we want to make sure that we didn’t sell a book by accident that had a thousand dollars in it.”
The hardest thing is letting go. “They love their home, they have their memories, and they’re afraid,” said Nancy. “And you’re telling them to let go and move forward on to what will be a safer place for them. We try to be proactive instead of reactive. And being proactive means they can make the choice, and that’s what we highly suggest. That way, they still are able to have their say in what happens to them.” Added Dana, “Trust is the whole deal — you’re dealing with the most important thing they have and that could be a spouse, or a mom or dad.”
That’s especially true when going to a memory care facility like Mission Villa, which works closely with hospice providers and is designed to be the last home a person will live in. “This is really an end-of-life kind of facility,” said Dana.
The pandemic is only making compassionate care more challenging, as visitors are currently prohibited. “Because we’re dealing with dementia, if you take a daughter or son away for even a week, let’s say, when the dementia patient has to be reinforced in memory all the time, they forget who somebody is,” said Dana. “We totally become their family.”
Thankfully, the Newquists are up to the task. “When you have seven kids in the family, you have to have grace and patience,” said Nancy. “We all seem to have that, which makes us really even-keeled to help the seniors as we do.”
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