The history of Gables of Ojai in Ojai, California

History of Gables of Ojai

Grey Gables (now Gables of Ojai)... has proved to the world that a residence can be successfully envisioned, built, administered and financed by the retired and for the retired, without subsidy or pleas for financial help.

— Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, founder, AARP
Gables of Ojai


701 North Montgomery Street Ojai, CA 93023

An inspiration to us all from Gables of Ojai in Ojai, California

AARP Founder Develops a Home for Retired Teachers to Live Graciously

Since finding a retired teacher living in a chicken coop and creating the National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA) in 1947, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus had been committed to the cause of affordable, age-friendly housing for retired teachers. By 1952, she had decided to build NRTA’s own experimental retirement community where retired teachers could live graciously with dignity and purpose. In 1954, with financial backing from friends and colleagues, Dr. Andrus purchased the defunct Grey Gables Inn in Ojai, California, an attractive semi-rural community about 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles, some 15 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.

Dr. Andrus’ commitment to Grey Gables was so strong that she and her long-time friend and colleague, Ruth Lana, moved to Ojai to take personal charge of the project. They were pioneering no less than a new model of retirement for America. At that time, the only housing models for older persons were nursing homes — known as rest homes — and subsidized housing for the poor. At Grey Gables, residents would not be isolated, lonely or limited in their possibilities. They would be encouraged to remain engaged with the world — attend concerts, theater, classes at the community art center and meetings of the historical society; and to join Ojai’s civic, business, cultural and political groups.

In turn, the retired teachers of Grey Gables were able to use their considerable knowledge and experience to enrich the Ojai community. They, for example, volunteered at the community’s art center, museum, library, churches and schools.

Opened in the fall of 1954 (and expanded in 1957), Grey Gables comprised 14 buildings set on eight acres of landscaped gardens. There were 75 residential units located in the various buildings, two of which were two-stories and the rest one-floor ranch-style buildings. There were studio units and one- and two- bedroom apartments. Residents furnished their own apartments. Community rooms included a spacious lounge, lanai and a dining room where meals were served family-style. Recreational facilities included an outdoor heated swimming pool, shuffleboard courts and a hobby room with pool and ping pong tables. Within easy reach of the complex were nature walks and bicycle paths, fishing, golf, riding, tennis and bowling.

Dr. Andrus founded AARP in 1958 and, in 1959, she added to the Grey Gables complex “Acacias,” an innovative 25-bed nursing home to accommodate Grey Gables residents. Acacias was expanded to 50 beds in 1967, when personal care apartments were also added. They proved to be a very popular and instructive intermediate step between Grey Gables’ independent living units and Acacias. Grey Gables residents who needed less than the 24/7 care of a nursing home were able to live an average of five years in a personal care apartment before requiring transfer to Acacias. This revolutionary concept of continuous care as residents aged is common in many of today’s assisted-living facilities.