PINOLE -- The bocce match at Pinole Senior Village briefly came to a stop Friday as Bella the therapy dog made the rounds of the adult day care room, dishing out affection and getting lots in return.
"Bella is so important; she's so precious," said Alice Parks, a resident of the Pinole Assisted Living Community, one of two residential programs at Pinole Senior Village -- the other is the Compass Rose Memory Care Program for people with Alzheimer's. "She's the sweetest dog in the world."
But after this month, Parks and other seniors will no longer be able to enjoy the company of the 7½-year-old chocolate lab-border collie mix because there will be no more adult day care program at Pinole Senior Village. The program does not sustain itself financially, and so it faces elimination. The last day will be Dec. 28.
"We're all crying," said Bernice Jorden, 77, of Richmond, who commutes to the day care two or three days a weeks via paratransit.
What will she do when it closes?
"Twiddle my thumbs. I don't know," she said.
The Adult Day Services Network of Contra Costa lists three other adult day care programs in West Contra Costa: in El Cerrito, El Sobrante and Richmond.
But Jorden likes the one at Pinole Senior Village.
"The staff treats us like adults, like decent people," she said. "Not like we're 2 years old."
"A lot of people talk down to older people," Jorden continued. "Here, they don't."
After bocce, the group, a mix of Memory Care and Assisted Living residents and day care commuters, sang songs, followed by exercise and lunch. In the afternoon, there was Bingo. Other days there is poetry, storytelling, art, crafts, balloon games, a movie and other activities.
And then there are the visits from Bella. Alena Falcon, the adult day care director and the dog's owner, said Bella loves to be touched, and that gives her residents satisfaction.
"They pet her and love her," Falcon said. "She offers them warmth, soft fur, comfort and validation that they can offer love and get it back in return."
The adult day care program has lost money for years, prompting the unfortunate but necessary recent decision to phase it out, said Peter Murray, a member of the governing board and also a Pinole councilman.
"You can't subsidize a program like this when your revenues are what they are," Murray said.
Pinole Senior Village is run under contract by Westmont Living, operator of 10 senior communities in California and Oregon. Pinole Senior Village also offers a short-term respite program under which family members can place a senior for as little as two days and as long as several months, and a rehabilitation program for seniors recovering from illness or other medical issues.
Specific financial details of the adult day care program were not immediately available last week. But Murray and on-site officials agree that low attendance has hurt the program.
Currently, 21 people from as far away as Walnut Creek, El Cerrito and Richmond are on the adult day care roster, with about 13 or 14 attending on a good day, said Deborah Whitecotton, the senior village's executive director. About 10 percent live in the senior village and pay $25 a day for adult day care. Non-senior village residents pay $60 a day, or $37 for four hours. The rates include lunch.
Why more seniors don't use the center baffles John Neyhouse, of Pinole, who brought his wife of more than 50 years, Charlotte, to the center Friday.
"The rates here for the day care are much better than if you have a caregiver come to your house, (for) at least $20 an hour," said Neyhouse.
For an eight-hour day, that would come out to at least $160 for the in-home caregiver, compared with $60 for the 8 a.m.-to-4 p.m. cost of adult day care for nonresidents of Pinole Senior Village.
"You can't beat the economics," Neyhouse said. "It's really a shame that they're closing it."
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner