Abbeyfield, the Ajijic housing compound for senior residents, will close operations by the end of this year after a 12-year history.
The independent living rental facility located on the Ajijic waterfront is comprised of five free-standing casitas, four en-suite rooms, a shared kitchen, and common living, dining and garden areas, along with a lap pool.
Abbeyfield’s nine residents were taken by surprise when they were notified in mid-June that they were being given a six-month grace period to find new accommodations and relocate.
“It came as a real shock,” says longtime Mexico resident Millicent Brandow, who has lived at Abbeyfield for the past three years. “What will I do? Where will I go?” she and her perplexed living companions immediately wondered. However, Brandow praises part-time administrator Kevin Paulini for becoming their champion, going beyond his bookkeeping duties to help in the search for alternative housing options.
The decision to vacate Abbeyfield has been a long time coming, explained Mina Powers, one of the original board members of Casas Cariñosos, the non-profit civil association that set up the group home back in 2006 with principal funding provided by the late Lissa Taylor, a Canadian citizen who settled at lakeside in 1975.
Taylor was instrumental in launching the outreach program at St. Andrews Church dedicated to supporting charitable causes in the community. Abbeyfield became an offshoot project for the purpose of offering affordable housing to self-sufficient individuals of advanced age wishing to live independently in a secure, harmonious environment, with a balance of privacy and companionship. Taylor lived there herself until her death in 2011.
Management of the property was set up under volunteer members of Casas Cariñosas, with day-to-day operations handled by a small staff of hired help. The dedicated management committee dwindled over the years as members died, moved elsewhere or tired of the implicit burden of responsibility, Powers noted.
As a result, last year Casas Cariñosas was converted into a new non-profit registered under the name Lissa’s Legacy, A.C., with the aim of adhering more closely to Taylor’s broader ideals. Local attorney Luis Enrique Ramos Bustillos was named as board president and Powers’ husband Jim stayed on as treasurer.
Running Abbeyfield has become more complex over time as stricter government regulation has taken effect. The board considered employing a full management team, but discarded the move because it would require a substantial hike in rental fees for the residents. Attempts to find another non-profit organization willing to take over Abbeyfield were unsuccessful.
According to Ramos, those factors ultimately led to the decision to close the facility and put the property up for sale on lakeside’s red-hot real estate market once the residents move to new quarters. All assets will go into the Lissa Legacy fund to support charitable work benefiting many of lakeside’s most vulnerable inhabitants, rather than a chosen few. While specific projects have not yet been defined, prime areas of interest include education, dignified housing for the underprivileged and attention to environmental issues.