Grantee Spotlight: Seniors Count

February 24, 2017

The senior population over 65 is the fastest growing group in the United States. Between 1980 and 2010, the population rose over 60%, and experts predict that adults over 60 will double and adults over 85 will triple by 2050. One out of every four 65 year olds today will live past the age of 90, and seven out of ten of those same 65 year olds will need long term care. In the Saint Louis region (St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County), counties expect their population over 60 to increase by an average of 10%. While the population is obviously rising exponentially, government funding through the Older Americans Act for home and community based senior services has dropped by 35%. This means that for every dollar there was per senior in 1980, there is only 47 cents per senior today. This does not even take into account the growing burden on social security funding as this population grows and lives longer than ever before.

There is great need, despite what might be assumed from the decrease in funds. In the St. Louis region, 10% of Missouri Seniors live in poverty, 19% live with the threat of hunger and half of all senior women devote more than a third of their income to housing. About 37% have a disability, 12% have two or more disabilities and a senior is 30% more likely to fall in Missouri than the national average. Unfit homes, lack of mobility, medical concerns and other obstacles severely impact quality of life for seniors. Nursing homes and assisted living are expensive and nearly twice as much as the cost of adult care givers or home based services. Most seniors would prefer to live independently in their own home rather than a facility, but at this point many are unable to do so because of safety, health and mobility risks.

This is where the Seniors Count of Greater St. Louis entered the picture. This collaborative, community based initiative was dedicated to develop local solutions to improve the quality of life of older persons and their caregivers, especially those who are most vulnerable. This grass roots organization, spearheaded by a committee of leaders from area senior services providers, began in June 2013 when the Daughters of Charity Foundation of St. Louis funded a survey to assess community perceptions and concerns about the needs of seniors who desire to live independently, as well as the willingness to support a local tax levy that, if passed would create local support to serve older adults. Results showed an interest in a levy, because there were not enough services available.

The Seniors Count Initiative proposed a small, personal property tax levy to form a Senior Services Fund, which would provide financial support for community services for seniors that allow them to age in place. Other counties in Missouri have implemented similar programs such as Clay County outside of Kansas City. In 2015, Clay County Senior Services provided almost $1 million in funding for transportation, home repair, educational opportunities, emergency response systems and exercise classes to area seniors. These services and more can make a huge difference in the quality of life for a senior.

Congratulations to the City of St. Louis which passed the Seniors Count Proposition S, which was on the ballot November 8, 2016. They now join 54 other counties in Missouri which have implemented this quality of life initiative for seniors in their areas.

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