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.
May 26, 2016
All soldiers come back from combat with wounds, whether visible or invisible, says Ted Kretschmar of FOCUS Marines. In over six years and twenty classes, FOCUS works primarily in the realm of invisible wounds, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Survivor guilt, moral injury etc. These burdens and injuries often change these individuals and hold them back, causing rifts in families, self-isolation, anger and difficulty maintaining employment. Post-9/11 veterans are not quantified at local levels and Veterans Affairs can be difficult to access. Scarce resources or mismatched medications, often in combination with alcohol, lead to a high rate of suicide among those who have returned home. FOCUS exists to intervene in the lives of these men and women, offering hope and healing through their week-long classes. Various reporting and support systems in the Marine and Veteran community refer these returned soldiers to FOCUS for help. While many come dragging their feet, they leave with new hope and a plan. This is not to say it's a "straight line up," as Kretschmar says, but men and women move forward in their journey of healing.
The week-long classes are designed specifically to foster camaraderie, sharing and next step planning for those attending. While many of these men and women do not know each other upon arriving, they bond quickly over their experience, the uniform. "It's part of the therapy," Kretschmar points out. In the first few days there are health and mental health assessments, surveys of interests and experiences, in order to better work on career and health plans later in the week, as well as required classes. Evenings contain graduate testimonies or motivational speakers. On Wednesday, a time is made available for voluntary sharing. Approximately 75% of attendees share and many have called it an almost spiritual experience. From Thursday onward much of the time is dedicated toward established goals—specifically around broken relationships, personal improvement, volunteering and network building. There are also optional evening meetings, including AA, bible studies and financial literacy classes. The final night is a celebration that includes graduation, gifts and a party complete with karaoke.
The program does not end here. Official evaluation continues at three-, six- and 12-month intervals, allowing FOCUS to track continued progress. Of the participants, 80% will be more self-aware and mend family and relational ties, and 75% will still be making progress towards their goals a year after they completed the class.
The connections made during the week are also long-lasting. Throughout the week, participants have eaten meals and talked with other volunteers and program graduates. The table leaders keep in touch with their group, checking in and remaining available to talk, and helping with any legal or financial needs. Although this program has been running for over six years, the initial class still receives phone calls from FOCUS. While wounds persist and healing is a process, many of those who have gone through FOCUS say it has changed their lives and saved them from a different fate. Families have been mended, people are back in school and fewer are using alcohol and drugs to numb pain. Support and hope offer a very promising future to these men and women through FOCUS Marines.
April 21, 2016
Statement from Assistant Secretary for Aging Kathy Greenlee
President Obama signed the Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2016 into law today, reaffirming our nation's commitment to the health and well-being of older adults. Earlier this year, the President called on Congress to reauthorize this important legislation as part of his remarks at the White House Conference on Aging. For the full text of this article, go to: http://www.acl.gov/NewsRoom/NewsInfo/2016/2016_04_19.aspx.
In Forbes, Contributor Howard Gleckman presents a little different perspective:
Congress has finally renewed the Older Americans Act—a key piece of the social safety net for seniors, writes Howard Gleckman in Forbes. It is good that, after a decade in limbo, the law finally has been reauthorized. But before you break out the balloons and champagne, remember that keeping programs alive on paper is not the same as paying for them. And the government safety net for seniors has been fraying for years, victimized by woeful underfunding. The full text of this article can be found at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2016/04/20/one-cheer-for-congress-renewing-the-older-americans-act/#3a6683e8477e.
December 01, 2015
Stephanie*, an older St. Louis resident, was introduced to Mission: St. Louis after her husband and father both died within months of each other. She no longer had help maintaining her home and she was disheartened and overwhelmed. Volunteers arrived at Stephanie’s home to assist with minor repairs. But they did so much more than fix railings and paint walls: they supported and encouraged Stephanie and showed her that she was strong and capable enough to handle things independently. Now Stephanie volunteers her own time with Mission: St. Louis, sharing with others that same strength and inspiration that helped her.
At Mission: St. Louis, people of all ages are empowered to transform the people and places in their community. Some residents have spent decades in their homes and have no desire to live anywhere else, but they don’t have the resources, support, or ability to keep up with necessary repairs and maintenance. Even more, homes that are not up to code or in disrepair can pose a serious, potentially life-threatening risk to senior homeowners. Mission: St. Louis’ AMP (Authentic Missional Practice) initiative connects volunteers and residents in week-long individual and community building activities. The initiative addresses immediate home repair needs, but at its heart AMP is about building relationship and community with senior homeowners and residents in the region.
*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.
November 05, 2015
The Saint Louis County Access & Functional Needs Registry is an emergency preparedness program for older adults and people with disabilities. Enrollment is free and open to any St. Louis County resident living in the community with a physical, cognitive, or age-related condition that may impact their capacity to respond appropriately during a major disaster. Visit their website for more information about the Registry. This program is relatively new and is part of the County's mission to promote independence, safety, and well-being for older residents.
Registry Coordinator Elyse M. Murrell, MSW, is excited to spread the word to professionals in the region who work with seniors! In addition to downloading their PDF program brochure, she would be happy to mail or drop off a stack of them for your use. Open this flyer for an upcoming event on winter weather preparedness for seniors. Feel free to contact Elyse at (314) 615-4426 | TTY (800) 735-2966 or