Program aimed at helping seniors live independently

Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2002

CREVE COEUR, Mo. -- Researchers are looking within one square mile of the St. Louis suburbs to help solve a growing national problem: How can senior citizens live out their lives in their own homes independently and safely?

As part of the national Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) study, researchers at the Washington University Center for Aging will spend the next 18 months interviewing senior citizens who live within a square-mile in Creve Coeur. The goal is to interview at least 1,000 of the 1,500 seniors about everything from transportation to health care to fitness to how homes can be better designed to suit their needs.

''Most older adults wish to remain in their homes as long as possible, as long as it is safe,'' said Dr. John Morris , director of the Center for Aging.

Some 250 senior citizens attended the project's official launch, where researchers described the program and implored them to sign up and recruit others.

The Administration on Aging is funding the $3.7 million study in five cities nationwide. The Jewish Federation of St. Louis will oversee the area's grant, which at $1.26 million, is the largest of the five. Other participating cities include Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore.

NORCs are described as neighborhoods or areas with high concentrations of senior citizens living independently. This proximity means services can reach more people simultaneously, becoming more effective.

''How many times have you said, 'I wish...?' We want you to fill in that blank for us,'' asked Dorothy Edwards, lead researcher for the study.

One senior citizen spoke about the lack of quality among home health care providers, evoking many nods from the audience.

''Unfortunately we can't correct your experience but we can use it to correct the system,'' Edwards responded.

By 2025, senior citizens will comprise 20 percent of the state's population, Gov. Bob Holden said. He suggested that seniors would benefit financially from living at home, noting the cost of in-home care is 12 percent of institutional state care.

Eighty-four-year-old Sylvia Rosen signed up for the program and hoped to make a difference.

''I want to see that something is done for all the older people that isn't being done now,'' she said.



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