Aging in Place Pilot Project

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The Maricopa Association of Governments and the Greater Phoenix region is one of five areas in the country invited to take part in the Aging Pilot City Leaders Institute on Aging in Place, a new national pilot project striving to help people aged 65 years and more to live independently in their homes. Amy St. Peter of MAG and Joe LaRue of Sun Health Senior Living explain how Valley residents will benefit from the project.

Ted Simons: The Phoenix metro area is one of five regions selected by the Met-Life Foundation and Partners for Liveable Communities to participate in a national pilot project on aging. The City Leaders Institute on Aging in Place will develop strategies to help seniors remain in their homes as they face challenges to health care and independent living. Here to tell us more about the program is Amy St. Peter, Human Services and Special Projects Manager for the Maricopa Association of Government, and Ron Guziak, President and CEO of Sun Health, an Arizona medical nonprofit that supports healthy living initiatives. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us. Let's talk about this national pilot project on aging. What exactly is the goal?

Amy St. Peter: The goal is to help people to live more independently in their own homes. We know from experience and research, from really what's going on across the country, when people can't live at home anymore they are forced to go into institutional care, which is also more expensive and may not suit their needs. It's important to have in place but may not be a person's wants or needs at that point in their life. We really want to be able to provide other options.

Ted Simons: Options for those 65 plus, that's a lot of folks.

Ron Guziak: Sun Health is pleased to be a part of this program. For 40 years we've been serving the communities in Sun City, Sun City West, Sun City Grand where people have come to retire and live healthy and well with vitality. We have provided health care services and now providing independent living services, as well as we want to focus on the folks who want to live in the community, who want to share in the excitement of being a part of a community of seniors, and have a robust lifestyle.

Ted Simons: Are you seeing a change in that attitude among seniors to where living at home, aging in place, if you will, is more important than maybe it used to be?

Ron Guziak: I don't know if it's so much of a change. I think the people who came to Sun City wanted to live in their own homes. These are communities that were founded 40 years ago. Time has changed for them. They have aged in place, and some of them want society to help them be in a position where they are in independent living situations where they have all their needs cared for. Others want to live in the community in a village atmosphere, and I think there's a cross-section. But I think it is somewhat age-related. We're talking about baby boomers from 55 to 65 that might be a different need. 65 to 70, 80, 82, it just depends on the circumstance and the health of that individual.

Ted Simons: For those who live in areas not like Sun City, who have lived in a home for 30, 40, 50, 60 some odd years, what are the concerns and challenges? They want to stay at home. Can they do it?

Amy St. Peter: They can if they have assistance. We're looking at what kinds of intervention are most appropriate right now for people. People often pick a home based on their current living situation. They don't necessarily project how their needs are going to change in the future. Even something as simple as changing a light bulb can land someone in a nursing home if they fall and break their hip. If they require assistance getting to and from different medical appointments and even to work, we are finding older adults are wanting to work and aren't finding employment opportunities. Even the kinds of programs we offer need to be tailored to today's seniors and tomorrow's people, as well. They want to remain engaged they want to volunteer and have a very active lifestyle. Older people today are more educated and affluent. They want those choices. People want to be in control of their own destiny but they need assistance in order to make that work.

Ted Simons: Are municipal services in place to handle all these folks who may not want to go to a certain specific spot, but want to age and stay home?

Amy St. Peter: Not to the stale that we're going to need them to be. The Maricopa system of Governments is tracking how many people we have and how needs are changing. We have 462,000 people over the age of 65 in our community just within the next eight years that number will increase to 700,000. That will really present a challenge. The people that we're trying to serve are also the solution. They present resources, they want to give back and contribute. We have to help them in order to be able to give back.

Ted Simons: You've told us what your organization does. As far as what this pilot project is looking for, how do the twain meet?

Ron Guziak: So one of our goals is to create what we call pathways to population health. We do that, we think, in several ways. One of the ways is to help as a nonprofit to serve the community, and exactly what the community's looking for. We know as Amy said services are somewhat limited at times. They are available in many communities but the coordination is lacking. We're hoping through our participation in this program that we can help design a collaboration and the coordination of services. So that when something is needed, it's easily found and can be presented to the individual at the right time. I think that's mainly what people are looking for when they want to be independently living on their own. They know the service is there but just don't know quite how to get it.

Ted Simons: The Phoenix area must be doing something right to be involved in this pilot project. What's going well now and what can improve?

Amy St. Peter: We're at a unique moment in time. People are living longer than they used to. That presents challenges and opportunities we haven't been faced with before. At the same time, we have some really talented people of the city of Scottsdale, their Granite Reef Senior Center won a Pinnacle Award and was recognized for being the number one senior center in the country. We're doing some great work there. We're very thankful to have the Mayor Greg Stanton as a member of our leadership team for this project. We have the right combination of talent, leadership and expertise in a way we really haven't seen before. All of this will manifest hopefully in some significant changes that will help people better be socially engaged within their community.

Ted Simons: What kind of results do you want to see from this pilot project?

Ron Guziak: We want to show the rest of the country how it can be done and done well. I think we have the opportunity to do that because of the nature of the communities we have in the Phoenix area and specifically in the Northwest Valley. We have the opportunity to kind of be a leader and coordinate and collaborate, and just demonstrate best practice. We're excited about that opportunity.

Ted Simons: And we can't forget the opportunity of funding, funding models and practices, has to be big.

Amy St. Peter: It has to be a public-private partnership. Serving the needs of the community, it's not up to just one sector. It needs to be collaboration. We are able to partner with Sun Health, with other nonprofits and the local governments with the private sector to try and develop a sustainable funding base to really make it work.

Ted Simons: Good conversation, good luck with the pilot project.

Amy St. Peter: Thank you.

Ron Guziak: Thank you for having us today.

Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," lots to keep up with at the legislature and we'll do so with our weekly legislative update. And we'll find out about university students working on technological innovations. That's Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," 5:30 and 10:00 here on Eight HD. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thanks for joining us. You have a great evening.

Amy St. Peter:MAG; Joe LaRue:Sun Health Senior Living;

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