By Jamie Opsal, Executive Director of the St. Louis City Senior Fund
In November 2016, St. Louis City established a senior service fund by passing Proposition S. This allows a tax to be levied for the specific purpose of providing age-in-place services to those 60 years and older. St. Louis City is now one of only 55 counties in all Missouri’s 115 to be proactively addressing the needs of older adults. Named the St. Louis City Senior Fund, local organizations are awarded grants to fund three key areas: economic stability, fall prevention, and utility assistance.
Michelle Wamser, Director of Aging Answers at Lutheran Senior Services (LSS), sees the St. Louis City Senior Fund as a needed resource. “As a grant recipient, we are looking specifically at ways we can alert and connect St. Louis City seniors to benefits that already exist for them through free one-on-one consultations and home visits.” LSS utilizes the National Council on Aging Economic Benefit Check-Up Assessment Tool which will connect seniors both now and in the future to eligible benefits.
Already, successes have been seen. With awarded funds, Lutheran Senior Services partnered with Housing Options for the Seniors (HOPE) to provide moving assistance to a St. Louis City older adult who was living with family members. Brought together by the St Louis City Senior Fund, these two organizations were able to assist the senior with finding an apartment, covering the move-in fee, and getting furniture.
“The senior was in tears and beyond grateful for the immediate response and support,” says Wamser. “I think this is just the beginning to fully realizing what St. Louis can do when we come together.”
The St. Louis City Senior Fund also supports fall prevention which often can lead to costly emergency room visits and reoccurring hospital stays for older adults. Lori Goldberg, Manager of Senior Services and Care Management of Jewish Family & Children’s Services (JFCS), says fall prevention can have a profound effect on the ability of older adults to live independently. “This funding provides a chance both to expand the number of senior adults served and to innovate new methods for tackling the problems created by falling.”
Goldberg believes a healthier population provides strength and stability to communities. “Most seniors we work with desire to stay in their current homes, but are worried about their safety.” By offering tools to age-in-place comfortably, JFCS and other organizations hope to help older adults maintain their goal of independence.
The stability of a community is also correlated to housing. Tim O’Dea, Executive Director of EnergyCare believes that when seniors’ homes are properly maintained for St. Louis’ variable weather, an entire community can benefit. “Through this fund, our organization can provide free room air conditioners as well as utility assistance and weatherization to St. Louis City seniors. This makes a huge impact in their daily lives and keep communities stable as houses stay occupied and seniors don’t have to move out of their community.”
O’Dea echoes other St. Louis City Senior Fund grantees who have found new connections amongst each other. “While we’ve always partnered with other organizations, the St. Louis City Senior Fund has further tightened those bonds.”
By coming together and creating a stronger network of senior-focused organizations, The St. Louis City Senior Fund is directly helping older adults and making St. Louis an age-friendly city. Together, we can turn the tide that has plagued so many other cities and counties to make our older adults safer and more connected.
Jamie Opsal is the Executive Director of the St. Louis City Senior Fund. Alongside a diverse board, the Senior Fund St. Louis oversees the appropriation of funds collected through Proposition S. To learn more about the St. Louis City Senior Fund as well as the 18 organizations to date that are providing services to St. Louis City seniors, visit https://stlseniorfund.org/.