Seniors: Vital to Our Communities

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If you have an aging parent or grandparent, you get it. Getting older and navigating the world of decision making for an elderly person’s finances, physical health, and housing is often confusing and difficult. To have someone that will walk with a senior through these processes to simplify the situation and look out for the senior’s wellbeing makes all the difference.

Hundreds of seniors in North City look to Mission: St. Louis to be the one who will stand in the gap. Last year alone, 670 seniors came to us for help with Medicare/Medicaid, prescription drug assistance, food stamps, low income home energy assistance or property tax credits.

Ariel Mann, our Case Management Specialist, is resident expert of all things senior assistance. Over the last few years, she has helped thousands of seniors all over North City. Through her work in 2018 alone, Ariel helped save seniors almost $570,000 to live healthier, higher quality lives.

“It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the amount of challenges that seniors face,” says Ariel. “It all stems from the primary challenge-- simply having a fixed income and being on social security. The money coming in through these resources does not keep up with the rising cost of other things such as utilities, property taxes, groceries, everyday things, health care, etc.”

Many seniors we serve face an unexpected loss of their spouse, or chronic illness that requires expensive medication and medical services. On top of that come the normal struggles of upkeeping a home, acquiring transportation for basic needs, and all daily tasks that, with aging, require assistance, like bathing, eating and cleaning. When you add it all up, the price rises quickly. Without an income that increases to match the higher cost-of-living and the additional burdens that aging brings, seniors face challenges that are near impossible to overcome on their own. This often leads them to move out.

Not only is all of this detrimental to the quality of life for seniors; it also means that the men and women who are matriarchs and patriarchs of their families and neighborhoods are no longer in the communities that need them. Seniors take on the vital roles. Says Ariel of the families she knows:

A lot of female seniors care for their husbands because they typically live longer and are often caretakers for relatives, spouses, grandchildren… So, providing care for those people helps with costs of childcare for many families. They are so valuable in that way. Having grandma in the neighborhood to watch the kids while you are working is a huge benefit.

The impact of having men and women with a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and life experience in a community is not only priceless, it’s also a less expensive option for our city overall.

In St. Louis, the average cost for assisted living is $2,000 a month. For a nursing home it is $6,000 a month. For many of our seniors, monthly income is around $1,000-$1,200 a month, which clearly falls short of paying for any kind of living facility. In that case, Medicaid pays for a nursing home, which drains taxpayer money.

Alternatively, if seniors are helped by a case manager to understand their options and the benefits that are available to them, many can choose the option of having Medicaid pay to have a worker come to their house. This is less expensive than the cost of a living facility on Medicaid and seniors get to stay in their homes. Everyone involved-- seniors, their families, and all St. Louis taxpayers-- is happier and better for it. It just makes sense.

That’s why we are thankful that we get to stand in the gap for our seniors. If we’re going to do good for our city, we want it to span across every age, background and family. To strive to improve the holistic health of our city, we must meet the needs of our oldest generation.