Local group seeks assisted living for seniors

The silver tsunami wave of seniors and baby boomers is upon us

A group of local citizens and organizations is seeking broad community support to build Assisted Living housing for Juneau’s seniors. A public meeting will be held June 26 at the Community Room in the Nugget Mall at 6:30 p.m. Host conveners are the Juneau Commission on Aging, the Juneau Community Foundation, the Juneau Economic Development Council and Senior Citizens Support Services, Inc. The purpose of the meeting is to address the current need for Assisted Living and to create community readiness and support. It is hoped this meeting will lead to the creation of a committed task force that will see an assisted living project through to its completion.

Assisted Living facilities offer help to seniors with tasks such as eating, bathing, dressing, doing laundry, walking, exercising and housekeeping, as well as with medications. It is not an alternative to a nursing home, but an intermediate level of long-term care appropriate for many. By utilizing the assisted level of care before chronic conditions become too debilitating, seniors may prevent or postpone the need for a nursing home. Currently in Juneau there is the Pioneer Home, licensed for assisted living but primarily operating as a nursing home, and Wildflower Court, also a nursing home. The Pioneer Home has a wait list of more than 1,000 individuals and there is no other assisted living housing nor any known plans for such a development. Currently there is independent senior housing downtown at Fireweed Place and MountainView Apartments, and Smith Hall in the Valley.

“Juneau needs to support and invest in programs that keep seniors thriving and living here, so they can continue contributing to its vitality and economy,” said local advocate Sioux Douglas.

To do that, Douglas said, “We have do something about senior housing now — and our top priority is to create safe, comfortable and affordable living for our capable seniors who need some assistance.”

According to a February 2013 Alaska Senior Housing Summit Report, Alaska continues to lead all states in having the fastest growing senior population of persons age 65 and older; and Southeast Alaska is the region with the highest number of aging seniors. This wave will continue to increase as baby boomers reach retirement age.

Seniors are a valued resource for any state and, annually in Alaska, seniors contribute an estimated $1.9 billion to the state’s economy from their retirement incomes, health care expenditures and other revenue sources, in addition to thousands of hours of unpaid volunteering and caregiving.

Elders provide a community with a wealth of intellectual and historical wisdom. If they can’t age in Juneau for lack of housing, many must go to other states and their valuable assets are lost to the community forever, along with the loss of their economic support.

Douglas hopes that a dedicated team of Juneau leaders, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, developers, builders, land owners, CBJ officials, financiers, senior advocates and any other key community stakeholders will join together to make Juneau a more elderly-friendly community. She encourages anyone interested to attend the June 26 meeting to kick off the effort.

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