Trying to do something about what they see as a significant problem of elderly people in Douglas County, two area social service agencies have put together a program to help older people maintain or increase their independence while living in their own homes.
The Kaw Valley Chapter of the Older Women's League and the Community Services Department of Douglas County Senior Services will open H.O.M.E. Housing Options Made Easy on next Tuesday.
At first, HOME will be informational a housing information center located at the Lawrence Senior Center, 745 Vt., will open to provide references on the availability of local housing and support services for the elderly.
In addition, a home repair and home chore program that will match volunteers with older adults who need the help will be part of the new housing project.
IN ADDITION, the Shared Housing Project, to match older homeowners with younger people, primarily students, is expected to begin by the end of the year. Under the project, the younger person would receive reduced rent in exchange for helping the older homeowner with upkeep and chores, said Sandra Strand, Community Services Director of Douglas County Senior Services.
Betty Dutton, chairman of the housing committee for OWL, said maintaining their living arrangements is a major concern of the elderly, second only to health concerns. And she said a survey they did showed that 80 percent of elderly people who responded live in their own, single family home.
"However, from meetings the Older Women's League has held over the past year, we have learned that for any number of reasons many older people are forced to move to a continuing care community, to a relatives house or perhaps to a nursing home," Dutton he said. "We believe many people don't realize they have options."
STRAND SAID the goal of the project is to provide housing alternatives for older adults in order to prevent "unnecessary or premature nursing home placement." She pointed to statistics from the American Association of Retired Persons, which said one in four nursing home residents have no medical reason for being there.
Strand said the goal of the housing project is to help both "the able-bodied, healthy older person who just needs a place to live" along with the "frail elderly who wants to keep out of a nursing home."
The housing information center initially will be open two days a week and staffed by volunters from OWL, along with staff from the senior center and student interns from the Kansas University School of Social Welfare.
Sponsors hope to expand office hours to five days a week by Jan. 1.
The new housing program will hold a reception to launch the new program at the Senior Center library at 9 a.m. next Tuesday.