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Why Do Seniors Count?

Vote YES on Proposition S on Nov. 8

As 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 each day nationally, taking a critical look at the funding for and sources of senior services is imperative. Especially in the three county St. Louis metropolitan region (St. Charles County, St. Louis County, and the City of St. Louis), where 22% of Missouri’s aging population resides, it is important to create a sustainable structure to support healthy aging in seniors. From 2000-2014, the population age 65 and older in the St. Louis area increased by 70,000, that is a 20.1% increase. The population as a whole increased by only 4.9%.

Over the next 30 years, the number of residents in the region age 65 and older is projected to increase by about 290,00 people (approximately a 77% increase). With this estimate, we can expect an average annual increase of about 15,000 individuals age 65 and up from 2014 to 2030 in the St. Louis Region. By 2045, one out of every four people in the region will be over the age of 65. This is not an issue facing only St. Louis, but other metro areas as well. In comparison to the 50 most populated metro regions in the country, St. Louis area has one of the highest population densities of seniors: St. Louis ranked 8th in population aged 65 and older.

Knowing these facts, it is important to consider the needs of the older adults in our region. 81.1% of seniors are homeowners, and therefore services to keep seniors in their own homes and communities are important. Aging in a healthy and safe manner can be better supported by community efforts. Adults most at risk for losing their independent living status are those who need help in three or more activities of daily living (ADLs), or have cognitive impairment, or are in poor health. Having family caregivers coping with a daily higher level of stress is also correlated with more frequent placement in a nursing home or care facility.

Because aging is a process we all experience, every generation is more successful when we make sure everyone has the services they need to safely age in place. The issue of the population demographic shift is not isolated to the Baby Boomer generation. Aging in larger numbers will impact Generation X, Millennials and likely all future generations to come.

WHAT ARE OUR OPTIONS? On November 8th, 2016, voters have the opportunity to make a decision on Proposition S. The proposition comes from the Missouri Statutes 67.990-67.995. These statutes were placed in 1990 that allowed each county in Missouri to vote on whether or not they would create a Senior Citizen’s Service Fund. Currently, 54 other counties in Missouri have enacted a Senior Citizen’s Service Fund, although the issue has never yet been placed on a ballot in the St. Louis City, St. Louis County, or St. Charles County. In the last year, three new counties joined the Service Fund Providers; Chariton, Dallas, and Sullivan. The Missouri counties who have already established their Senior Citizen’s Service Fund are currently using the funding to support the following home and community based services: nutrition, transportation, home maintenance/safety, care coordination, behavioral health, dental/vision health, socialization, homemaker services, and respite services. These types of services support older adults and their families so they can more successfully age in place. Distribution of the funds will be decided by an independent board appointed of each county entity.

The state statute states the funding process. A 0.05% property tax would be assessed (both real and personal) which equates to five cents per $100 of assessed valuation. Only 19% of property is assessed for the tax, so if a home is valued at $100,000, that individual would contribute only $9.50 a year to the fund. A taxpayer with an automobile valued at $10,000 would pay $1.67 annually in personal property tax. All revenue raised in each county would stay in that county to support services for the residents who passed the Senior Citizen’s Service Fund.

Proposition S is a county by county vote. Voters have the power to enact or fail the measure, highlighting the beauty of our democratic process. Failure of Proposition S in one county will not impact the passage or failure of the proposition in a neighboring county. Decisions made separately in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and St. Charles County often impact the same individuals though, as many live, work, or have older family members spread throughout these three areas.

WHAT IS AT STAKE? Currently, there are waiting lists for services such as Meals on Wheels and senior transportation. Waiting lists for respite caregivers cannot even be established as the Alzheimer’s Association is out of funds for this program within the first two weeks of the year, due to the high demand for respite care services. A Senior Citizen’s Service Fund is a viable solution to some of these issues. Passing Proposition S would give counties an ongoing resource to draw funds from to distribute to senior service providers in order to expand the reach of services. As the senior population is rapidly expanding, federal funds for these designated programs are shrinking. There needs to be a local effort to support each community, based on local needs and priorities.
HOW WILL IT WORK? If Proposition S is passed, the elected body of each county will appoint an independent board, audited annually, that determines how the funds are dispersed. All funds collected for the Senior Citizen’s Service Fund shall be deposited in a special fund for the provision of services for persons 60 years of age or older, and shall be used for no other purpose except those purposes authorized in sections 67.990 to 67.995 RSMo for Senior Citizens. Funding decisions will be determined by board members and only in accordance with the fund budget approved by the governing body of each county. The funds would be collected beginning in 2017, and dispersed at the earliest in 2018. No funds shall be spent until the board of directors of the Senior Citizen’s Service Fund has been appointed and taken office in that county.

The St. Louis Region has a unique and first-time opportunity to help ensure there are resources for the years to come. Funding for senior services are needed and Proposition S is now a viable solution for better supporting home and community-based senior services.

Article provided by Assistance Home Care. For more information please call 314-677-1292 or 636-352-4372. Assistanceathome.com

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