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Illinois Baby Boomers Say No to Nursing Homes

Nearly 90 percent of seniors prefer to age in place                     Photo credit: eldercare.gov
Nearly 90 percent of seniors prefer to age in place Photo credit: eldercare.gov
September 3, 2013

CHICAGO - Two years ago, the first Baby Boomer turned 65 and, according to AARP, Boomers will be reaching that milestone at a rate of 8,000 a day for the next 18 years.

In Illinois and around the country, elders are finding new ways to age at home. One model gaining popularity is called a "village," in which elders form a membership network that provides volunteers and professionals to give them rides, help with home maintenance, and other services.

According to Cheryl Wollin, president of North Shore Village in Evanston, it's good for her and good for her grown son who, she said, has better things to do than run over every time she needs to hang a picture.

"He hasn't the slightest idea that there may come a time when I would need him more," she admitted. "But I know that as a village, I have tons of friends who would be willing to step in and help if I needed it."

Besides providing help, village members host weekly potluck dinners and socialize together. Wollin's group started four years ago and now has 300 members. Five members live in her condo building, where she hopes to live for the rest of her life.

Wollin is not the exception. Nearly 90 percent of seniors have told pollsters they want to age in place. Julie Russell, program director for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois' Intouch Home Care Services, provides care assistants for elders. She advises families who are thinking of getting help for a parent to start out with just a few hours, because sometimes people resent the idea of needing help, let alone moving to any kind of facility.

"These strong people who have worked all their lives, they're not leaving their homes: end of story," Russell put it. "And I really think that's how they got to be the age that they are, because they're strong."

There are a variety of state services even for those with limited incomes. The manager of community programs for suburban Cook County, Sarah Stein at AgeOptions in Oak Park, helps residents of her area to find all kinds of programs to help them age in place.

"There is the Community Care Program which can provide a fairly good number of hours to folks that, when balanced with someone who is a little bit independent or with family caregivers, can allow someone who's relatively frail to live in the community safely."

Stein said another program that helps get people out of nursing homes and back into the community is called Money Follows the Person. Veterans, she said, qualify for still other programs. Her advice to Baby Boomers: Start planning now, before it becomes an emergency. She advises family members or seniors to speak to a care coordinator. They can be found through local senior centers, www.lssi.org or AgeOptions.org.

More information is at northshore-village.org and at www.state.il.us.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL