Maplewood mayoral candidate on aging in place

I recently brought my 91-year-old father and 84-year-old mother back from Phoenix because of concerns we have for them living on their own.

It highlighted an issue that I have been attempting to address for some time: that we don’t have assisted or even independent living facilities within walking distance of our downtown business district. Statistics indicate that the aging baby boomers are becoming a significant demographic and we need to plan for a community that is inclusive of our senior population.

Aging in place here is difficult, as the cost of living, maintenance costs, and property taxes are just a few of the many financial problems facing seniors on a fixed income. The immediate future holds no promises from our federal government on maintaining social security, Medicare and other programs at rates that don’t further erode retirement plans. I don’t anticipate health care costs will decrease with deregulation and many people are at risk of losing access to health insurance completely.

There are few houses that are accessible here in town and even if there weren’t a set of steps to get into the house, there might not be a bathroom on the first floor or any way to use the second floor on a daily basis. It costs money to heat and cool the house to maintain a comfortable environment and that also impacts budgets negatively.

Many citizens can’t afford internet access to be connected to information and services. The Charter program I helped implement will allow children to get affordable internet access that otherwise would have a disadvantage in keeping up with their school work. The program , however, sets the bar at a level where few seniors qualify for the reduced rate. My senior Internet cafe plan would provide for hardware and support through grants and donations, and discounts at our coffee shops at allocated times to encourage seniors to gather and socialize and remain a vital voice in our community.

If we had an independent living facility that had a good location and amenities, our seniors could downsize, sell their homes, eliminate many costs, add to their savings, lead more active lifestyle and not have to move from their hometown. Those homes would be purchased and fixed up by young families wanting to send their children to MRH and enjoy the benefits that living in Maplewood provide.

But there has to be a viable alternative that currently does not exist. The joint senior commission we are beginning to assemble with Brentwood and Richmond Heights will be a great start to help align our aging population with the many existing programs (like the circuit breaker tax reduction program) and services that can make lives easier and more vibrant.

I have worked towards making Maplewood more sustainable and walkable and there is still much work to be done. These are just some of the issues that should be incorporated into a comprehensive plan update. This process accommodates public input and interaction to make sure the decisions our future elected officials make are in line with the needs of our citizens. The question is not whether we can afford to do it, it is rather can we afford not to do it for the continued success of our beloved Maplewood community.

As most everyone knows, I am running for mayor in April and I look forward to input from our citizens, businesses and schools in helping shape the brightest future we can achieve.

Barry Greenberg

12 thoughts on “Maplewood mayoral candidate on aging in place

  1. The Cotu pf Ma[;ewood has been harassing me since 2012 and we finally have a “jury” court hearing in St. Louis County Circuit Court as I could not get a hearing in Maplewood. I’m 71 years old and have lived in Maplewood since 1984. Is his how you plan on making Maplewood a more aging in place ommunity. You might beging by not threatening to through the elderly in jail and causing tham years of harrassment and lost sleepIi would not reommend anyone elderly to move to Maplewood. As a matter of factI’m thinking of filing a Elderly Abuse complaint against Maplewood.

    Alice

    Where were you’re elderly parents living. I’m sure you encouranged them to stay out of Maplewood.

    Al

    • Alice,
      Not everything is about you and your yard. You are not being threatened with jail time and none of your issues are age related.
      With regard to my mother, she needed to be in assisted living and she is now living in Richmond Heights simply because Maplewood does not have an assisted living facility, which was my point in the first place, which apparently you completely missed.
      Barry

  2. I have received such a positive response to my post and I must apologize that I can’t contact everyone that has offered to assist in the effort right now. My father passed away unexpectedly this morning and I would like to continue the work for our senior community soon in his memory.

  3. I live in Brentwood and would be interested in knowing more about the joint senior commission you are talking about. I was on a county wide one a few years ago. I have been active with several groups interested in senior issues.

  4. Thanks for being a promoter of aging in place and bringing this subject to light, Barry! I am a social worker who works with older adults. Like you mentioned with the circuit breaker tax credit, there are some fantastic programs out there. However, it seems like some people are not aware of the resources available to them. For another concrete way to help older adults and their caregivers in Maplewood, I propose that Maplewood have a social worker on staff. That social worker could go to residents’ homes to assess their needs and provide resources. The social worker could give presentations to the public about available resources to older adults (veteran resources, fall prevention tools, food resources, tax resources, respite resources for caregivers, home health aide information, etc). Social workers are trained to assist during a crisis, advocate for people, provide supportive counseling, etc. I think that hiring a social worker on staff would greatly benefit the community and would be a great return on investment. Other local municipalities have social workers on staff and have seen it to be beneficial. No, I am not trying to present this as a job for myself (I really enjoy the job I currently have), but I recognize the value of a social worker, and I think that Maplewood and its residents would highly benefit from having a social worker on staff.

  5. I am glad Barry is bringing this up and interested to hear what solutions he has in mind. We definitely need a new Master Plan for the City. I appreciate the attention to the business district, but I would like to see that same attention and care given to the rest of Manchester. We should develop a plan for West Manchester that revisits current zoning laws in order to attract small shops, businesses, and mixed-use developers that can build accessible buildings, with incentives for senior living. Because it’s not as established as east Manchester, that strip could accommodate a new mixed use building, increasing foot traffic, being closer to the library and public transit.
    Second, residential zoning favors building more of the same. Like Barry says, there are not a many options for staying in your neighborhood, when the homes around you are all built more or less exactly like your home. Instead zoning should allow for a wider range of home sizes, as well as detached in-law suites which promote multi-generational living. Incentive for building energy efficient homes, instead of poorly insulated homes with high upkeep costs, would also give seniors more viable options for staying in their homes.
    Great topic, and plenty of ways to approach it, so I’m excited to hear more.

  6. NYU has recently started a program some affectionately call “grandma’s spare room.” Basically it is a discounted housing option for students to live alongside elderly in their homes. The student uses a spare bedroom and pays a discounted rent, making it fairly similar to Air BnB.
    Other strategies outside the US (dutch in particular) have looked to create programs in which college students live rent free but have an obligation of providing support services to the elderly and making it feel more like a community. The students don’t replace formal nursing assistance, only supplement it.
    In either case, the idea of elderly living along side someone that can provide assistance seems like a needed step. The concept of mutual arrangements could expand beyond the housing area. It would also be worthwhile for MRH schools to establish programs that target retired people, not just the elderly, to volunteer in various roles that provide assistance.