Opinion: We Need to Help N.J. Seniors Stay in Their Homes with Assisted Living Help
By Reed Gusciora
July 3, 2012 - Times of Trenton
I am pleased to report that my bill to create a pilot program to provide social, mental and health-care services to communities with large senior citizen populations, A353/S1796, recently passed the Assembly. I especially thank Linda Meisel and my friends at the Jewish Family and Children Services for drawing attention to the challenges of extending such services to seniors who wish to remain in their homes.
|Assemblyman Reed Gusciora
With the establishment of the pilot program, the state will be able to foster naturally occurring retirement communities, or NORCs. Unlike housing built specifically for elderly residents, a NORC is a residential area with a high concentration of seniors who remain in their communities. The program would allow these residents to stay in their homes and have the type of services delivered to them that would otherwise come from assisted-living institutional settings. In essence, a NORC addresses the needs of elderly residents by providing a wide array of social, health-care, mental health and other support services at a senior center, such as the Suzanne Paterson Center in Princeton Borough or a community room in a senior high-rise in Trenton.
The bill directs the commissioner of health to provide a grant to a lead agency to establish and coordinate a pilot NORC at a senior center in Mercer County, or at one or more moderate- or low-income apartment buildings, in which at least 50 percent of the households are headed by a person who is 60 years of age or older. It is hoped that senior citizens who wish to remain in their homes will have essential services delivered nearby and that taxpayers' health-care dollars will be saved in the long haul. In this regard, it will help many seniors who are proactive and want to take a holistic, preventive approach to their health and well-being.
Although Princeton's new 16th District legislators voted against the measure, nonetheless, the concept has been well-received in the community, and I appreciate the Jewish Family and Children Services for the groundwork it provided on the bill. It is hoped that through delivering elder-care services directly into the community, seniors who are often shut in will have greater access to preventive health screenings, a social network at the community centers, and a better quality of life.
Reed Gusciora (D-Trenton) represents the 15th District in the New Jersey General Assembly.