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SeniorLIFE will open in Hempfield

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Grace DiLeone and her daughter, Angela Jana, look over materials at the ceremonial opening of the SeniorLIFE Center in Hempfield. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review Jan. 10, 2013
Occupational therapist Corrine Lantz, left, of Plum Boro and physical therapist Linda Miller of Acme share a laugh in the therapy room at the grand opening of the Senior Life Center on January 10, 2013 in Hempfield Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Hazel Adams said she felt at home while visiting the new SeniorLIFE center in Hempfield, and the ceremonial grand opening event wasn't even over.

“Senior LIFE has settled a fear within me of what could happen in the future,” said Adams, 90, who lives alone in her apartment at the former Troutman Building in downtown Greensburg.

“I like my apartment. I can walk to my church and my bank,” said Adams, who appears decades younger and uses a cane for balance while walking.

“Anyone with any amount of independence wouldn't want to go to a two-room place in a nursing home,” she said.

There are 250 openings available at the new center on Triangle Drive, between Aldi's and Primanti Bros., just off Route 30 and East Pittsburgh Street, east of Greensburg.

About 200 people attended an opening ceremony on Jan. 10 for the facility that will offer comprehensive support services to sustain independence among seniors, including an adult day care center.

State inspectors did a walk-through last week and, once approval for occupancy is granted, the center hopes to sign up members and be up and running by Feb. 1, officials said.

The center, the company's sixth full-service facility in Pennsylvania, is a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, with provider status for Medicare and Medicaid services.

Adams' daughters, Peggy Sterner and Dana George, both of Greensburg, accompanied their mother to the opening. Adams heard about the center during a company presentation at her apartment building.

“This is something that's needed. I like that they are preparing for us baby boomers,” Sterner said.

The new building has two day rooms, including one that is secure for cognitive-impaired seniors, and features bright, spacious hallways with exam rooms, nursing stations, full bathrooms and laundry facilities.

“I like the idea of someone coordinating all my mom's doctors, treatments and medications,” George said.

Another visitor, Grace DiLeone, 77, a former Arthur Murray show girl who had been living in Hempfield Towers, is interested in SeniorLIFE after suffering through a stroke and pneumonia in the last year.

“I'm so happy this place is here,” said DiLeone, who is quite spry, despite having lung disease from being a smoker since she was 9 years old. “This place has everything I need.”

Her daughter, Angela Jana, said her husband purchased a townhouse at Academy Heights Apartments, near Hannastown Country Club, for her mother.

“When she was sicker she couldn't cook,” Jana said. “Now my mother can cook, but has trouble cleaning up.”

Right now, Jana said her sister does their mother's food shopping and the Westmoreland County Area Agency on Aging pays for a housekeeper to come in two hours a week.

Ray DuCoeur, the administrator for the county Area Agency on Aging, said his office will be working with the new center.

“This will be a good option for people,” DuCoeur said at the event last week. “They can call us and say they are interested in SeniorLIFE.”

Celeste Fischer, regional outreach coordinator for the centers, said members usually do not have to pay for services.

“It is completely free for 98 percent of seniors,” Fischer said.

“This program helps seniors stay in their home,” said Gina Graciano, director of business development. “Most people qualify and don't realize this. We can help people determine their financial eligibility.

“The member gets their own registered nurse, we have a physician on staff, we pay for hospitalizations, and everything is handled under one roof,” Graciano said. “We're thinking the slots will fill up fast.”

Dr. Roger Zioncheck, medical director of SeniorLIFE, said the program gives another option besides the family doing everything until it's time for hospice care or a family member going straight from a hospital to a nursing home.

“Not only will we work to keep people out of the nursing homes, but we improve the quality of life,” Zioncheck said.

SeniorLIFE centers first opened in 2006 and include three satellite day care sites in rural areas.

“I see a transformation in members in a very short time,” said Mark Irwin, chief operating officer.

Local officials participated in last week's event at the Hempfield center.

“What a fabulous facility this is,” county Commissioner Chuck Anderson said. “This center is another example of moving forward economically with the addition of 100 new jobs.”

“It seems like a few short weeks ago when we were breaking ground,” Commissioner Tyler Courtney said. “We're glad to have this facility. ... It will fill some gaps.”

“I never thought I'd be excited to become a senior citizen myself,” Commissioner Ted Kopas said. “The people here (at the center) are genuinely excited to be here and I know they will be a tremendous asset.”

Rose Domenick is a freelance writer.