LIFE program offers help, peace of mind
Knowing that Peg Martin is a participant in Lutheran SeniorLife's Living Independently for the Elderly program, or LIFE, gives her children peace of mind.
"All of my children live in different states, and they love knowing that there's someone right on the spot to help out if something happens to me," said Martin, 78, of Rochester, Beaver County.
The program enables income-eligible seniors who require nursing home-type services the opportunity to live at home and be transported to a care center to receive services such as medical care, rehabilitation and social activities.
Because of the success of the LIFE programs offered in Pittsburgh through a partnership with the Mercy Health System and the LIFE-Beaver County program, Lutheran SeniorLife has partnered with the Butler Health System to start LIFE-Butler County. The free program will serve senior citizens 60 or older who live in Butler County and qualify for Medicaid.
"I don't drive much since I had my stroke, and this gives me the chance to have a medical check-up once a month and socialize with my friends," said Martin, who visits the LIFE-Beaver County center in Aliquippa twice a week to exercise, eat lunch and play bingo.
The LIFE program is based on the On-Lok program begun in San Francisco by Chinese-Americans opposed to institutionalizing elderly family members, said Cindy Lytle, executive director of LIFE programs.
Scheduled to open by late spring, the LIFE-Butler County facility will have a large group activity room, dining area, community center, offices, a clinic with an exam room staffed with physicians and nurses and a personal care area for bathing and showering. A building site hasn't been finalized, but the 10,000- to 13,000-square-foot center probably will be in or near the city of Butler, Lytle said.
The LIFE program facilities are similar to an adult day care center, and the centers are open eight or nine hours a day, Monday through Friday. Emergency medical service is available at all times. Buses are provided to transport seniors to and from their homes and to doctor's appointments.
"A lot of our participants have ASA (automated security alert) monitors to signal 911 if they fall, are ill or need help in any way," Lytle said. "Depending on individuals' needs, some might have home care with visiting nurses."
Participating in the LIFE-Beaver County program has made life "a lot easier" for Monaca resident Maralee Blanchard, 67, a diabetic who has suffered a couple of heart attacks.
"I really love it. I enjoy participating in the exercise class. My goal is to ride the bikes," she said. "I don't have transportation, so this allows me to get out of the house and visit with other people."
Mary Lou Harju, marketing manager for the LIFE programs in Beaver and Butler counties, said she has received numerous letters from participants' families praising the program.
"Response from the community has been extremely favorable. It's a good alternative for seniors, providing both a medical component and socialization," Harju said.
"That combination is the best formula for keeping older adults healthy and well."