Making The Golden Years More Golden (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Making the Golden Years More Golden

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:20:50
Welcome back to "Metro Connection," I'm Rebecca Sheir. And today, we're talking about elders and aging. And when you talk about that kind of thing, there's a phrase you tend to hear an awful lot, the golden years. You know, that time after retirement when you finally can kick back and relax. It's often said the golden years are the best years of your life.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:21:11
In fact, I actually came upon this website embracingyourretirement.com. And it seeks to teach the ins and outs of, I quote, "Mining the gold in your golden years." But what if you get to your so-called golden years and there isn't a whole lot of gold to be mined?

MR. COURTNEY WILLIAMS

13:21:30
Seventeen percent of the elderly population was at or below the poverty level. We're talking about $11,000 for one person.

SHEIR

13:21:38
And even beyond that 17 percent, says Courtney Williams of the D.C. Office on Aging...

WILLIAMS

13:21:44
There's a lot more people just above the poverty level who barely make it.

SHEIR

13:21:47
Williams says these seniors face two main challenges in D.C. The first, being health care.

WILLIAMS

13:21:53
Always, the cost of health care, the out-of-pocket cost.

SHEIR

13:21:56
And the second.

WILLIAMS

13:21:57
Housing is an extremely big issue because of the affordability of housing here. You know, D.C. is very high. And according to AARP study that was done several years ago, 90 percent of the people say they don't want to move out of their home. They want to stay in their own home for the rest of their lives.

SHEIR

13:22:13
But sometimes staying at home, aging in place, just isn't possible. Maybe your health care needs are such that you require special services or you simply can't afford to keep your home. That's where a place like the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home comes in. The old Georgian mansion on Western Avenue in Northwest, D.C. offers housing and health care along with activities such as cooking, field trips.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 1

13:22:38
I-29.

SHEIR

13:22:40
And like so many senior care facilities...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 2

13:22:42
G-55.

SHEIR

13:22:44
...bingo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE 3

13:22:45
Bingo on the other card, whoa.

MS. SUE HARGREAVES

13:22:48
If we tried to take bingo away from the residents, there would be a sit-in and walkers would be thrown.

SHEIR

13:22:53
And yet, says administrator, Sue Hargreaves, even with the ubiquitous bingo, something rather particular sets the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home apart from the other dozen and a half long-term care facilities in the district.

HARGREAVES

13:23:05
We are the only ones that turn away money.

SHEIR

13:23:09
In other words, as a charitable home, they cater solely to indigent and modest income seniors.

HARGREAVES

13:23:15
So if someone can come in and could afford to pay privately for their life expectancy, we turn them away because they've got options that the residents we take care of do not have.

SHEIR

13:23:26
Some of these residents, Hargreaves says, have fallen on hard times.

HARGREAVES

13:23:30
You've got people that we've taken from shelters, people who, you know, just had really bad luck, psychiatric issues.

SHEIR

13:23:37
With others, well, as the average life span increases...

HARGREAVES

13:23:40
They've outlived their money. We had one resident I can think of that her husband was, like, a well renowned architect, but the money ran out.

SHEIR

13:23:49
And still, others were never that well off to begin with.

HARGREAVES

13:23:53
So when people come, why don't families give money? Well, a lot of the families are struggling themselves.

SHEIR

13:23:58
Seventy-nine year old, Alvin Ward is a native Washingtonian whose daughter transferred him from a facility in Maryland after he lost his second leg to diabetes.

MR. ALVIN WARD

13:24:07
Where I was at, they wasn't taking care of me. I was getting bed things, wouldn’t change me too often and all that stuff. I just wanted to just fade away.

SHEIR

13:24:19
At first, his daughter didn't know where to take him.

WARD

13:24:21
She was crying all the time because she knew how miserable I was.

SHEIR

13:24:25
And then she heard about the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home.

WARD

13:24:27
And I -- as soon as I came here, you know, I started to get inspired because I say, well, I can get another leg. So I started exercising and all that. So now I can shave and go to the bathroom by myself. And I can almost take care of myself.

SHEIR

13:24:41
In fact, Sue Hargreaves says, Ward soon might move from the nursing facility to the assisted living residence. He isn't quite ready for the community residential facility where residents live a lot more independently, but no matter where they stay at the home, in terms of fees...

HARGREAVES

13:24:56
They pay what they can.

SHEIR

13:24:57
Most of them, Hargreaves says, are covered by Medicaid.

HARGREAVES

13:25:00
Whatever income they have, from SSI or Social Security, helps defray their cost and then Medicaid pays the difference and certainly we take a loss on every individual.

SHEIR

13:25:11
A loss which last year alone, she says, totaled nearly a million and a half dollars. So given all that, you might wonder, how does the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home stay afloat?

HARGREAVES

13:25:21
We're just a phenomena in this universe.

SHEIR

13:25:25
Perhaps, but you'll also find a clue in the home's name. The renowned local philanthropist, Abraham Lisner, actually designated in his will to establish a home that eventually became the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home. Plus, says Hargreaves...

HARGREAVES

13:25:38
We do have an endowment that helps us augment the bare minimum, but people have to support that endowment because if we kept augmenting the way we needed to and as un-funded mandates come down the pike, and then expenses that aren't being reimbursed, it would be gone fairly quickly.

SHEIR

13:25:56
There's also their big annual fundraiser, an art sale featuring original works by residents. In fact, if you've ever visited the restaurant Sushiko in Chevy Chase...

HARGREAVES

13:26:05
All the artwork is from the residents, in the bathrooms, over the sushi bar.

SHEIR

13:26:09
And that makes the entire home proud, Hargreaves says. Because it's just one way the community is showing its appreciation of seniors.

HARGREAVES

13:26:17
There is so much wisdom. What they have to share and to give is unbelievable. I wouldn’t get married to my current husband until I got approval from the residents. I wanted some of my closest resident friends to give me the thumbs up with him. They're smart.

SHEIR

13:26:34
And in a city where so many seniors are struggling to get by, at least these seniors might be seeing their golden years, well, become a little bit more golden. The Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home holds its 3rd annual resident art show and sale on May 26th. To learn more and to see photos of residents and their artwork, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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