Festival teaches Columbia seniors about assisted living, health care choices

Saturday, August 29, 2009 | 3:36 p.m. CDT; updated 11:09 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 3, 2009
June Grote talks to Lt. Debbie Sorrell about the benefits of Columbia for retirement at the Mature Living Festival on Aug. 28, 2009. June Grote travelled from Corpus Christi, Texas, to visit her daughter.

While waiting to learn of Columbia's services for seniors, 85-year-old June Grote taps her foot in time with "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey?"


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Approximately 500 seniors mill about the Holiday Inn Expo Center Friday for the 19th Annual Mature Living Festival. The Boone County Council on Aging hosts the event every year to better inform those who are retired on their options for health care and assisted living.

Grote has always had a love for music, of that she is sure: her mother was a piano teacher and passed on her passion to all five of her children. But when it comes to leaving her home and deciding what facility or arrangement is most suited for her, she is less certain. She does not want to burden her family, but she would like to stay close to them.

“It is more or less finding out what they offer and seeing if I’m qualified,” she said. “Because so far I’m not ... But I want to be close, I want to be close to my daughter.”

Proximity is an issue for many parents on the brink of transitioning into a senior care facility when their children and family are not nearby.

Grote is from the coastal town of Corpus Christi, Texas, but has been staying with her daughter in Columbia to look into her options.

Reflecting back over her years, it is clear Grote has lived a full life. She taught school and raised cattle. She moved to Texas with her husband, Gordon, and bought a motel called Rock Lodge. They ran the motel together until Gordon’s death in 1997, and she sold it three years later in 2000.

“I enjoyed the people,” she said of her time running the motel. “I worked hard, though, and met a lot of people from Texas and everywhere else. A lot of people from Canada.”

Following her husband’s death, Grote lived on her own for 12 years, but recently she discovered she could not live on her own forever. She started falling down.

"I took treatments to get my balance back, but then Medicare stopped (paying for) that,” she said.

With Medicare costs on the rise and less coverage for some seniors already on a plan,  living on a fixed income with doctors' bills makes life more stressful.

“I’m in limbo,” Grote said.

On the other hand, some seniors are finding retirement enjoyable, though less secure than in the past.

Sam and Joyce Davee are veterans of the Mature Living Festival and enjoy interacting with their fellow attendees while gathering information as well as unlimited freebies.

Married for 53 years, the couple seems to go everywhere hand in hand. Sam, 73, wears a red baseball cap reading, in bold letters, “RETIRED and driving the wife crazy.” But judging from the way Joyce, 74, in matching red, finishes her husband’s sentences, it seems nothing could be further from the truth.

The couple still lives independently and currently has no plans to move to a senior living community, though when the time comes, they know where to go for the information. Already retired for about 15 years, the couple is glad they took advantage of retiring when they did.

“We thought about it (when) we were younger, like 58,” Joyce said. “But they offered a really good program at the University at that year end, so we thought it was our chance to get out with a good retirement.”

According to a study earlier this year by the Urban Institute, more seniors are staying in the job market to make ends meet because of the decline in secure retirement plans and the increase of the normal retirement age to 66.

Both worked for the University of Missouri, Joyce for the School of Nursing and School of Education for 28 years, and Sam as an equipment operator.

The couple does not hesitate when speaking about their hopes for the future.

“We hope our health holds out, and we can stay in our home," Joyce said.


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