Aging, not ranging

As retirees’ needs increase with age, services would come to them at TigerPlace
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:02 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

By some estimates, the population of people over the age of 65 will more than double, to 77 million, by 2030, increasing the need for long-term care for seniors. But the typical nursing home isn’t where the next generation of seniors want to find themselves.

TigerPlace, scheduled to open in June, is an alternative living place for the elderly population. MU and Americare Systems Inc., a Sikeston company, that specializes in senior residential care, have created the project based on the concept of “aging in place.” The approach allows residents to stay in their apartments and, as their needs increase, have services brought to them.

“The idea behind this is, move into this really cool place and as your health-care needs increase, you don’t have to move,” said Charles Servey, executive director of TigerPlace. “You can stay right here and get your care.”

Most senior housing facilities require residents to move as their needs increase. Seniors might start at an independent living facility, move to a residential-care facility and eventually to a nursing home as they need more asssistance. Older adults who remain in their homes have a higher quality of life, according to research by Karen Marek, the director of the Aging in Place project at MU. Marek found that they are more likely to be mobile, have less memory loss and be less depressed than their peers in nursing homes. The average age of participants in the Aging in Place project is 85.

TigerPlace is the cornerstone of the Aging in Place project, said Marilyn Rantz, a nursing professor and director of the TigerPlace project. Located at 2910 Bluff Creek Drive in southeast Columbia, TigerPlace will have 33 apartments, ranging from 445 square feet to almost 1,000 square feet. Each apartment has a screened-in porch, a washer and dryer and a fully equipped kitchen. Monthly rents will range from $2,200 to $3,100 and include housekeeping, a transportation service and two meals a day.

Making TigerPlace a reality has taken years of research and planning by faculty from the Sinclair School of Nursing and other disciplines on campus. In fall 2001, Rose Porter, dean of the nursing school, asked Americare to become a partner in the project.

The completed facility will reflect elements of the MU campus. Upon first arriving at TigerPlace, residents will see a replica of Jesse Dome on the roof. They’ll be greeted in the dining room by MU’s historic Columns. There is even a small bar and lounge area reminiscent of “The Shack,” the former campus hangout.

“Everyone here will pretty much be alums,” Servey said, “or we will make them alums.”

TigerPlace will offer a “social model” for senior care, Servey said, although the medical model isn’t forgotten. Everything in the facility will meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Senior Care, the nursing school’s licensed home health agency, will provide health services to residents. Nursing students will receive additional clinical experience at TigerPlace, Porter said.

But nursing students aren’t the only ones contributing to the project. The TigerPlace Pet Initiative, TiPPI, will offer an exam room for residents’ pets, staffed by MU veterinary students. The idea for TiPPI evolved from research about the health benefits for older adults who have pets, said Rebecca Johnson, a Millsap professor of gerontological nursing and an adjunct professor in veterinary medicine.

“They provide social support and can be a motivator for older adults to get out and walk,” she said.

Porter said a group of MU engineering students have applied for a grant to develop sensors that would turn on the lights when a resident gets out of bed.

Servey said about 30 percent of the apartments have been rented. If the response to the new facility is positive and the current apartments fill up, there is potential to expand in two to four years.

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