Bill to aid seniors living in own homes released

TRENTON – A bill to assist seniors aging in their own homes advanced in the Senate Health Committee today. The vote was 6-0-2. Sens. Sam Thompson and Dawn Marie Addiego abstained.

S1796/A353 would set up a pilot program: Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.

Such a community is a residential area in which there is a high concentration of elderly residents, where the housing is generally low or moderate income, and in which the housing was not built with the intention of housing the elderly.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Shirley Turner, (D-15), Trenton, would appropriate $250,000 to help provide for such residents social services, health care, mental health care, on-site nursing, and more.

Turner said the bill is more important than ever in view of the scarce resources available.  “This would allow our seniors to age in place,’’ she said.

She said staying at home is more beneficial health-wise and economically. She said this program would save Medicaid and other costs.

Emily Greenfield, professor of social work at Rutgers University, Marilyn Askin of ARC New Jersey, and the State Association of Jewish Federations were among those in support of the pilot program.

Greenfield, who has studied this issue, said the bill recognizes innovations taking place in society in terms of access to needed mental health and other services.

The demonstration project will provide resources for a “robust” evaluation, she told the committee.

Sen. Robert Singer raised concerns about the cost, as well as why Ocean County was not selected for the pilot considering its large senior population.

He said, however, he supports it because it is an attempt to do things better, but he cautioned that society has turned its back on the mental health and senior population. “These are big problems, and there is very little money,’’ he said.

Bill to aid seniors living in own homes released