Northwest News

Issue 56

Levy helps county's senior citizens stay home


The Franklin County Office on Aging will ask homeowners to pay a little bit more to help local senior citizens stay in their homes longer.

The agency, which supports independent living among seniors, is seeking voter approval of Issue 56, a five-year, 1.3-mill senior-services levy that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

If approved, the issue, an increase from the 0.9 mills set to expire at the end of the year, will cost homeowners $39.81 a year per $100,000 in home value -- a $12.79 increase. It is expected to raise $34 million annually for Franklin County Senior Options, the name of the program.

The agency is facing the "silver tsunami" -- an expansion of the senior population by 25 percent to 33 percent by 2020, said Antonia Carroll, director of the office. The agency also is facing a $1.62 million annual deficit because of the state's elimination of the tangible personal property tax and declining property values, she said.

"We expect to have a lot more demand for services," she said. "Even with the increase it's very small, but historically it has not kept pace with demographics."

The agency, whose yearly budget currently is $31 million, annually provides 550,000 home-delivered meals, 1.3 million miles of medical transportation and 18,000 days of adult day care. In 2011, the office on aging served 56,000 people.

"So this community has a lot invested in these services to help seniors stay safe at home," she said.

Carroll said Senior Options has demonstrable value: It costs $6,000 a month for nursing-home care, compared to $1,000 a month for home care.

"For the taxpayer and from a public-policy standpoint, it is less expensive to keep people at home as long as possible -- and it's their personal preference," said Carroll, whose office has 70 employees working for Senior Options.

Cindy Farson, director of the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging, which partners with the Franklin County Office on Aging, said she's seen the success of home health-care programs such as PASSPORT, a statewide alternative to nursing-home care. When it was launched in 1984, 92 percent of Ohio seniors got their health care at nursing homes. Today, that number is 58 percent, while 42 percent receive care at home, she said.

"I think most people realize there is a comfort to having your things around you," she said. "It just makes a difference in the quality of your life. And technology has changed so much, health care can be done at home."