Elderbuilders Helps Homebound Residents Preserve Independence

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"Aging -- if it's not your issue, it will be."

That's the slogan of the Elderbuilders program.

"Unless they find some magic potion, aging is something we all will experience," Jeannie Filson, community development specialist for Elderbuilders said. "Hopefully we will be healthy and have friends and family around to help us, but that's not always the case."

The Elderbuilders program, funded by Gila Aging Services, assists home-bound elderly and disabled residents in Payson and surrounding areas with anything from transportation and light housekeeping to companionship.

"It seems that whenever people have to give up their homes and go into assisted living, they go downhill," Filson said. "Part of our mission at Elderbuilders is to provide services that allow people to stay in their homes longer."

When a person in need is referred to Elderbuilders, Filson first meets with them and assesses their situation.

"If a client is referred to me, I would get with them and find out what their needs are and from that I match them up with the volunteer," Filson said. "If it's someone who needs meals, or hands-on care, we first refer them to Gila Aging Services."

If nursing care is needed, case manager Nancy Kopp, who shares the office with Elderbuilders, does an assessment to determine if the person may be eligible for home-care and other types of assistance that Elderbuilders does not provide.

Both programs are for low-income clients, but Elderbuilders does not require proof of income.

"Arizona is the 13th highest in poverty in the United States," Filson said. "And in rural areas, especially, we have a lot of poverty."

Elderbuilders currently has four volunteers who assist four clients.

"We are a new program and as I go around speaking to groups, I hear about many who need our services," Filson said. "I expect to have more clients as well as more volunteers by the end of the year."

Filson's job as community development specialist has been to get the program going in Payson.

A similar program in Globe has been operating for two years.

"My focus is to have the program in place and running by the end of the year.

"I am currently looking for people to be on the advisory council," Filson said. "We want input from a cross-section of the community so it could be a volunteer -- even a client could be on the council."

Elderbuilders is a nonprofit organization and welcomes donations from individuals or businesses.

"We hope to soon have a volunteer to answer the phone, but right now we just have an answering machine that we check often so we can get back to people quickly," Filson said.

"Our goal is really to help enhance quality of life and contribute to the independence and dignity of our clients," she said.

"It's also an insurance policy for the younger set. In establishing this program, we are preparing for their future."

To contact Elderbuilders, call 468-0546.

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