New Program Aims to Help Ohioans Age in Place

Posted on 03/31/24 by Stacey Shepard

Dennis Eads, 76, spent four years trying to get in-home help with laundry, running errands and other basic tasks. He qualified for county-funded aid but the agencies he tried provided spotty service, and paying someone more reliable out of his own pocket proved costly on his limited income.

That’s when Eads, who has emphysema and can no longer drive, learned about AddnAide, an app that connects care providers in the gig economy with older adults. It takes care of background checks and payment, which in Eads’ case could be covered by a county government program.

“Best service I ever had, honestly,” says the Cincinnati resident.

The state’s new Healthy Aging Grants program helps to increase access to services like AddnAide that help older Ohioans live independently at home for longer. It is distributing a total of $40 million across the state, with most counties receiving a minimum of $100,000. The funding is part of a broader push by the state to better address the needs of a rapidly aging population.

From 2010 to 2020, the number of Ohio residents under age 65 fell by 2.4 percent, while the 65-plus population grew by 31 percent, U.S. Census Bureau data shows.

Already, demand for services like meal deliveries, transportation and home modifications is “skyrocketing” and straining local providers, says Ken Wilson, vice president of programs and business operations for the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio, which provides services in five counties and is one of 12 area agencies on aging in the state.

“When programs and services are not available that help people be safe and healthy in their homes, they have to go to nursing homes in many cases,” says Kalitha Williams, AARP Ohio’s outreach and advocacy manager.

AARP Ohio strongly urged the governor and state lawmakers to include the Healthy Aging Grants program in the state’s fiscal 2024–25 budget.

Keeping decisions local

Thanks to a combined nearly $4 million in Healthy Aging Grants to four of the counties it serves, the Southwest Ohio agency is expanding its existing services, such as meal deliveries and housing and utility assistance. The funds have already helped close to 1,300 residents, and Wilson says he expects that number to triple in the coming months.

In Butler, Hamilton and Warren counties, the agency is using the money to help train residents to use the AddnAide online platform, which is similar to apps for finding childcare or pet-sitting. In Butler County, it’s also using the money for FastTrack Home, a no-cost, short-term transitional care program that provides help to older residents returning home from a nursing facility.

The grants are a part of a comprehensive state plan on aging that was heavily informed by data showing disparities in life expectancy among Ohioans depending on where they lived in the state. A key question is how to deliver services more equitably to older residents, with some counties having much higher revenue than others, says Ursel McElroy, director of the Ohio Department of Aging.

McElroy says that after an initial $100,000, counties receive additional funds based on the number of older residents financially at risk of needing to enter Medicaid, the government health care program for low-income Americans. Counties then disburse the money to providers. It was important to keep the decision-making about what services to fund at the local level, she notes. “They know their communities.”

While the grant funding is a onetime appropriation, McElroy hopes to change that.

“How do you turn a onetime investment into an ongoing commitment? You demonstrate its effectiveness,” she says.

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Increasing Coordinated Care for Adults


To help more Ohioans age at home, the state is expanding a comprehensive medical and social services program for older adults commonly known as PACE.

The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly is a model of care that provides preventive, primary, acute and long-term care services—along with supports like meals and transportation—for adults 55 and older who would otherwise need nursing home care.

The state is expanding PACE to nine counties: Ashtabula, Franklin, Hamilton, Lorain, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Summit and Trumbull.

“It really is going to benefit thousands of older Ohioans,” says state Rep. Bill Roemer (R-Richfield), who sponsored legislation in 2022 to grow the program.

The new PACE centers will provide better-coordinated care for older patients, says Kalitha Williams, outreach and advocacy manager for AARP Ohio. For instance, centers may have interdisciplinary teams that include doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, dietitians, recreational therapists and other providers, Williams says.

Contracts for the new sites were announced in December, and facilities should open in the next few years. Learn more at aging.ohio.gov/pace.

Stacey Shepard, a California-based journalist, writes about health care, the environment and other issues.

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