Hats off to St. Anthony Park Area Seniors!

One in eight Americans are over 65 years old and the senior population is expected to double by 2030.

Nobody feels the weight of our increasingly aging population more than the board of St. Anthony Park Area Seniors (SAPAS).

An organization that began in 1981 as the St. Anthony Park Block Nurse Program (the original block nurse program in the country), SAPAS just completed an assessment process with the Wilder Foundation to figure out where the organization should go from here. The program began more than three decades ago to help seniors stay in their homes by providing nursing care and other support services. Now, the bulk of that work has been taken over by health care and social service agencies, and SAPAS is looking for new ways to serve aging residents who live in St. Anthony Park, Lauderdale and the western area of Falcon Heights.

Through May and June SAPAS board members met with focus groups to ask what people in the baby boom generation and beyond would like to see the group offer to the community. What did they find out? That people here want to stay in their community as they age. And we live in an aging community where half the households have no children under 18 and one- third of the residents are 55 and older.

At a Sept. 16 public meeting at Luther Seminary, SAPAS shared the results of the focus groups and asked the nearly 100 people in attendance how the group can best serve area seniors and their caregivers. Should the group be advocating for the creation of “senior-friendly” housing in the area? Or work to enhance public transportation options for seniors who want to stay mobile? Affordable housing? Community events? Caregiver support?

These questions kicked up a lively discussion and plenty for the SAPAS board to work with in the coming months as the organization maps its future.

It’s impressive that this volunteer board has invested the time and resources to reassess its future. But what’s most impressive is that this group has reached out to the community it serves to ask people what they want from the group and what the community perceives as SAPAS’s role in the community.

SAPAS has set a standard for other neighborhood groups.

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