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Planning process continues for Elders facility

Observer Staff

11/5/2003 12:00:00 AM

The new Elders' facility is expected be a great place to live and to gather. It will be a focal point where Elders can enjoy conversations with friends, have family get-togethers and participate in exercise and other fun activities. For some, it will be a place to live independently or with assistance from nurses, families and friends.

The Seniors Facility Planning Committee and Tribal Council-appointed Elders Advisory Board are actively planning the direction of the facility, its design and programs that will be offered.

The committee consists of members from the current and previous Elders Advisory Board, representation from Districts 2 and 3, Tribal Council liaisons, staff and consultants. Committee members include Lorna Call, Lester Chippeway, Sr., Eleanor Ebright, Joyce Godbey, Harold Gould, Gerald McDonald, Grace Pego, and Carol Shanks. Alternate members are Barbara Krause and Delores Laban. Planning Committee members are Shirley Day, Josephine Jackson and Oliver Leaureaux. Tribal Council members on the committee are District 1 Tribal Council Representative Tim Davis and District 2 Tribal Council Representative Connie Freiburger.

The actual process began several years ago when Tribal Council allocated funds to establish and build a large center for seniors that would include independent living, assisted living and nursing home level of care. A conceptual drawing of the facility was produced by the architectural firm Dow, Howell and Gilmore of Midland. This concept set the pace for the initial planning process and has been a backdrop of thoughtful development and discussion.

"The need for the Elders facility is growing," stated Lisa Kennedy, Seniors Program director at the Sowmick Senior Center and lead manager of the new Elders facility. "The planning process itself is moving on a fast track in order to make the new facility a reality and focal point for our Elders."

The Planning Committee meets weekly to accommodate the fast track pace. The committee is involved in the determination of the types of services to be offered at the new facility as well as how many independent or assisted living units should be designed to meet the increasing needs of our Elders. The committee has identified several policy issues to be addressed and will develop the financial pathways needed to operate the facility once it opens.

The Planning Committee implemented a needs assessment survey which was mailed to 645 Elder Tribal members, with over 25 percent returning completed surveys. Survey results are being tabulated and will provide crucial information that will impact decisions in the future such as how many units should be available, the health and physical limitations of the Elder population and the level of usage of the facility by Elders. Once the survey results are finalized, they will be presented to the community, the Elders' Advisory Board and Tribal Council.

Consultant Paul Johnson assisted the Planning Committee with a strategic process to determine the basic foundation of the Vision, Mission and Guiding Principles for the new facility. The end result of this process is the following mission statement:

Our mission is to create a multipurpose Elder resource that will build, in partnership with the Tribal community, a dynamic and supportive network which anticipates, identifies and meets the needs of our older Tribal citizens. We will strive to maximize the opportunities for our Elders to lead independent, healthy, active lives to the extent of their ability, to promote lifelong learning and independence, and encourage participation to enhance the quality of life for all.

"This powerful statement sums up what we need to do to support our growing Elder population and sets the direction for all future activity," added Kennedy

The Planning Committee has also completed the intensive process of architect selection for the new facility with Johnson's assistance.

"It is time to begin determining the design of the facility based on the new research so tha the most suitable environment and service package can be created," said Kennedy.

The committee sent invitations for architectural design services to more than ten architectural firms and reduced the number to four for the interview process. Interviews of the viable candidates occurred on Sept. 10. This selection process will be finalized with Tribal Council over the next few weeks.

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe is on the cutting edge in designing long term care and housing services. Few such facilities are available in Indian Country throughout the United States. This new facility has the potential of becoming a model for the rest of the nation. It is anticipated that the design phase, site selection, program development process and construction will occur over the next couple of years with grand opening slated for 2006.

For more information on the project or if there are any questions or comments, contact Kennedy at the Sowmick Senior Center or by calling (989) 775-4593.