Saturday, August 10, 2013
In many states, the "county home" is a dying institution. Some would say, "good riddance," and yet a careful review of the history of public care for older adults reveals states with well-run, publicly-supported alternatives for long-term care.
Arizona has a unique history. In 1909, handwritten-legislation was enacted in the territory to establish a house "for aged and infirm Arizona pioneers." Designed by female architect W.S. Elliot, construction was completed in 1911, a year before Arizona was admitted as the 48th state. Admission criteria required proof that an individual had been a resident of Arizona "for not less than twenty-five years and ... active in the development of Arizona ... and who shall have reached the age of sixty years or over."
Now in its 102nd year of operation, the Arizona Pioneers' Home has capacity for 150 residents. It continues with funding from several sources, including state land trusts, a miner's hospital fund, and the state's general fund. In addition, residents pay for a portion of their care, according to their incomes. The annual budget is reported to be appoximately $50 million.
Criteria for admission has changed over the years. The threshold age for admission is now 70 and residents must have a history of at least 50 years of residency in the state, with more relaxed standards for miners.
Situated on a hill with dramatic views overlooking Prescott (the mile-high territorial capital for Arizona), the Arizona Pioneer's Home is a well-known landmark. The state and its residents appear to take pride in its history, with a website devoted to famous (and sometimes infamous) early residents of the house. The home and grounds have been kept up-to-date.
Perhaps that sense of pride explains the state's continuing public commitment to care.