The Clearwater/St. Petersburg area in Florida is rich in resources for seniors and there is a supportive community of eldercare business and services. The Better Living for Seniors group of professionals is one example of this, a group which has been in existence for many years and has a large, strong membership, while many areas of the country are just starting to form such groups and network amongst senior living professionals. Better Living for Seniors Pinellas is an organization that supports the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas and offers diverse benefits to members, from networking to sharing information and supporting local causes benefiting elders (such as the upcoming Elves for Elders program, which provides needed items to indigent seniors).

What has created such a rich senior services community in Pinellas County and Tampa Bay? This area has different demographics that most of the country. Whereas many communities are now facing the aging of their population, Pinellas County seniors have been aging in place for some time. Here are some statistics from Clearwater’s Office on Aging that demonstrate this:

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Clearwater had the highest proportion of residents aged 65 years and older (21.5 percent) for those cities with a population of 100,000 or more.

In 2006, Clearwater’s percentage of residents age 65 or older had risen to 22 percent of the population.

In 2000, Clearwater had the highest median age of any U.S. city, 41.8 years.

In 2006, Clearwater’s median age had risen to 45.7 years of age, which reflects a significant increase in just six years.

In 2000, Clearwater had the highest percentage of its population over the age of 85 (3.4 percent). In 2006, Clearwater’s population of residents age 85 or older had risen to 4.1 percent.

So, what lessons can be learned by other areas and how can seniors and families benefit from the experience and resources in the Tampa Bay community?

  1. Networking and working together strengthens senior care organizations and can lead to better results for the elderly in the community.  Better Living for Seniors is one example, but the day-to-day ability to refer clients to various providers for different eldercare needs is where family caregivers benefit most.  Private companies can often pull together to help support non-profit and governmental agencies in times of struggle as well.
  2. Competition is a good thing, especially for seniors and their families.  It means there are more options and companies have to be strong in service to survive.  The downside of this is it can be overwhelming to navigate through all the options available.  Our Aging Wisely care managers help families with geriatric assessments and recommendations for just this reason.
  3. Family caregivers can benefit from getting referrals and recommendations from trusted professionals.  For example, does your loved one’s doctor or attorney have suggestions for where to go for eldercare assistance?
  4. Treat senior care as you would other “purchases”.  Too often in healthcare and eldercare, a family is in crisis and navigating unchartered territory so they may neglect to ask questions that they normally would or expect good customer service.  This is why we started EasyLiving home care, with the philosophy that we would strive every day to provide the type of home health care we would want for Mom or Dad.

If you don’t know where to start in locating eldercare resources for an aging parent (no matter if you are in Florida or elsewhere), your local Area Agency on Aging is a good resource.  An eldercare consultation with Aging Wisely may help you save time and money as well (we offer these via telephone to family caregivers across the nation)-contact us for more information at 727-448-0900.

You may also want to read our Five Tips for Finding a Quality Senior Home Health Provider.