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New Facility for Alzheimer's Patients Not Nearly Enough

A new facility for older Austinites is scheduled to open soon in south Austin. It will serve those with memory impairments like Alzheimer’s or dementia. The “Silverado Senior Living” plans to house 90 people.  Right now, the only facilities like it are in Round Rock.  But, the needs of Austin’s elderly population continue to grow at a fast pace.

Silverado Senior Living is a private facility. Loren Shook is the company’s CEO.  He says “there are thousands of people within the city of Austin that are suffering from this disease [Alzheimer’s] and we are very confident there is sufficient resources in the market for people to afford our services ”

But the Austin area also has many people who cannot afford Silverado’s services.

The region’s cost of living continues to rise, and many local service providers simply aren’t equipped to deal with a growing older population.

There is a retirement community in east Austin for low-income elderly people called Lyons Gardens.  Employee Mary Shetty greets me at the door. She says the facility has 53 apartments. One of Lyons Gardens’ jewels is its courtyard.  “There’s a pond in the middle” says Shetty.  But there isn’t a single apartment available. “We have a waiting list of more than a year.” Shetty says.  “Almost all the public housing places and the other affordable low-income housing there’s usually, at least 6 months, if not more waiting list.”

Census data shows an enormous increase in the raw population numbers of residents aged over 65. Housing options, both traditional and special needs, are limited for this population; so are existing transportation and medical services. Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell has called together a task force on aging to focus on how Austin can better meet those needs. He says “for a change [it] is nice to try to get ahead of a problem.” 

Leffingwell credits Austin’s recent decision to begin the process of building a medical school as a good first step. He says “a lot of the services that will be provided by the teaching hospital deal with problems that are unique to an older population such as mental acuity problems, memory loss and so forth.”

The Task Force on Aging will present its short and long term recommendations to city council this summer. 

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.