Since 1974, Phoenix’s Foundation for Senior Living (FSL) has provided in-home and community-based services and developed energy-efficient, affordable housing to promote health, independence and dignity for all. In addition, FSL aids the aging population by hosting adult day centers, providing access to nutritious food and much more.
Tom Egan, president and CEO of FSL, discusses Arizona’s great need for affordable housing and how the pandemic has created a 45 percent growth in nutrition needs for FSL’s community.
What is your greatest reward in being involved with FSL? What about the biggest challenge?
The greatest reward in working on the mission of FSL is helping tens of thousands of my fellow Arizonans each year. One of the unique things about working at FSL is that I have received so many phone calls from friends who have caregiving questions, asking to talk to someone about their parents, their spouse or their adult children. It is amazing how my staff and I are able to help them directly or connect them to one of our community partners.
The biggest challenge facing FSL is that the needs of our community will always be far greater than the means to provide for everyone.
What are you finding is the most important need at this time? Have the needs shifted between now and when FSL was founded in the 70’s?
When FSL was founded, the intent was to raise money to build homes for the aging population. Early on, we realized that most people wanted to remain in their own homes, so we began developing in-home and community-based programs, like home healthcare and adult day centers. More than 45 years later, there is still a great need for affordable housing; Arizona ranks third worst in the entire nation for access to affordable housing. And 87 percent of seniors still wish to stay home as long as possible. We offer the types of assistance required to remain at home including affordable rents, access to nutritious food, home improvements, health care, in home assistance and social services like utility payment programs.
What has changed for FSL during the pandemic?
With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing the needs increase for all of the programs listed above. There is a 45 percent increase in requests for nutrition, including home-delivered meals and congregate meals. One of our senior centers remains closed to the public so 100 percent of those meals are being packaged for delivery. After a six-month closure, one of our three adult day health centers reopened and is serving clients from all centers as our census slowly grows. We are experiencing staffing shortages in several of our direct healthcare programs and are incurring increased expenses by hiring staffing agency support. We also had to cancel our in-person fundraising event in March 2020 and are still researching options for an event, either virtual or in-person, in 2021.
What are your goals for FSL for 2021?
Our most important goal for 2021 is to continue to support our communities through this pandemic. While we all hope that we will start to see a return to normal, we believe the impacts of this pandemic will be felt for the next few years. It is important that we listen and respond to the needs of our community as they continue to shift and change.
How can the readers contribute to FSL?
Donations can be made online at www.fsl.org/donate or by phone at 602.285.1800. All donations are tax-deductible and qualify for the Arizona Charitable Tax Credit, returning a dollar-for-dollar credit on your state taxes.