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Stakeholders discuss developing assisted living resources

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It's considered long overdue and today stakeholders gathered to discuss efforts to finally move forward with assisted living that would not only benefit the island's man'amko, but the families that take care of them.

Carol Darlow may be the chair of the Statewide Independent Living Council along with being on the board of several disabilities organizations, but she's shares a common experience with many on island. "I'm elderly as well and I'm concerned about what's going to happen when we need care and I've also cared for a family member whom we eventually had to take off-island because care was not available here," she told KUAM News.

During an informational meeting Wednesday morning at the Guam Legislature, Darlow told lawmakers she actually had to quit her job to help take care of a family member who needed assisted living. "There's an urgency to get something established here," she added.

Stakeholders from both the public and private sector joined the roundtable including Dr. Vincent Akimoto, who is behind a group developing a form of assisted living on Guam. "This is the war reparations generation," the physician said. "Within the next 15 years, many of them will be dead - the baby boomers will turn 90 within the next 17 years, so this urgency is because people need the resources now, they needed it for the last five years. Why should we move this fiscal year to solve this problem? Because we must."

Dr. Akimoto says while there are current options for elderly on Guam such as Guma Trankilidat and St. Dominics, they only provide limited services and space. No assisted living resources however are available on Guam. Akimoto said, "The big picture is we want to give our elderly on Guam, the best that's available. We want to improve their lives and improve the lives of their families and make it easier for us all to stay here. We want to use all the assets we have."

Dr. Akimoto says he is also working with national experts. It was last year when the physician made a presentation before the Chamorro Land Trust Commission on the intent of using the Ypao Point property for the project. He told lawmakers Wednesday that while it doesn't necessarily have to be on government land, what they do need is the government's bi-partisan support on policies, to help remove unnecessary roadblocks and to attract investors. Part of that assistance is coming from economist Dr. Roseanne Jones from the University of Guam.

She's working on a feasibility study that will show the impact of how our elderly and their family members leave off-island, explaining, "So our economy is not as prosperous on lots of level - one, its productivity in the workforce; and two is we're losing our money to other island communities or other communities that are taking advantage of having funds reimbursed their system."

The study will also break down demographics and the population for assisted living along with the ability to pay for it - all helpful for future investors. And for Darlow, she says the time to invest is now considering the number of developmental disabilities is increasing every year in children. "And I would just like to make a plea that we take a look at this because as a grandparent who's a caregiver for a child with severe disabilities, and she'll never live alone without some kind of assistance. I'm getting older and what do we do with our kids like this," she said. "It is a problem, it's a big problem and it's something that we have to address now."

Health Committee chair Senator Dennis Rodriguez Jr. says more hearings will be scheduled to ensure assisted living moves forward on Guam.

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