In 2014, the Tennessee Attorney General recovered $40.1 million from the dissolution of two nonprofit nursing homes in Murfreesboro, TN (State of Tennessee vs. SeniorTrust of Florida, Inc. Case No. 11-1548-III and State of Tennessee vs. ElderTrust of Florida, Inc. Case No. 12-1283-IV (III)). The funds were under the auspices of the Chancery Court of Davidson County, with Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle presiding. In late 2016, Chancellor Lyle ruled that the “funds shall be used to sustain and improve the quality of life for the elderly of Tennessee”. The Chancellor’s ruling called for the following:
$5 million was awarded to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to administer a statewide grant process to address immediate needs of senior serving agencies.
$35 million was designated for a statewide grant program to address four key areas of need: Oral Health, Affordable Housing, Legal Services and Transportation. The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability (TCAD) was designated the administrator of the funds. The Court established a SeniorTrust Consortium comprised of leaders of nonprofit foundation and grantmaking organizations including The West End Home Foundation, Memorial Foundation, HCA Foundation, Assisi Foundation of Memphis and the United Way of Greater Knoxville. The Consortium served as advisor to TCAD and the Chancery Court on the design, implementation and monitoring of the grant program.
In late 2021, as the four statewide initiatives were nearing completion, there remained an unallocated balance of $3.9 million. The West End Home Foundation was the recipient of these remaining funds for the purpose of designing and administering a statewide grant program aimed at bridging the digital divide that became apparent for older adults during the pandemic. A portion of these remaining funds has been designated for an impact report that will highlight the achievements of all of the SeniorTrust grant programs since their inception in 2018. That report is anticipated to be released in 2023.
Statewide Initiatives to Address Priority Areas of Need:
The SeniorTrust Grant Program launched four statewide initiatives on April 18, 2018. These initiatives were initially funded for a three-year period. Due to delays in the programs becoming fully operational, followed by the many challenges and barriers created by the Coronavirus Pandemic, the programs have continued into 2022. Most are winding down by mid to late 2022, but one will extend through June 2023.
Aging in Place Program:
Program Goal: To enable older adults to live safely, comfortably and independently in their homes and in their communities.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis has partnered with Habitat for Humanity of TN and twelve Habitat affiliates across the state to implement a statewide Aging in Place program to provide home accessibility modifications and repairs to 1,463 Tennessee homeowners who are age 60+ and financially unable to complete the repairs themselves. To date, the program has provided accessibility modifications and repairs to 1,188 homes. This program will continue to operate through June 2023.
Westminster Home Connection based in Nashville, TN, formed a partnership with Scott Morgan Community Development Corp in East Tennessee and Reelfoot Rural Ministry of the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in West Tennessee. The program, which concluded in July 2022, provided critical home repairs, mobility modifications and sort-pack-move support to 513 older Tennesseans in 421 homes across 14 counties. Collectively, these three organizations exceeded their grant goal by 106 homes.
SMILE ON 60+
Program Goal: To improve the overall health and quality of life for low-income, mobile older adults age 60+ through access to oral healthcare services and community education.
Interfaith Dental of Nashville built and led a statewide network of dental providers to provide oral health care to uninsured and underinsured older adults in Tennessee. The network consists of 22 partners with 32 locations across the state and has transformed the system of oral health care for older Tennesseans. Smile On 60+ provided dental care to 7,513 patients with 43,901 patient visits, an average of 5.8 visits per patient. The program concluded in July 2022 but has been granted funding in the Tennessee State Budget to continue the program for persons age 65+. The new program, Smile on 65+, will enable uninsured and underinsured older Tennesseans to continue to receive affordable oral health care.
Tennessee Senior Law Alliance:
Program Goal: To provide civil legal assistance to meet the legal needs of Tennessee’s most vulnerable adults age 60 and over.
Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services (TALS) partnered with the West Tennessee Legal Services, Memphis Area Legal Services, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and Legal Aid of East Tennessee to form a one-of-a-kind network known as the Tennessee Senior Law Alliance (TSLA). TSLA helped older adults by addressing core legal issues such as accessing healthcare, housing estate planning (simple wills, powers of attorney, advanced directives), income maintenance, consumer finance, abuse and exploitation. The TSLA team included more than thirty members across the state to provide services in all 95 counties. At the conclusion of the grant in July 2022, TLSA had provided legal assistance to 10,785 clients with an economic impact of nearly $3.0 million. The network established by the grant will continue to address the civil legal needs of vulnerable older Tennesseans.
Tennessee Senior Volunteer Transportation Network:
Program Goal: To meet the 5 A’s of age-friendly transportation: Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability, Affordability and Adaptability by expanding the capacity of existing volunteer transportation programs and creating thirty new programs in underserved areas across the state.
The Senior Volunteer Transportation Network (SVTN), led by the Southwest Tennessee Development District is a statewide coalition of volunteer-assisted transportation programs serving Tennesseans age 60 and over. This type of transportation provides a more personalized option for older adults who need door-through-door transportation. With the key feature being volunteer drivers, many meaningful relationships have been developed between drivers and riders. To date, there are 23 active volunteer-assisted transportation programs operating across the state, collectively engaging 938 volunteer drivers. These programs have served 2,249 people and have provided 89,604 rides. The grant continues through December 2022.
Aging Matters Documentaries:
Nashville Public Television received funding to produce Aging Matters documentaries on Oral Health and Legal Services to help promote the availability of these services. Additional funds were provided through the Digital Literacy and Inclusion for Older Tennesseans grant program to produce an Aging Matters documentary on Cyber Threats.
Digital Literacy and Inclusion for Older Tennesseans:
The West End Home Foundation, in partnership with the SeniorTrust Consortium, launched a digital literacy grant program in January 2022. The program titled, “Reducing Social Isolation and Increasing Access to Essential Services Through Digital Literacy and Inclusion for Older Tennesseans”, seeks to expand the capacity of community-based organizations throughout the state to assist older adults in utilizing technology in meaningful ways to breakdown the barriers to full participation in their communities. The intended outcomes are a reduction in social isolation and an improvement in overall health and well-being through expanded community connections and support services.
An estimated 21.8 million older persons are offline at home, with only 58% of Americans aged 65 and older with broadband internet service. The negative ramifications of this lack of connectivity became all too clear during the pandemic as older adults became cut-off from their families, friends and communities. Research shows that when older adults are connected to technology, they become less isolated and more engaged in their communities. Those without internet access suffered more extreme levels of social isolation, were unable to access essential services and products, and could not take advantage of telehealth, telecounseling and other telesupport services. Internet access and digital readiness are now considered to be social determinants of health with far-reaching implications.
The Digital Literacy and Inclusion grant program is providing funding for a period of up to one year to community-based agencies (both nonprofit and governmental) to provide digital literacy training, age-friendly devices, access to affordable internet service and technical support to Tennesseans age 60 and over.
Grant awards totaling nearly $3.8 million were announced in June. Thirty organizations are receiving funding for programs that are being launched in late summer/early fall 2022. All programs will conclude by August 31, 2023.
Grant Award Recipients:
Bethlehem Centers of Nashville
Bledsoe County Senior Citizens Center
Catholic Charities of Tennessee, Inc.
First Baptist Cares
Friends of the Blountville Library
Goodwill Industries of the Greater Chattanooga Area
Greater Nashville Regional Council
Insight Counseling Centers
Kingsport Senior Center
Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee
Linebaugh Public Library
MDHA Housing Trust Corporation
Memphis Library Foundation
Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA)
Nashville Public Library Foundation
Nashville Public Television
Senior Citizens, Inc. dba FiftyForward
Shelby Residential and Vocational Services
Shelbyville – Bedford County Public Library
Southeast TN Development District/Southeast TN Area Agency on Aging
Southwest Human Resource Agency
Tennessee Justice Center
Tennessee Respite Coalition
United Ways of Tennessee
Washington County Library