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Senior LIFE recently opened the doors of its new Lehigh Valley facility in Bethlehem.

The for-profit nationwide program provides coordinated healthcare and physical and emotional services for seniors in their own homes.

Of 4,000 members served at 30 locations statewide, Senior LIFE now has more than 1,000 members in the Valley, approximately 100 of whom are served by the 2045 Westgate Drive office.

Senior LIFE is a Medicare Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) operating as a LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly) program in Pennsylvania.

At the May 14 ribbon-cutting and open house, employees, friends and supporters toured rooms, offices and a spacious common area. Speakers lauded Senior LIFE's operation and mission.

Owner Ross Nese said his brother and sister were both in need of care in the past year, and he wished Senior LIFE was available in his home area in western Pennsylvania.

"The benefits of this program are just absolutely immeasurable. They take care of the most needy of our citizens and they do it in a fashion I believe all health care should deal with, which is provide it in a home and community-based setting," he said.

Pennsylvania Office of Long-Term Living Deputy Secretary Bonnie Rose said, "Pennsylvania is proud to say we have 20 percent of the national LIFE program market and have been in the forefront of expanding since its inception in 1998. We [at the state] are pleased to continue explore innovative ways and strategies to operate these programs and hopefully expand them, particularly in rural and underdeveloped areas."

Rep. Steve Samuelson (D-135), Democrat Chair, Pennsylvania House of Representatives Aging & Older Adults Services standing committee, said it's important to reflect on the program's next 16 years, by which time the state's seniors will have increased in number from 2.5 million to 3.5 million. "We know the demand for home and community-based services is going to grow," he said, explaining the need for a rebalance of long-term care systems from nursing homes to home-based care, and the continued funding of community-based programs.

"I'm in a lot of meetings," Samuelson said, "and what we hear over and over again is that seniors really do want to stay in their homes as long as possible. Nursing homes do have their place in the continuum of care, however, caregivers, medical professionals and our society must honor, to the best of our ability, the wishes of those who want to age in place. Programs such as this one help us do that."

To be considered for Senior LIFE, seniors must be 55 years old, live in Lehigh or Northampton counties, and be deemed medically and financially eligible. Many members qualify at no cost.

Information: seniorlifelehighvalley.com, 610-954-5433