Towson service will help seniors remain independent

November 27, 1992|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

Suppose you're 80 years old, a pipe bursts in your basement and you don't know a plumber you can trust. You're knee-deep in water, wondering how many buckets of cash you'll need to fix the leak before it drains a nearby reservoir.

What do you do?

Wilson Worley and Steve Morton believe they have the answer. For a fee, they'll lead their customers to a reliable plumber, and to many other services designed to help seniors who want to live at home.

Mr. Worley, 52, is president of Independent Living Club of America. Mr. Morton, 36, is vice president and sales manager. Both have extensive experience in senior housing, but their company represents a sharp change in direction.

"We have discovered that what seniors want most is to stay in their homes as long as possible," Mr. Morton says. "Our home-care program permits that as an alternative to a retirement or nursing home."

They say their program will "revolutionize" senior care.

"Developers have dictated the direction of elder care until now," Mr. Morton said. "Our program is a new approach to retirement living, one that will enable retirees to remain independent in their home and receive the support services they want when they need them."

Mr. Worley, a graduate of Auburn University, spent most of his career creating retirement communities, but then realized they were not what seniors really wanted. He left the development business about two years ago and founded Independent Living.

Since January, the company, with a local office at 408 Allegheny Ave. in Towson, has been developing contacts with suppliers, contractors and seniors groups. Plans are to start the program between the middle of February and March 1, said Mr. Morton.

The company has a home office in Greenville, S.C., and an office in Moorestown, N.J., from which it plans to expand into the Philadelphia area.

A basic $144-a-month contract includes a $48 fee, a sophisticated 24-hour emergency call service, and two housekeeping visits a month. The charge for housekeeping visits -- supplied by a local cleaning service -- applies to a 1,400-square-foot home and one bathroom. The fee increases proportionately for larger homes.

The basic contract has three options: emergency call service, which is connected to LIFELINE in Boston, the housekeeping service, and assisted living/nursing home group insurance. The customer must take two of the three.

Mr. Morton says the insurance policy will cost less than nationally established rates and is sold by UNUM, a specialist in long-term health care based in Portland, Maine.

Independent Living's one-year contract requires no up-front money beyond the first month's fees and includes a money-back guarantee. The contract can be terminated on 30-day notice.

The company also plans to have a local service supervisor to handle problems and complaints, and an 800 number for customers whose complaints aren't handled to their satisfaction.

Customers also will receive a handbook with the names and phone numbers of various providers, contractors and their prices.

"I can guarantee their prices will be well below what someone can get on the open market," Mr. Morton said. "The vendors want the exposure, and we're handing them a ready-made client base. If they don't perform satisfactorily, we'll drop them from the list."

Proposed services include transportation, meal delivery, home health care, social and recreational programs, lawn care and minor home repair, which will be insured up to $300 to cover damages caused by the contractor.

Though some of Independent Living's services can be obtained on a piecemeal basis, Mr. Worley says, "We've packaged them at a much lower cost than if you obtained them individually, and we stand behind them."

As president of National Retirement Corp., Mr. Worley has developed senior housing in Michigan and South Carolina, and other states. Rita Zack, general manager of the Swansgate retirement community in Greenville, S.C., says a property Mr. Worley developed there has "worked well."

Mr. Morton, a graduate of the University of California, Irvine, has specialized in developing and marketing residential and health care services for retirees.

London Life Insurance, of London, Ontario, owns 71 percent of International Care, which owns 50 percent of Independent Living, according to Pat McLaughlin, of London Life's public affairs office.

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