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Oak Hill community helps keep seniors independent

Built inside knoll north Rollins Road east Cedar Lake Road Oak Hill Supportive Living Community was developed with $13 milliprivate

Built into the side of a knoll north of Rollins Road east of Cedar Lake Road, the Oak Hill Supportive Living Community was developed with $13 million in private equity backed by federal tax credits provided by the Illinois Housing Development Authority.| Dan Moran~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 29, 2013 2:17AM

Jackie Herskovitz was living on her own in Buffalo Grove when fate took a hand in her senior-citizen lifestyle: She broke her knee.

Her days of commuting to visit family in north Lake County were numbered.

“I had to live with my son for eight weeks,” she recalled, “and they said, ‘Mom, it’s time you moved up here.’”

Needing a little more help with her mobility but not ready to live in a nursing home or assisted-living facility, the 91-year-old Herskovitz said her three sons looked into the supportive-living concept, in which seniors have access to on-site nursing assistants, but otherwise live independently and don’t necessarily need daily medical care.

In February, she moved into the Oak Hill Supportive Living Community on Rollins Road in Round Lake Beach, which opened a year ago this week. Asked to sum up the experience, Herskovitz said “I love it.”

“The people here are so wonderful. They’re right there for you,” she said. “They do everything for you.

“They clean your room, they do your laundry, they make your bed and once a week they put on clean sheets.”

Oak Hill also provides three meals a day in a community dining room, and each of its 94 units is equipped with such senior-centered features as walk-in showers and emergency pull-cords that will summon help 24/7.

But sales manager Stephanie Tintner said the supportive-living concept in intended primarily for seniors making a transition from maintaining a residence.

“The majority of our people are coming from their own homes, their own apartments,” Tintner said. “The goal here is to keep people as independent as we can for as long as we can.”

Martin Jablonski of Chicago-based Landmark Realty, which developed the site, said “the point of a supportive-living facility is to help those people who still have most of their faculties, are largely mobile and able to care for themselves but still need a little bit of help.”

Jablonski added that there are also key financial differences between supportive and assisted living. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services operates a Pathways to Community Living Program, which utilizes federal funds to encourage community-based living for seniors rather than institutional care.

“Each of these (supportive-living) buildings in the range of 100 units will save the state and the federal government a combined half-a-million dollars a year,” Jablonski said, “because the alternative of a nursing home is far more labor intensive and therefore much more costly.”

He added that the benefit extends to individuals, saying that if a resident runs out of resources, the Pathways program covers costs through Medicaid.

“So instead of being pushed out into a nursing home, they can remain here the rest of their lives and Medicaid will take over,” Jablonski said. “(That’s) the single most significant difference between this and assisted living.”

Oak Hill is one of four established supportive-living communities in Lake County, a roster that includes Heritage Woods in Gurnee, Victory Centre in Vernon Hills and Barton Senior Residences in Zion. The state has also approved applications for such communities in Antioch, Grayslake, Hawthorn Woods, Lake Zurich and Libertyville.

One reason the concept might be catching on, Tintner said, is that expenses at supportive facilities are roughly half of what a resident would need in assisted living

Monthly rates at Oak Hill range from $3,212 per month for a 360-square-foot studio to $3,712 for a one-bedroom unit, which top out at 468 square feet.

The fees include all meals and utilities, though not services like cable television or Internet.

According to Jablonski, the five-floor building now houses 79 residents, about 80 percent of whom are single women, though there are four couples in the community.

The age range runs from 66 to 98, and the average age is around 85.

Coming out of a lunch that featured Chinese chicken salad, Herskovitz said that she recently had to spend time in a traditional nursing home and experienced the differences first-hand.

“It’s nice to be back,” she said. “I was there three weeks, and that was too long.”

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