Posted by Erik Jorgensen
Lauren Webster, the Director of Marketing and Administration for 75 State Street, spoke with us on Friday to discuss issues relating to senior housing. What few people in the room knew was that this venerable nonprofit organization has been in business for 166 years; it was started by a group of churches in 1854 who saw a need to house the elderly (originally for women) and moved on it. 75 State Street is now an affiliate of Avesta Housing.
What is Senior Living? 75 State Street provides both independent market-rate apartments and assisted senior living units. The former allow for aging in place, while the latter provide 24-hour residential care. While the assisted living model is critical, it is distinct from nursing home care, rehab or memory care, all of which are more specialized and costlier than what is offered offered at 75 State.
Private-pay assisted living units start at $6,750 per month, so it’s not an option open to everyone. For others, the facility has a number of units paid for by MaineCare. As with hospitals and private insurance, the private-pay rooms help to subsidize the very low reimbursement rates paid by the state, which amount to only $100.00 per day. The “special sauce” of the arrangement for the residents is that nobody knows who is on MaineCare and who is not. Everyone is treated equally. As Lauren noted, state-payer communities have to be worth living in, and this arrangement assures a level of dignity and community. In a facility that does not accept MaineCare, you can spend assets down to $0 and then get tossed out for inability to pay.
Senior living is a form of care where the supply is currently far short of demand in Maine as a whole, and especially here in Portland. With our 66,000 residents, the city has just 300 assisted living beds, 68 of which are at 75 State St. As the population ages, as wait lists deepen and need increases, something will have to change. Lauren urged employers to support family caregivers, and for everyone to advocate with lawmakers in support of mixed income senior communities.
Seeing that most residents live out their lives at 75 State Street, it’s proof that with a little care up front in the aging process you can often avoid more intense care later. “It’s a happily ever after story”, she said.

(President Amy Chipman and Lauren Webster.)