Bipartisan legislation introduced Monday by the Forsyth County House delegation would provide $5 million to expand arts and wellness services at the Elizabeth and Tab Williams Adult Care Center.
The Williams center services local residents who are living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
The goal is building “a new and expanded” center that will “bring health, wellness, arts and intergenerational program partners under one roof.” The dedicated space would go from 10,000 to 15,000 square feet.
The current center is at 2895 Shorefair Drive in Winston-Salem. The new building would be on the same campus.
Lee Covington, Senior Services’ president and chief executive, said Monday that the nonprofit is in the quiet period for a capital campaign.
He said the state funding could represent 25% to 30% of its necessary fund-raising amount. He described the planned campaign as the largest in the group’s history.
The goal would be to break ground in April 2022 and open the expanded center in summer 2023, Covington said.
Senior Services began Monday what Covington called “a soft reopening” for Williams center participants. The center served between 70 and 80 individuals on a daily basis pre-pandemic, but has been at between 50 and 60 with what had been at-home services.
The proposed Intergenerational Center for Arts and Wellness would incorporate research conducted in partnership with Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Planned participants in the center would include Novant Health Inc., Sticht Center on Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention, Family Services, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, Winston-Salem State University and Hispanic League.
Other partners that provide programs to participants include The Shepherd’s Center of Greater Winston-Salem, The Sawtooth School for Visual Art, Wake Forest University IMPROVment, and other arts partners.
Covington said the intergeneration part of the expanded center could be “a national model,” such as children cared for by Family Services to interact with people in the Williams center.
“This is an exciting project for Senior Services to continue to grow and provide the much-needed services to seniors across our county,” said Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, and primary sponsor of the bill.
“I hope the delegation can find a way for the state to help support this project.”
Senior Services said in a 2019 report that “as we continue to learn more and more about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, we’re finding that there are new treatment methods and new ways for managing and living with the disease.”
Senior Services officials cautioned that “a lack of stimulating activities can have an effect on the ability of people living with dementia to maintain everyday skills and continue self-care.”
Bill sponsors cited several Forsyth demographics as the emphasis for HB593 that include a potential doubling — from about 60,000 to about 120,000 — of those ages 65 and older living in Forsyth.
They also cited the projected federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates for increased Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias case, the number of Forsyth residents providing services to elderly relatives or friends.
“These caregivers reported needing help with dementia/Alzheimer’s care, especially more day services, amongst other supports,” according to the bill.
Rep. Lee Zachary, R-Yadkin, whose district covers western Forsyth, said that $5 million over two years “is a lot of money.”
“But, I believe this is an exceptional program combining the talents of many local healthcare providers, researchers and local groups that will create a model for future services to those with Alzheimer’s and dementia and some relief for the caregivers.