Living Independently For Elders to Honor Its Founders

PHILADELPHIA — The Living Independently For Elders program of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing will honor its four founders at a wine and cheese reception on Monday, May 11, from 4 to 7 p.m., at the LIFE center, 4508 Chestnut St.

LIFE allows low-income seniors who would otherwise need nursing-home care the option to remain in their homes and receive all preventative, primary, acute and long-term health services at the LIFE center.

Under the direction and with the support of Norma Lang, then the dean of Penn Nursing, who was renowned for her work on nurse-led care, Penn Nursing professors Karen Buhler-Wilkerson, Lois Evans and Mary Naylor established the LIFE program at Penn in 1998, making it one of the first such models of care to be owned and operated by a university.

“Penn Nursing has always had an investment in academic practice,” Naylor said.

“As a totally integrated, interdisciplinary program, it was our job to show that this model solved so many problems in delivering community-based care,” Buhler-Wilkerson said.

Through LIFE, nursing, medicine, social work, pastoral care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and psychiatry combine to provide one-stop care to a vulnerable, local population.

When the LIFE center first opened, it served fewer than a dozen members from West and Southwest Philadelphia. Today, the average daily census at LIFE is 200.

“Everybody here knows me and watches over me. They take care of my medical problems, my hearing and my eyesight,” William King said. “LIFE has prolonged my life.”

Buhler-Wilkeson is professor emerita at Penn Nursing. Evans is the van Ameringen Professor in Nursing Excellence and chair of the Family and Community Health Division at Penn Nursing. Naylor is the Marian S. Ware Professor of Gerontology and director of NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health. Lang, is dean emerita.