In 1971, STEP (Services to Elderly Persons) and SMILE (Services to Maintain Independent Living for the Elderly) were joined under a new effort coordinated by the Wisconsin Division on Aging and United Way of Dane County. The combined programs, known as the Independent Living Project for the Elderly, provided transportation, home safety assessments and information and counseling services.
In 1973, STEP and SMILE formally merged and were incorporated as Independent Living, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. ILI continued the Telephone Reassurance and Friendly Visiting programs formerly provided by STEP in addition to the home safety assessments, counseling and transportation services noted above. Independent Living’s highly recognizable blue busses served the City of Madison and surrounding communities until 1988. ILI continues to provide a Transportation service today in Madison.
In the fall of 1973, Independent Living, Inc. accepted oversight of Dane County’s Congregate Noon Meals program for the elderly, beginning at the Colonial Club in Sun Prairie on December 17, 1973. In January 1974, sites opened in Mazomanie, Waunakee, Stoughton and two in Madison. By the end of 1996, when local entities assumed responsibility for the program, it had grown to 16 sites. Prior to turning over the noon program, ILI launched the Evening Meals on Wheels program in 1989. In 2010, the evening program earned Magnet Accreditation at the Exemplary Level from Meals on Wheels America, the highest level possible.
In May 1974, Housekeeping services were added and in 1979, ILI began its focus on housing with the establishment of the Live-In program as an extension of Friendly Visiting. In 1981, ILI launched the Home Care program to provide in-home personal care to older adults. In 1982, the Live-In program became Home Share, officially launched with a grant of $191,000 from Gulf & Western that same year. In 1986, ILI’s housing efforts expanded and Chandler HOME, an eight-bed CBRF, was opened on Chandler Street near Meriter Hospital. The first of its kind in Madison, Chandler HOME operated for several years until early 2000.
In 1991, ILI planned the area’s first senior housing based on affordability and income. McKee Park Apartments opened in 1995, at 2931 Chapel Valley Road in Fitchburg. It was the first housing development in Fitchburg dedicated to low-income seniors. The 42-unit building is home to older adults age 62 and better.
In 1994, again responsive to senior needs, ILI established Independent Health Care, a home health care agency. Medicare-certified and state-licensed, IHC services included skilled nursing care and physical, occupational and speech therapy.
In 1996, ILI expanded its in-home services to offer Financial Management and Counseling. Responding to an increasing need among older adults for household money management, the program assists clients with bill paying, checkbook reconciliation, budget analysis and monitoring, debt advocacy and management, research and clarification of Medicare and insurance, and education about financial fraud and abuse.
Also in 1996, ILI developed a beautiful retirement community at 1000 Hunters Trail (just off O’Keeffe Avenue) in Sun Prairie. The 69 ranch-style condominium units are designed specifically for older adults and their social and physical needs. Named Olympic Village, features include maintenance-free lifestyle, clubhouse with fitness center, and professionally landscaped surroundings including duck ponds. In 1997, the first residents of Olympic Village moved into their new homes.
In 2000, ILI purchased the former Attic Angel Association housing facility at 602 North Segoe Road in Madison, and began an extensive renovation process. The former one-story nursing home was converted into a 16-unit Community Based Residential Facility (CBRF) and named Segoe Gardens Assisted Living. The 10-story tower was renamed The Gardens, with independent apartments offering beautiful garden and city views. The retirement community enjoys numerous services, from chef-prepared dining to educational programs. Also designated a Residential Care Apartment Complex (RCAC), The Gardens has support services for residents as needed. With the opening of Segoe Gardens Assisted Living and its expanded services, the eight-bed Chandler HOME was closed. Segoe Gardens Assisted Living served its purpose well and closed in the spring of 2019. The Gardens continues to serve as a wonderful home for seniors who enjoy life in the Hilldale Farms Neighborhood.
In 2006, the innovative program Kibble on Wheels was started through community partnerships with ILI, Mounds Pet Food Warehouse, Banfield Pet Hospitals and the Dane County Humane Society. Volunteers deliver free, appropriate food for companion animals of clients served by ILI who are unable to afford pet food. Seniors who had been low on funds were discovered sharing their subsidized Evening Meals on Wheels with their beloved pets so that both could eat.
In 2007, ILI with support from United Way of Dane County piloted the Caregiver Respite program in response to the great need for those in a caregiver role. This program provides respite care through in-home care services. In 2017, ILI broke ground for a senior living community on Madison’s north east side on Tennyson Lane. The community opened in the fall of 2018.
Today Independent Living, Inc. is a recognized leader in Dane County for providing high quality, innovative and cost effective community-based services to older adults and people with disabilities.