The Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) has operated out of its facility on Hudson Avenue in Irondequoit since 1995.

The Independent Living for Seniors facility on Hudson Avenue, across from Irondequoit Plaza, opened its doors abut 16 years ago, but the program it supports is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The first participant in what is called a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) crossed the threshold of the first center, on Bay Road in Webster, Dec. 31, 1990.

Twenty years later, thousands of frail elderly or chronically ill have been serviced by the program, which now has nearly 300 participants (they’re not called patients) on Hudson Avenue in Irondequoit.

A second PACE center was opened at the Abraham Lincoln Apartments on North Park Drive in Irondequoit in 1992, and the Hudson Avenue site, co-located next to a 55-unit apartment complex, began operation in 1995. The housing project was supported by a federal grant, while the PACE/Independent Living for Seniors (ILS) project was launched with a $250,000 grant from the Twigs of the Rochester General Hospital Association, and a $300,000 loan from the association.

The whole idea, from the beginning, has been to provide an alternative to nursing home placement for the frail elderly, said Deb Metz. She has been executive director at ILS for three years, and with the Rochester General Health System for more than 25 years.

“With support, our participants can go back to their communities and their homes,” Metz explained. “The program provides coordinated care for seniors, but it does not cover housing.”

The program does include a day center, where participants go for socialization, lunch and activities, and a clinic. There are recreation therapists, care givers, two board-certified geriatricians, two geriatric nurse practitioners, and other complimentary staff to meet the needs of the participants. A transportation service is also provided, and there is an on-site rehabilitation center that can provide care for whatever duration a participant needs.

“We partner with the participants to help them maintain their independence in the community,” Metz said. “The participants are the focal point, but it’s an interdisciplinary plan of care.”

The local ILS program was one of the first in the nation, and is modeled after a comprehensive blending of acute and long-term care services developed by On Lok Senior Health Services in San Francisco, Cal., more than 25 years ago.

Funding for the program is provided from both the federal and state governments. Participants must be at least 55 years old, live in the PACE service area, and be certified as eligible for nursing home care.

“There might also be a cost share, but that depends on the participants’ financial resources,” Metz explained.

She calls the center, however, “sort of like one-stop shopping,” since it offers so many different services.

“The beauty of the program is that you don’t have to have all of the services,” Metz said. “Participants can age in place, but if they need more services, we can provide them ... Part of PACE is giving participants choice.”

To celebrate the 20th anniversary, the day center on Hudson Avenue was decorated for “An Evening of Enchantment,” including a magical castle theme, for a gala held there Jan. 29. The Twigs were presented with a plaque, recognizing their support of the program.

While a couple of alternate care sites have been added in the past 20 years, the Hudson Avenue site will be maintained, Metz said, and is, in fact, going to be open six days a week, including Saturdays, starting later this month.

“We’ve also recommitted to the community,” Metz said. “We’re definitely poised for growth ... It’s an exciting time. This is truly a labor of love.”