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Seniors forced to rely on stairs after senior living center elevator outage

Lilian Smith at Marlowe ERS
Posted at 8:58 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 22:14:21-04

COLLEGE HILL — At 5:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, 80-year-old Lillian Smith waited outside Marlowe Court, her senior living apartment building, for a medical services bus that would take her to dialysis treatment. By the time the bus dropped her back off at home, the elevator in the College Hill building was unavailable.

"When I come back I have to walk up the steps," said Ms. Smith. "I have a buggy."

Ms. Smith and other residents in the four-story apartment building have been using the stairs since Tuesday and continued until Wednesday evening, when she told WCPO the elevator was back in service -- one day ahead of the Thursday deadline initially given.

"I wish you could have saw the lady who couldn't hardly walk trying to go up the stairs," said Ms. Smith. "And I'm trying to help her come up the steps after I came from the doctor's office from treatment. Is it fair? No, it's not fair."

Marlowe Court is owned by Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS), which has a dozen senior living facilities in the Cincinnati area.

"Being a provider of housing services for seniors, we are very much aware that some of the residents may have some ambulatory challenges that they need an elevator," said Dr. Jimmy Wilson, vice president of ERS.

Dr. Wilson said the company posted a notice in the building last week, alerting residents that the elevator would be out of service for repairs.

"We've made the offer to put them in hotels to accommodate them for the inconvenience," he said. "We've given them sufficient notice."

Dr. Wilson said some residents did accept the offer to stay in a hotel. For Lillian, however, the offer wasn't as helpful; her daughter, Michelle, said she learned about the offer last Friday, but that wasn't enough time to change Ms. Smith's medical service bus route, so she had to stay in the apartment.

"It's not just one person that this affects," said Michelle Smith. "It affects the entire building. You've got four floors."

The notice about the elevator's repair time also said an outside door would be left unlocked -- meaning anyone could get inside the building. According to the notice, the door was unlocked for eight hours during the day.

"I can read this -- I can knock them old folks in the head," said Ms. Smith. "Come on. Think. They didn't put on their thinking cap."

Michelle Smith said knowing, in addition to the elevator outage, the door would be left unlocked made her fearful for the seniors living in the building.

Dr. Wilson said the building has security cameras, but no security officers or preventative measures in place while the door is left unlocked.

"We have security cameras," he said. "We don't have security staff -- officers -- in the building. But, given the temporary nature of this repair to the elevator, we reason that this was an appropriate course of action to take to make the door available to families and residents."

On Wednesday, WCPO reached out to ERS to inform them that this story would be broadcast, including information about the unlocked door -- which is now supposed to be locked during the day and overnight.

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