The BENJAMIN ROSE INSTITUTE, organized in 1909, was the first foundation established in the U.S. to deal primarily with the needs of older Americans. Designed to assist "older persons in trouble and in need, in such a way as to help them maintain their self-respect and place in the community," the institute gained a national reputation for innovative services. Upon his death in 1908, BENJAMIN ROSE left his estate and the proceeds from the Rose Bldg. to establish an agency to help older persons and crippled children. He named a 15-member Board of Trustees, stipulating that all future trustees be women (whom he believed to be more sympathetic than men). The institute opened 22 Apr. 1909 with a twofold purpose: to help older persons remain at home rather than enter institutions, and to secure hospital treatment and rehabilitation for crippled children. BRI granted monthly allowances to needy men past age 65 and women over 60. In 1920 the institute aided 276 aged citizens and 103 children.
MARGARET WAGNER served as BRI director from 1930-59; under her leadership the institute expanded to an advocacy role. BRI undertook a study of nursing homes (1930s) and helped close unsanitary ones; founded the city's first Golden Age Club (1937) to encourage socializing among older people; and commissioned a survey of the needs of the chronically ill (1944). The institute discontinued services for crippled children in 1943. The institute acquired Belford House (1941), 11234 Bellflower Rd., a residential club for the elderly; Juniper House (1945), a nursing home at 11427 Bellflower Rd.; and Braeburn House (1951), formerly the Scottish Old Folks' Home, 1835 N. Park Blvd. The institute consolidated these three facilities into the MARGARET WAGNER HOUSE (1961), constructed at a cost of $2.2 million at 2373 Euclid Hts. Blvd. in CLEVELAND HTS. With UNIV. HOSPITALS (UH), the BRI jointly operated the Benjamin Rose Hospital (1953-68) for older persons. In 1968 UH took over the hospital and renamed it Abington House. In 1994 BRI served 1,811 needy citizens with a budget of $15.4 million. It expended $2.1 million in charitable service funds. Headquartered in the Hanna Bldg., the institute maintained 2 community service offices providing home visitation services. Dr. Alice J. Kethley served as executive director in 1995.