There’s no place like home.
For many seniors, the desire to stay in their own homes and maintain independent living can be challenging. Meals need to be prepared, groceries purchased, house repairs made and yards maintained. When physical mobility, mental acuity and income purchasing power declines, the need for community-based, low cost services rises.
“A lot of seniors are having to move in with their children, but would prefer independence and self-sufficiency,” said Josephine Brown, Executive Director of the Newton County Senior Center. ‘They’re not ready to give up and want to maintain their independence.”
There are some programs that can help a person over 60 stay in their home, including home delivered meals, homemaker and respite services, but the demand for these services are rising.
According to Brown, there is a waiting list of over 80 people for Newton County’s Meals-on-Wheels services. Those seniors active enough can become members of the Senior Center at the Turner Lake Park Complex for $50 a year where they can purchase a hot lunch, Monday through Friday, for $3 a meal or $10 for 5 meals. Non-members can get a meal for $4.
Getting to the senior center gives rise to another problem that those over 65 no longer able to drive can face—the lack of public transportation. Though there is a Senior Shuttle that will take members to and from the Center for a nominal fee, due to budget constraints, the center can’t provide needed transportation to doctors or stores.
The Older Americans Act of 1965 authorized funding for a range of supportive and nutritional services to benefit people age 60 or older and assist them in maintaining their independence in the community, said Peggy Jenkins, Director of the Northeast Georgia Area Agency on Agency (AAA) in Athens. Priority is given to those considered to be in the greatness and economic and/or social need.
The Agency has representatives, or screeners, who Jenkins said are a “one-stop” shop for resources. Representatives, or screeners, are trained to provide assistance in connecting seniors with public or private resources and planning current or future long term care. The Agency also guides people to public administered long term supports, including those funded under Medicaid, the Older Americans Act and state revenue programs.
Services available through these programs include: home delivered meals, homemaker services, personal support services, adult day health, transportation, personal care home placement, home delivered services, respite care services, emergency response services and consumer directed care, Jenkins said. A database of resources and services is available at http://www.georgiaservicesforseniors.org/.
The need for these services will continue to rise. A 2014 U.S. Census Bureau report found the number of people aged 65 and older is expected to go from 40.3 million in 2010, or 13 percent of the overall population, to 55 million, or 16.8 percent, in 2020. By the time all the Baby Boomers have reached retirement age in 2030, that number is expected to hit 72.7 million, or 20.3 percent of the population.
According to the AAA, there were 98,542 in Newton County in 2008. The agency projects that the number will raise to 136,950 this year.
The Senior Center is designed to help those 60 and over, first as a place to gather for classes, activities, meal and social interactions, Brown said. They are also a liaison with the AAA, providing information on senior employment, legal services, nutrition education, health and welfare counseling, health services and information and referral.
For more information, visit the Newton County Senior Center web site at http://www.co.newton.ga.us/departments/senior-services.