2012-02-23 / Front Page

Seniors Air Concerns, Express Needs

Area Agency on Aging to prepare four-year plan
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz
STAFF WRITER


Alan Smith, left, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging, appears alongside the Fulton County commissioners Craig Cutchall, Irvin Dasher and Rodney McCray Friday at the Warfordsburg Senior Center. The group met with local seniors to gather input for a four-year plan outlining future services and needs for older residents. Alan Smith, left, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging, appears alongside the Fulton County commissioners Craig Cutchall, Irvin Dasher and Rodney McCray Friday at the Warfordsburg Senior Center. The group met with local seniors to gather input for a four-year plan outlining future services and needs for older residents. Seniors at the Warfordsburg Senior Center sat down with county officials and the head of the Area Agency on Aging last week to publicly air their wants, needs and concerns as they pertain to older citizens. Those comments will be included as part of the agency’s four-year plan mandated by both federal and state law to serve as a “blue print” for future aging services.

Agency Executive Director Alan Smith informed a crowd of more than two dozen seniors Friday morning their meeting is one of multiple “listening sessions” being held in Fulton, Bedford and Huntingdon counties in preparation for the completion of the new plan. In a handout for those in attendance, Smith said, “The plan will also provide an overview of programs currently being administered by the agency and set forth strategies to enrich the lives of individuals over the age of 60 ... .”

Those specific strategies, Smith noted, will support core goals such as promoting independence and the ability for seniors to remain in their homes and communities; avoiding unneccesary and costly institutionalization of older persons; contributing to longevity and successful aging; and improving the overall quality of life. These goals will in turn be achievable through communitybased services.

Even though officials are looking ahead to the future, Smith also paid homage to the past. He outlined several key issues that were aired during the last set of listening and focus group sessions in 2008. Some of those issues are coincidentally still ongoing today.

Smith touched on shifting away from property taxes to pay for public education; the inadequacy of Social Security’s annual cost-of-living increase; support for in-home care and services; electronic banking; the complexities of Medicare Part D, reinstating the daily delivery of hot meals; and protecting older persons from scams and fraud.

Opening the floor to public comment, Rodney McCray, chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, said looking across the crowd that many of their concerns were similar to his own.

Ruby Barnhart questioned why when signing up for heating oil assistance, officials look at your gross amount instead of takehome income as part of program guidelines. Barnhart added many individuals are unable to qualify for help because of the gross amount.

Smith agreed with Barnhart regarding the income issue and asked how seniors are able to maintain a standard of living based on their income. He indicated the beauty of attending a senior center is that participation is not based on an income.

Making reference to her own prescription issues, Bonnie Ward discussed the donut hole as part of Medicare Part D insurance, while another individual in attendance aired difficulties with insurance companies unwilling to pay for prescriptions requested by their physicians.

“These comments, this is where it all begins,” encouraged Smith.

Responding to a comment regarding the necessity of in-home care, Smith went on to say that sometimes just a little bit of help getting ready for bed or preparing a meal can make all of the difference in a senior’s functional or emotional needs.

It was noted staffing concerns continue to be an issue for com- panies providing in-home services. Reasons could be linked to wage structure, hours, gasoline and lack of benefits.

“The concerns you’ve had here are valid,” added Commissioner Craig Cutchall. “ ... You being here helps. Seniors are learning that staying healthy and active saves money.”

Hearing several individuals voice their concerns about the lack of respect with the younger generation, Cutchall encouraged those on hand to continue having a positive outlook. “We can complain or talk about it or we can be role models,” he said.

“Stay active. Set a good example,” encouraged fellow Commissioner Irvin Dasher. “One way to do this is to keep voting and talk to your elected officials ... If we listen to what everyone here is saying, we need a shift in how we think about the older generation.”

Wrapping up the hour-long talk, Smith encouraged the seniors to “keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.”

“You’ve certainly embraced that here at Warfordsburg,” said Smith.

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