Aging and Disability Resource Center seeks feedback from seniors | Dale Deterding column
It is time for the Aging Unit at the Aging and Disability Resource Center to begin working on developing priorities for what services and issues we are going to the focus for the next three years.
Why is this important and what does it mean for you? It is an opportunity for you to have input on what issues you feel are important for seniors and what you think should be addressed here in Sheboygan County.
The Older Americans Act requires that the Aging Unit, every three years, must develop a plan to serve the needs of those individuals who are age 60 and above in Sheboygan County. The Aging Unit is now in the process of collecting information and input from seniors, in preparation for developing the next Aging Plan to guide their work for the years 2019 through 2021.
Work on the new plan begins with the collection of data, concerns, opinions and questions from Sheboygan County seniors. A draft plan incorporating that information will be developed in the spring of 2018. The draft will be reviewed by the local governing boards and the state oversight group.
That draft will be shared with Sheboygan County residents for their comments and suggestions for changes or additions. The information collected will be incorporated into a final draft, which will be available for a public hearing in the fall of 2018.
Comments and questions regarding the draft plans are incorporated into the document, which is brought before the governing board for approval in late October 2018.
There are five priority areas the Older Americans Act has mandated to be addressed. Those areas are empowering older people to advocate for themselves, the Elder Nutrition Program, services in support of caregivers, healthy aging programs, and local priorities.
Each Aging Unit is required to demonstrate how it involves older Americans in the development of programs and policies that affect their daily lives. Per the Older Americans Act, “the active participation of older people the design, development and implementation of policies and programs gives them ownership of and responsibility for the aging network.”
Services provided by the Aging Unit needing senior input include, but are not limited to:
- The Senior Dining program, which provides donation-only meals to Sheboygan County seniors in both a congregate and home-delivered setting.
- Metro Connection is a joint city-county program that provides subsidized transportation to Sheboygan County seniors and people with disabilities. A volunteer driver program provides seniors rides to medically-related appointments on a donation basis.
- There are programs to assist caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other debilitating conditions with obtaining respite, education, or other needed assistance.
- The Telephone Reassurance program provides seniors with an opportunity for a daily call, Monday through Friday, just to check in and hear a friendly voice.
- The Elder Benefit Specialist program provides assistance with Social Security, Medicare, prescription drug coverage, and is an advocate for seniors on a variety of other issues.
Why is this important and why does it matter? It matters because when people speak up about issues and services that are important to them and members of their families, changes can happen. There are two recent local examples of the benefits of seniors participating in the process.
At a public hearing for the 2018 Health and Human Services budget, seniors brought forward a concern about the increased need for Elder Benefit services. With Sheboygan County’s population over 65 expected to grow to 22,740 in 2020, from 19,085 in 2015, additional staff time will be needed to meet the increasing need. Their concerns were heard and the department is planning on adding a half-time person to meet that increased need.
In another instance, seniors brought forth a concern that transportation services were lacking in the rural parts of Sheboygan County. Seniors who either didn’t or no longer could drive have a difficult time going grocery shopping, attending local meal sites and running other errands. Those seniors who rely on a wheelchair for mobility have even more limited opportunity to be transported because of the lack of accessible vehicles. These concerns were heard and the department is actively pursuing a grant to obtain accessible vehicles to expand the current volunteer driver program to address the needs of the rural communities in Sheboygan County.
In the next three months, Sheboygan County seniors will have an opportunity to provide their input on these programs and other areas they feel are important to them. In addition to listening sessions and focus groups conducted throughout the county, there will be face-to-face interviews and surveys will be distributed.
If you have any questions, or would like to participate in a phone interview, please call the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Sheboygan County at 1-920-467-4100, and ask to speak with the Aging Unit supervisor. We look forward to hearing from you.
Dale Deterding is elder services supervisor at Aging & Disability Resource Center
of Sheboygan County.