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Council on Aging meets the needs of an aging population

By Angel Dennison
Posted Thursday, November 15, 2007

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Pittsboro, NC - The Council on Aging provides programs and services to people who would otherwise have significant needs that would result in institutionalization, which is a great cost taxpayers would shoulder. Our clients are people from all walks of life, all means of support, and the majority of them were born in Chatham County and have lived here all their lives.

We serve approx 39,000 meals (lunch Monday through Friday) a year to people over the age of 60, most of whom would not otherwise have lunch. Volunteers work in the dining rooms to help serve and clean. Almost half of these meals are delivered by Volunteers to seniors who are home-bound for a variety of health reasons. Many of the people who come to the Senior Centers to eat contribute what they can afford on a daily basis. Some people can afford to pay the full $4 a meal, and are happy to pay. The food is really, really good. We also have interesting speakers and guests, health screenings, exercise sessions, etc for the people who come to the centers.

We provide approx 27,000 hours of in-home aid and assistance to seniors who are left alone all day or live alone. This service provides help with basic activities, including cooking, bathing, help with medicine, light housekeeping, etc. Some people have chronic conditions, some are recovering from illnesses or medical treatments and procedures, some are simply frail. Without this service, most of these folks would be in facilities at taxpayer expense. We need to be providing twice that - closer to 54,000 hours - to provide this service to everyone on our waiting list.

We provide transportation, from homes to the senior centers and back home again with stops at the grocery store, pharmacy, etc, for seniors who no longer drive. We provide transportation to medical appointments, too.

We also provide a full range of health education, disease prevention, exercise, social and recreational opportunities to keep seniors as healthy and independent as possible.

Each senior center also has a food bank. All items in the food banks are donated, and the food is not limited to seniors but more often than not goes to seniors and their families.We also supply nutritional supplements and frozen meals to seniors. We share referrals with CORA, churches, DSS and others.

We build wheel chair ramps so that seniors can get in and out of their houses. We do minor home repairs for safety and weather-related problems. These programs and under-funded and under-staffed. Wheelchair ramps are expensive, averaging about $2750.

We provide expert nonpartisan information about Medicare and health insurance for seniors, and we try to help seniors who don't have insurance or money for medicine. Again, well trained Volunteers handle the majority of the work.

In the event that the County needs to open shelters (e.g. ice storms, hurricanes) the senior centers operate as shelters for people with special needs such as people on oxygen, people with limited mobility, etc who would be at health-risk in a general shelter such as a school.

We also reach out to Caregivers, those people in our communities who are the primary support for others. Statistically, most often the caregivers are women over the age of 60 who have health issues of their own but provide primary care for their parents, spouses, children or grandchildren or adults caring for handicapped adults or children. We provide information and referrals, respite care, food, transportation, and support.

We participate in advisory councils and organizations that inspect adult care and nursing homes, promote diabetes management programs, govern the transportation system, conduct care planning for seniors, prepare for large scale disaster response, deliver flu and pneumonia shots, work on affordable housing issues, promote health careers education, respond to law enforcement requests for assistance with seniors at risk, support the Salvation Army and Red Cross in emergency response, support student interns, and more.

The Council on Aging has been operating in Chatham County for 33 years. The Council is a non-profit organization, not a County agency, but almost one third of our funding comes from Chatham County. According to census projections, within the next 7 years, there will be more people over the age of 60 than under the age of 17 in Chatham County. That gap will continue to grow through the year 2030 according to census data. Our mission is to help seniors remain independent in their own homes,
as healthy as possible. We work hand-in-hand with DSS and the Health Department to meet the needs of the senior population. DSS has saved countless lives and improved the fundamental quality of countless more.

Poverty abounds but tends to be off the beaten track. We're thankful every day for our 200 plus volunteers, without whom we would only be able to provide a fraction of the services we provide. We're thankful for the people who support our fundraising events and attend our evening and weekend events. Approximately one third of our annual budget comes from individuals or groups who choose to support our efforts. We receive approx 2.5% of our annual budget from the United Way, and we appreciate those who choose to give there.

So, if you want to know more about poverty in Chatham County and why food distribution throughout the institution of the County School System is a most practical step for the health of our County as a whole, I'll be happy to share what knowledge we have accumulated over 33 years. Come for lunch one day but call ahead so we'll have a meal for you.

Angel Dennison
Executive Director
Chatham County Council on Aging

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