ALBANY — Jennifer Parks
The SOWEGA Council on Aging continues to offer a variety of services to senior citizens, with some major changes ahead.
Agency officials said Tuesday 67,369 elderly residents live in Southwest Georgia, roughly a quarter of whom are living in Dougherty County and nearly a third of whom are African-American. The Council on Aging’s mission is to plan, provide, develop and coordinate services for these individuals.
“There were 59,000 when I started, so I’m afraid we are all getting older,” said Council on Aging Executive Director Kay Hind, who announced at the meeting that she planned to retire in March.
The agency covers 14 counties, with a senior center location in each one. The centers face the challenge of providing services for an increasing elderly population.
“Senior centers are reinventing themselves to meet the needs and desires of the aging baby boomer generation,” the council’s annual report said. “Boomers currently constitute (two-thirds) of the 50 (and over) population. By the year 2030, one in five individuals in each community will be over the age of 65.”
Among the services offered is meals, from which some seniors served by the organization get their primary source of nutrition. In Fiscal Year 2016, 803 people and 119,803 congregate meals were served, the report said.
The Council on Aging utilizes evidence-based programs such as a chronic disease self-management program and Tai Chi for arthritis and balance training. The Tai Chi program had the heaviest participation, 517 participants, over the year, the annual report said.
The Aging and Disability Resource Connection, meant to connect people to long-term support options, had 5,277 initial incoming referrals in FY 2016. The Community Care Services program — which includes adult day health, alternative living services, emergency response system, home-delivered meals, skilled nursing and personal support services — was coordinated at a cost of $12.44 million as an alternative to nursing home placement for those who are Medicaid eligible, the annual report said.
Elder abuse prevention remains a priority in the council’s service area consisting of 82 personal care homes, 22 nursing homes and 37 community living arrangement homes. Over the year, four facility surveys and 589 routine visits were reported, the report said.
Money Follows the Person, which supports the transition of someone ready to leave an institutional setting, has seen seven transitions in Southwest Georgia from July 1, 2015-June 30 of this year. In the adult day care and in-home respite care, 22,941 day care service hours were provided and 5,410 hours for in-home respite care were provided in FY 2016.
Volunteer opportunities still continue through the GeorgiaCares Medicare program, senior centers, evidence-based programs, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, special events and Meals on Wheels. Such efforts produced 80 ramps for the disabled and elderly and an average of 100 cuddly bears per week made for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital patients — provided in part by veterans who logged in more than 3,000 hours for other veterans.
There were 176,304 home-delivered meals served, 9,862 hours were provided in homemaker services and 50 family caregiver clients were served over the year, the council’s annual report said.
“We still have a waiting list,” Hind said of the home-delivered meals.
The Kay H. Hind Senior Life Enrichment Center, the Dougherty County center, also serves as the agency’s administrative offices. Among the services offered to seniors there are a gym with fitness equipment, craft rooms, computer lab, classroom and boardrooms with smart boards, a dining hall and ballroom, a den and TV room, kitchen and catering kitchen, and a delivery pick-up area for Meals on Wheels.
This is done within a 45,000-square-foot space located at 335 W. Society Ave. Trips, lunch-and-learns, as well as art classes, AARP safe driver courses, computer classes and space for special events are among the community resources offered on-site.