NEWBERRY — May is Older Americans Month, a time to bring attention to the issues that affect older adults.
The 2017 theme, “Older Americans: Connecting the Community,” establishes the diversity and vitality of today’s seniors who span over three generations. It highlights the importance of building partnerships to ensure aging Americans are able to live with dignity, pride and independence.
When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million Americans had reached their 65th birthdays. About a third of older Americans lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs. However, interest in aging citizens was growing.
President John F. Kennedy met with the National Council of Senior Citizens in April 1963 which served as a prelude to designing May as “Senior Citizens Month.” President Jimmy Carter designated in 1980 that the name be changed to “Older Americans Month” and it has become a tradition and is celebrated across the country.
In 1991, the S.C. Legislature established the Senior Permanent Improvement Program (PIP) and appropriated $948,000 per year from State bingo tax and licensing fee revenues to fund 74 specifically identified capital improvement projects.”
The David C. Waldrop, Jr. Newberry Senior Center was completed in 1994 and was one of the 74 projects identified. The Senior Center offered for the first time a facility owned by the Newberry County Council on Aging. It featured the first Adult Day Care Center in the County and offered many services for the senior population. It also offered an exercise program specially designed for the senior population.
“Over the past nineteen years the senior population has continued to grow and space has become very limited for senior activities in the present area in the Senior Center. In November, 2010 the residents of Newberry County voted for the Capital Project Sales Tax to extend the Newberry Council on Aging facilities. The proposed addition of 5600 square feet will be devoted to a multipurpose room for dining and activities. The addition will also include space for walk-in coolers and freezers for home delivered meals. A TV room, game rooms, adult day care program space, and designated exercise area will be also included.
Services and activities per month at the Newberry Center include: 1100 group dining meals; 1550 home delivered meals; 200 hours of homecare; 1300 hours of Adult Day Care; local III B transportation 5000 non-emergency medical transportation 30,413; rural public transportation 14,835; SMART RIDE 669 passenger trips; 184 hours of fitness instructions.”
“The Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging located in Columbia administers funds received through the Older Americans Act and the State of South Carolina. These funds are distributed to ten regional Aging and Disability Resource Centers Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) who then contract with local providers for services such as: home delivered and congregate meals, transportation, home care services, social adult day care services, respite and disease prevention/health promotion. Staff is also available to present informative educational programs to groups or staff of other agencies.
The purpose of the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging is to advocate for seniors and issues that matter to them such as caregiving and Alzheimer’s, to administer Older Americans Act programs that provide low-income seniors with food and other services, to administer the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, and to create information systems to help 1.3 million baby boomers and 772,000 citizens over 65 maintain their independence.
Services such as information and referral, family caregiver support, education and training, legal service, disaster planning and insurance counseling are provided at each of the Aging and Disability Resource Centers.
There is a privilege of aging currently. After all, half of all the people since the beginning of time who have ever celebrated a 65th birthday are alive today. Indeed, half of children alive now may live to be 100. Our 700 current centenarians are expected to swell to 10,000 by 2050! Compare that to the average life expectancy of only 47 years in 1900. By 2000, the average life expectancy was 78.
The Office on Aging is working to increase awareness about the impact of aging population on our state. The leading edge of 78 million Baby Boomers have begun signing up for Medicare. That will include South Carolina’s 1.2 million Baby Boomers who are joining the current 750,000 on Medicare. Social Security expects to enroll 10,000 Americans every day for the next 20- years, which means each year about 34,000 South Carolinians will enroll in Social Security.
We are facing challenges with Long Term Care currently. Nursing homes are almost at capacity with 98% occupancy rate. No new Medicaid beds have been added in at least 9 years. Home and Community Services are promoted as an alternative to enable older adults to age in their homes. In-home and community-based services are less costly than out-of-home care and greatly reduce costs to older adults, their families and taxpayers.
There are three objectives being considered:
• Providing older citizens the tools and resources to make behavioral changes in their lifestyles that can reduce the risk of disease, disability, and injury, while also remaining actively and socially engaged;
• Providing information that older South Carolinians require to make informed decisions about, and gain better access to, existing health and long-term care options in their communities;
• Providing more options for older South Carolinians to allow them to remain at home as long as possible by increasing opportunities for them to remain active while maintaining their dignity, independence, and self-determination over their affairs.
Seniors need to talk with their families regarding these challenges. Legal services are available for assistance for issues such as Income protection, Health Care, Long Term Care, Protective Services, and Nutrition.”
“We do ourselves and others a disservice when we make old age something to be feared. Life is not a resource to be used up, so that the older we get, the less life we have left. Life is the accumulation of wisdom, love and experience of people encountered and obstacles overcome. The longer we live, the more life we possess.” (Rabbi Harold Kushner)
Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.