May was Older American Month, a time to bring attention to the issues that affect older adults. Led by the Administration for Community Living, the annual observance offers the opportunity to learn about, support and celebrate our nation’s older citizens.
This year’s theme, “Blaze a Trail,” emphasized the ways older adults are reinventing themselves through new work and passions, engaging their communities, and blazing a trail of positive impact on the lives of people of all ages.
Guests are Lynn Stokman, executive director, Newberry County Council on Aging; Kay Taylor Hightower, program manager with the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging; and Rep. Rick Martin. All work together to improve the health, well-being and safety of South Carolina older adults.
Rep. Rick Martin voted to reauthorize the Homestead exemption and fund it in the budget using General Fund dollars. This tax credit primarily assists Seniors 65 years and older by reducing their annual property tax bill from their county government.
This keeps more money in the pockets of our seniors. In 2007, the SC Legislature passed legislation that completely exempts from your tax bill all taxes levied for school operating purposes on the value of your legal residence. The Homestead Exemption credit continues to completely exempt the value of $50,000 for all purposes except for school operating purposes
You may qualify for the Homestead exemption if you are:
· Age 65 on or before December 31, preceding the tax year in which you wish to claim the exemption
· Totally and permanently disabled
· Legally blind
· The surviving spouse of a qualifying applicant
I have personally sponsored three bills through the House:
· H-3463 – If property was assessed as agricultural property, buildings or equipment in 2016 and back, it must continue to be assessed as the same unless a change of use occurs. This bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate committee.
· H-3835- Guarantees that Policemen and Firemen, whether they are full time, part time, reserve or volunteer, can and will qualify for workman compensation. (This bill is in the house judiciary committee.)
· H-4201- This bill will make our State Flag uniform and standard. The design will not be left up to the supplier that the State contracts with to make the flag. (This bill is in the House committee.)
Lynn Stockman, executive director, of Newberry County Council on Aging. This year’s theme, “Blaze a Trail” emphasizes through new work and new passions, engaging their communities, and blazing a trail of positive impact that will affect the lives of people of all ages.
The Capitol Sales Tax Project is now complete at the Newberry Council on Aging with a new dining room and multipurpose room for meals and activities for the seniors. The senior population of Newberry County has a wonderful new place to eat lunch and enjoy activities. We encourage seniors to get involved by volunteering in the local area activities or attending organizational events. The Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging has donated computers to the Newberry Council on Aging and classes are set up and will be announced.
Older adults are a growing and increasingly vital part of our country. The contributions they make to communities are varied, deeply rooted and include influential roles in the nation’s economy, politics and the arts.
Esq. Kay Taylor Hightower, Program Manager, Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging. She is responsible for overseeing programs related to transportation and home care services. Additionally, she manages the ElderCare Trust Fund awarding grants to nonprofit organizations. Kay also manages a program to encourage doctors to practice geriatric medicine in South Carolina, the Generic Loan Forgiveness Program.
The Geriatric Loan Forgiveness Program was the vision of renown geriatrician Dr. Victor Hirth. It was passed into law with strong support from AARP and the Silver Haired Legislature. The program was established by law in 2005 to encourage physicians specializing in the fields of geriatrics and geriatric psychiatry to practice in South Carolina by helping them repay their student loans. It is the only program of its kind in the U.S. In exchange for the commitment to practice in South Carolina for at least five years, qualified doctors can receive as much as $35,000 to repay their loans for medical school. The program is successful. The Geriatric Loan Forgiveness Program has improved the lives of the approximately 950,000 seniors who reside in S.C. by incentivizing our nation’s finest geriatric specialist to practice in the state. The Program has awarded over $600,000 to 21 geriatric physicians and geriatric psychiatrists who have served over 100,000 in medical debt that has doubled. Working with groups like the Silver Haired Legislature we seek to double the award to $70,000 and open it up to other medical specialists that specialize in diseases associated with aging like; Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Arthritis.
Eldercare Trust Fund was established in 1992, and was created by statute, 43-21-160 et.Seq., to support programming that helps seniors stay in their homes and lead productive lives. The Fund’s mission is to award grants to public and private non-profit organizations that create innovative programs which help older South Carolinians live with dignity and vitality in their communities. Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of South Carolinians, the ElderCare Trust Fund has awarded over $400,000 to more than 30 non-profit organizations statewide since the inception.
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 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.