Oregon’s Parks & Recreation Committee met Jan. 21 to hear about the needs of seniors in the community, and which services might be funded by the $250,000 revenue expected this year from the senior levy passed last fall.
City Administrator Mike Beazley said Mayor Mike Seferian, Councilman Terry Reeves, chairman of the committee, and council will be putting together a committee to make recommendations on which services may be funded by levy dollars “with appropriate oversight.”
Justin Moor, from the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, Inc., (AOoA), provided the committee with the top 10 services seniors in northwest Ohio wanted when they were asked about their preferences in a survey taken in 2010.
“The bulk of the top ten list comes from a needs assessment we do every four years,” said Moor. “Six hundred people were surveyed at least 60 years old or over, across our 10 county service area.”
One hundred seniors were surveyed in the “near suburbs” of Oregon, Maumee, the City of Sylvania and Sylvania Township.
Topping the list was the need for assistance with health insurance and prescriptions, also called “benefits counseling,” he said.
“There are trained volunteers or trained staff members who will sit one-on-one with seniors and help them with their questions, such as `Which Medicare drug plan will save me the most money,’ or `Am I eligible for some savings programs with my Medicare - it could be a wide variety of different benefits they have questions about.”
Second on the list: Home delivered meals. “A lot of people know it as Mobile Meals, one of the big service providers locally,” he said. Out of the survey, two percent of respondents said they do not eat three meals per day because they are unable to afford enough food.
“It’s a small percentage, but that’s the type of response where you have to ask yourselves as a community, `What are acceptable percentages?’ There are some seniors out there who are struggling to feed themselves each day.”
Third is help with bathing and dressing, he said.
“These are usually needed by really fragile seniors, who in a lot of cases are 75 years old or older. They want to stay living in their own homes. Six percent of people surveyed said they personally need that kind of assistance to stay living at home. They need help getting in and out of the bathtub or help getting their clothes on because they’re in such a frail state. Again, not a huge percentage, again, but it’s a pretty intensive need,” he said.
Fourth, transportation. “That is a huge need in every community in northwest Ohio. A lot of times it’s needed just to get back and forth from doctors’ appointments. It helps seniors stay healthy and active by getting regular checkups and catching things early on by keeping their regular doctor’s appointments. It’s a big part of transportation. Another part of transportation is getting to and from the senior center so they get socialization they need on a regular basis. It’s crucial to keeping seniors’ dignity and helping with their longevity.”
Fifth, the need for minor home repairs, such as fixing a furnace or roof .
Sixth are chore services, such as snow removal, lawn care, cleaning gutters and other needs that the individual can no longer physically do on their own.
Seventh, Tai Chi exercise for better balance.
“These are evidence based disease prevention programs. It has been thoroughly reviewed by universities. Those who go through the program have significant benefits they realize as a result, such as reduced hospitalizations and increased self-reported health status. Basically, it prevents falls, improves balance, and reduces the chance of falling and breaking a hip,” said Moor.
Eighth on the list: Diabetes self-management. “It allows seniors to make continuous improvements step by step in a way that’s much more manageable and easy for them to do and really helps them take ownership of their health,” he said.
Ninth is chronic pain management. “This workshop teaches how to deal with pain,” he said. “There is a lot of support learning from others in this workshop.”
Tenth is the “healthy you” program. “It’s more broad in nature. It can be anyone who wants to basically be healthier. Usually they have arthritis, COPD, some kind of chronic condition. And they set weekly action plans to help them meet their goals and learn from their peers.”
Also at the meeting was Melanie Grohowski, executive director of the eastern community YMCA. She provided information on programs used by Oregon seniors.
“We are serving a lot of older adults,” said Grohowski. The eastern branch serves 1,675 individual seniors, out of which 650 are from Oregon.
“Many seniors are coming in and working out in our wellness centers. We offer 27 group exercise classes every week geared toward older adults. That’s anywhere from water exercise, arthritis classes in the water, and land exercise classes. We also offer Tai Chi exercise classes, and terra yoga,” she said.
“We also have some seniors that are doing personal training with us, so they are in our 100 mile swim club doing our triathlon program. We have very physically active seniors,” she said.
There is also a women’s Bible study group, and the YMCA conducts a senior wellness fair every year.
“We’re also doing a diabetes education program, monthly social and educational activities. We have talent shows, recipe exchanges, self defense, and movie nights,” she said.
“We’re always looking to partner. Some of those other ideas, like chronic pain management, would be something we would love to do,” she said.
Council President Dennis Walendzak asked Moor if the AOoA, which receives funding from a county senior levy, would cut back funding to Oregon seniors because the city passed its own senior services levy.
“As a taxpaying citizen in Oregon, how do we make sure we don’t lose monies that would generally be grant reimbursement from the AOoA? As we move forward, I don’t want to lose monies that would be coming to Oregon from the AOoA just because we have extra money,” said Walendzak.
“No question it has to be done in a coordinated way,” said Moor. “The way that the AOoA contracts for services for Oregon residents, and the way the city of Oregon contracts for services for Oregon residents, has got to be done through continual dialogue, a coordinated effort so that we make sure the city of Oregon residents and taxpayers are getting the value they expect with both the taxes they are paying.”
Paula Benton, director of Oregon’s James “Wes” Hancock Senior Center, said there should be programs that are currently not provided by the AOoA.
“We need to step out and do other needs – we need to have a Chore program. I get calls all the time for snow removal, a car won’t start and needs the battery jumped, grass cut – but we’ve never had the means to buy the equipment needed, nor the storage space or funds it would take to staff that to do those type of things,” said Benton.
“Right now, transportation is a great need,” she added. “We have one 14 passenger van that takes people to and from the senior center, which provides the fellowship, socialization and the noon lunch. Then we transport them home in the afternoons. That one van limits us to what we can do. So we definitely need to fund one or two more vehicles.”
She also said there is a need for computers.
“We have a lot of people who are really interested in tablets and laptops. Every day, someone needs help using their cell phones. So there’s a real need to teach that. We were dependent for the last year and a half on the Cybermobile, provided by the county, which is a wonderful program. Our first six week program went very well. For our second six week program, they were either broken down or they couldn’t get online,” she said.
“When we get those funds through our levy, it doesn’t mean that all of the money will be disbursed through the senior center,” said Seferian. “We could distribute money to the YMCA to execute programs, or to the hospitals to execute programs, or to anyone. Wherever the service would exist and be helpful to our community is a possibility.”
The city decided to put together the committee to determine how the levy funds will be spent after it was learned last November that officials from the James “Wes” Hancock Senior Center had rejected the possibility of getting $250,000 from the AOoA to expand operations and had opted instead to get the center’s own levy on the ballot. Some voters also felt they were misled by an Oregon senior levy campaign that inaccurately stated the senior center’s budget had been cut by the city and the AOoA last year when in fact it had not been.