Senior Life: Older American Month events nearby in May

The Federal Administration for Community Living has designated May as Older American Month. They have made this designation “to encourage our neighbors across the nation to prioritize meaningful relations, connecting older Americans with local services such as transportation, and to encourage older adults to engage in community events, social clubs and to volunteer.”

The 2024 national theme is Powered by Connection, bringing attention to the importance of connectedness in supporting independence and aging in place, by combating isolation, loneliness and other issues to enhance the quality of life for older adults. Following the national lead, Ohio’s Department on Aging has planned a Senior Spring Extravaganza from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 16 at the Richland County Fairgrounds. The event is free and open to the public.

This is not only a “trade show” of services and goods for older Americans, but also an opportunity for Ohio to recognize their contributions to our day-to-day lives in Ohio. The event will also include musical entertainment and refreshments. It is funded by the Richland County Senior Services levy. (One of those things Portage does not have.)

The Senior Spring Extravaganza will also be an opportunity for Ohio to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ohio District 5. We, here in Portage County, are part of District 10B. This is how the state divides the Area Agencies on Aging Services in Ohio. Our area agency includes Portage, Summit, Stark and Wayne counties. The mission of each individual Area Agency on Aging is “to help older adults and people with disabilities thrive in the places they want to call home.”

These services are provided by our area agency by offering classes to “help older Ohio residents to make health choices, including nutrition education and counseling on dietary needs; they also try to connect older adults to volunteer opportunities to allow them to give back to their community; they also help provide information about how to access home repairs and modification services, and they also help individuals and families plan for long-term care needs with free long-term care consultations.” Their information is provided for free, and definitely worth calling 1-800-770-5558 and asking for advice or information about your concerns or needs as a Portage County Older American. (Your federal tax dollars at work.)

In a recent article in the Record-Courier, there is an update on the Healthy Aging Grants in Portage County. Unfortunately, all of the money for the housing portion of the grant has already been committed. There is still money available for case management, food assistance, care coordination, transportation assistance and digital assistance until the end of June.

For more information or an application, contact Andrea Reihard at 330- 389-7512 or [email protected].

Who are we older Americans? Estimates from the 2020 Census report there are 29,599 individuals over the age of 65 living in Portage County. We account for 18.3% of the population. Of this group 7.4% of us live alone and 50.6% of us are women. Our average income is $21,868 a year ($1,822 per month).

What Social Services are focused on Older Americans? The Portage County Job and Family Services has an Adult Protective Services program (330-296-2273), whose staff can assist if we are being physically, financially or emotionally abused by our caregivers or family members.

First Call for Help (211) has a massive collection of information about what services are available in Portage County. The Portage County Health Department (330-296-9919) offers an immunization clinic each Wednesday morning.

Pro-Seniors, Inc. (800-488-6070) provides free legal advice to Ohio residents age 60 or older: pensions, nursing home issues, and scams. Our local Veterans Services (330-297-3545) provides free medical care for veterans with a service-related injury, free grave markers, and financial assistance for spouses of deceased veterans (income requirements).

What Portage County does not have is a Senior Services Levy, which could provide additional money for basic needs such as congregate meals, health and wellness programs and senior centers. Seventy-seven of Ohio’s 88 Counties have Senior Service Levies. Maybe next year … I have been saying that for more than 20 years … but maybe …

Happy Older Americans Month! Congratulations, we made it another year.

Contact Sally Kelly with your senior news at 330-687-9501 or [email protected].

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