Survey assesses needs of local senior citizens

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Area Agency on Aging asks citizens aged 60 and up about top
concerns
San Benito County senior citizens are being asked to rank their
top concerns for the Senior Council/Area Agency on Aging, which
administers state and federal funding derived from the Older
Americans Act.
Area Agency on Aging asks citizens aged 60 and up about top concerns

San Benito County senior citizens are being asked to rank their top concerns for the Senior Council/Area Agency on Aging, which administers state and federal funding derived from the Older Americans Act.

The local Area Agency on Aging covers services in San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.

“It’s tied to our planning cycle,” said Patty Talbot, the associate director of the Seniors Council/Area Agency on Aging, of the survey. “It’s our least year on a four-year cycle so what we are doing now is needs assessment.”

The survey can be completed by all residents 60 years and older.

“Some of the things that come out of the survey are things we can help deal with through funding, like the meal programs,” Talbot said. “Others, such as dental, we don’t have funds for, but we can work with community partners or bring it to elected officials.”

Dental care concerns was one of the surprising findings of the last survey that was not expected. In the 2008 survey, seniors listed paying for dental care and buying food and other essential as their top concerns, with 48 percent of respondents saying those two things were a challenge. The next top concerns were paying for medications and paying for health care.

This year’s survey has a list of statements that seniors can review such as “paying my mortgage or rent,” “Buying food or other essentials,” and “paying for health care not covered by Medicare,” along with several more statements. The survey asks seniors if those types of things are a challenge with options for answering yes, no or sometimes. The statements are broken into categories such as “having enough money to meet my needs,” “living on my own,” and “other issues. The survey has a short answer section where seniors can list the most important thing for them to remain independent at home or other issues.

Talbot said representatives from the Seniors Council attend state budget hearings and other commission meetings related to senior needs.

“At a time when the senior population is growing, we are seeing funding reductions at all levels, which is threatening programs that help seniors remain independent in their homes,” Talbot said. “It is more important than ever that we advocate for the needs of seniors and this survey is one way we can do that.”

The agency did see some state cuts two years ago, which eliminated some programs such as the Alzheimer’s Day Care and Linkages. But she said federal funding has been stable.

“Both us as the area agency and service providers, as well as the local jurisdictions that provide matching funds in almost every area, have been struggling,” Talbot said. “State cuts hit a lot of programs that serve seniors such as In Home Supportive Services.”

The information gathered from the surveys will be used for the 2012-16 plan on aging. The Seniors Council receives $1.8 million in federal and state funds from the Older Americans Act the fund services in San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.

Its partner in San Benito, Jovenes de Antano, provides Meals on Wheels, low-cost meals at senior dining sites, a family caregiver support group and other services.

Talbot said the survey is “just to help continue to make sure the voices of seniors are being heard.”

The survey is available online at www.seniorscouncil.org or a copy can be picked up at Jovenes de Antano, at the Hollister Community Center, 300 West St., or by calling 688-0400 ext. 17, and leaving a name and address to have a survey mailed to a person’s home. The surveys will be accepted through the end of October.

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