Office For The Aging Director Holds Informational Forum, Encourages Reauthorization Of Older Americans Act

SINCLAIRVILLE – Dr. Mary Ann Spanos is urging senior citizens to call the White House and Congress in a movement to reauthorize the Older Americans Act.

Spanos, director of the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging, provided an informational forum at the Sinclairville Fire Hall on Monday afternoon in an effort to inform citizens about the future of health care, insurance options and available services provided by the OFA.

According to the Administration on Aging website, the Older Americans Act is “considered to be the major vehicle for the organization and delivery of social and nutrition services” to the elderly community and their caregivers.

However, the act hasn’t been in effect since 2011.

If it were to be reinstated, it would “send a message to the country that seniors matter,” Spanos said.

New York state began cutting funding for services in June 2010, and Spanos said that without the OAA, home care, meals at home or in centers, transportation and other services are even more in jeopardy.

Spanos advised elderly members of the community to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is the new name for the Food Stamp program, and took effect in 2012.

“There are over 800 (elderly) people in Chautauqua County who are eligible, and less than 300 are getting them (food stamps),” she said, adding, “The message I want to get out is that you paid for it, you should take advantage.”

Lastly, Spanos spoke of the OFA’s plans for 2014. County legislators approved a budget including $250,000 in additional resources for the organization on Oct. 23, which will help in many ways, but ultimately was designated to help older people living in the county to stay out of nursing homes, Spanos said, adding, “We want to keep people at home.”

She added that a private donor has been paying for emergency home repairs (such as safety rails and ramps) in the homes of local veterans who cannot afford the projects. The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation was contacted by the donor, who was then connected with the OFA. Several projects have been funded at a total of $95,000.

“We don’t know who they are, but they continue to give,” Spanos said.

In 2013, the agency provided services for almost 7,500 people in the county and hopes to serve 8,000 in the coming year. Health insurance counseling, adult day care and home-delivered meals are a few examples of assistance provided by the OFA.

The agency also hopes to increase the number of personal emergency response units (similar to Life Alert) from 976 to 1,220 next year with the additional money.

The forum ended with Spanos suggesting that senior citizens take advantage of the OFA insurance counselors who advise and inform about Medicare and options that may be available.

In order to speak with a representative about any of the services provided by the agency, call 661-8940.

To support the Older Americans Act call, (202) 456-1111 (White House) or (202) 224-3121 (Congress switchboard).