Developing Relationships

When it comes to senior resources, communication is key, according to Congressman Tom Reed.

Reed, R-Corning, met with dozens of area residents during a free senior resource event held in Jamestown on Monday morning.

In addition to the opportunity to meet Reed and discuss their concerns, area residents were also greeted by representatives of more than 20 Chautauqua County-based organizations specializing in providing resources for seniors.

According to Reed, his administration has been hosting events such as this across the district, but Chautauqua County’s was one of the most well-attended.

“I firmly believe that to provide services to constituents, one of the things you have to do is get out there and make constituents aware of what is available – awareness is key,” Reed said. “So, the primary motive of today is to tell folks, ‘Look, we want to be a resource, and we want to coordinate services in a way that is most convenient for you.’ These opportunities are here to help develop relationships to go forward.”

The event, which was held at Christ First United Methodist Church in Jamestown, was organized by Mary Ann Spanos, director of the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging, and Karen Lucks, associate director of the Chautauqua Adult Day Care Centers Inc.

“It’s critical that seniors are connected early because we don’t want there to be a crisis to change their situation before they look for services – that’s how they end up in the nursing homes or the hospital and never come out,” Spanos said. “I hope Congressman Reed will make this an annual event.”

Many seniors attended the event due in part to a Spanos’ promotion, a flyer delivered via mail to homes throughout Chautauqua County and an announcement printed in The Post-Journal. In addition, Lucks was responsible for involving area residents from the senior day program.

“I think we’ve had a great turnout, especially for us to have put this together in less than two weeks,” Lucks said. “It’s the perfect opportunity to involve the seniors from our day program – we have about 40 people here.”

The organizations represented at the event include: Chautauqua County Office for the Aging, Chautauqua County Adult Day Care Centers Inc., Social Security, Chautauqua County Veterans Agency, United Senior Council, Hospice Chautauqua County, Heritage Ministries, Chautauqua County Health Network, FTC, CMS, Lakeshore Hospital, LTHHCP, Aftercare Nursing, Chautauqua Medical Monitoring, Visiting Nursing Association of Western New York, AARP, United Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Independent Health and Rite Aide Pharmacy Wellness Ambassadors.

Judy Hunt, of Findley Lake, attended the event to gather information for Community Connections at Findley Lake, a local organization committed to linking seniors living at home with local resources.

“There are far more different agencies and resources than I had anticipated as being available in Chautauqua County,” Hunt said. “It’s a great resource for us of Community Connections because we’re networking with people we didn’t know.

“Reed was brief, but he seems very personable and accessible – which is positive,” Hunt continued.

OLDER AMERICANS ACT

Providing area residents with the opportunity to meet representatives from area organizations wasn’t the only agenda for Reed. He was also in Jamestown to spread the word about the Older Americans Act.

According to Reed, the Older Americans Act is a critical piece of legislation that his administration has co-sponsored, is bipartisan and has expired.

“It does so much in regard to our older American’s services across the country – it’s things like the Department of Aging, Meals on Wheels and RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program),” Reed said. “It is the package that authorizes those programs, and right now it is expired, which is causing a lot of uncertainty for the agencies who don’t know what the rules are going to be. That’s why we signed up for a five-year renewal, and I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re going to get to the finish line in the next few months – it’s the right thing to do.”

Spanos echoed Reed’s concerns, adding that he has been instrumental in reintroducing the Older American’s Act, which is the main source of funding for the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging and in turn for Chautauqua County Adult Day Care services, meal services, transportation and home care.

“It hadn’t really been moving anywhere in Congress, but Congressman Reed, along with congressman (Chris) Gibson, reintroduced it into the House for reauthorization,” Spanos said. “We’re very excited to see some movement because it was supposed to be reauthorized two years ago. It’s really important because we’ve got an exploding senior population, and this is really the only funding that serves those who aren’t poor. There are people living in poverty; but there are also a lot of people living just above poverty who need help to stay in their home long term. The Older Americans Act is critical legislation as well as funding to help our seniors who want to stay in their home for as long as possible, and it’s the most cost effective for both our government and the seniors.”

Reed encourages area residents who have further questions or concerns to contact regional director Jacqueline Chiarot, who serves as his local Medicare and Social Security representative, at 708-6058. For more information on the congressman, visit www.reed.house.gov.