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Brattleboro Citizens' Breakfast - Senior Solutions Lunch - Nov. 18, 2013


Brattleboro Citizens' Breakfast (... Lunch)

November 18, 2013 

Gibson-Aiken Center - Brattleboro VT

Notes from - Senior Solutions Lunch 

Presenter: Joyce Lemire, Executive Director

 jlemire@seniorsolutionsvt.org 

 http://www.seniorsolutionsvt.org/

Senior Helpline: 1-800-642-5119

Census data from 2010 show that Vermont is the second oldest state after Maine. Percentage wise, there is an increasing proportion of the population that is retiring and remaining in the state. By 2030, it is estimated that 29% of the state’s population will be age 65 or over.

The main question concerns how basic needs are met for seniors. The answer is that “it takes a village” and a strong sense of community. The Federal Older Americans Act provides the funding through the states for agency services, but these are facing major funding reductions. Census data show that there are fewer seniors in the southern tier of Vermont --- both in  the southeast and the southwest --- than in the northern and central tiers. Migration to the northern tiers is one explanation. Since funding is related to population, there is less funding available in the southern tier. Agencies overall have lost 8% of their federal funding due to the sequester. With less funding available it becomes a challenge to offer needed services. The agency provides services in the areas of nutrition, case management, helping seniors make informed decisions about health and long term care options, how to remain living at home safely, staying active and healthy, knowing one's rights, preventing abuse ... the list goes on. Services offered are listed on the website - http://www.seniorsolutionsvt.org/services/

An audience question concerned the combined effect of funding cuts and cuts to food stamps. Joyce explained that many in the elder population do not use the food stamp program, called 3Squares in Vermont - http://dcf.vermont.gov/esd/3SquaresVT. Often, seniors tell her, “I’m doing okay, give it to a younger family.” Callers for services often reject services for which they are eligible other than the one that precipitated the call.

The Senior Helpline, a major point of access (1-800-642-5119), received 7,500 calls during this year, about 30 calls per day, a 25% increase from the previous year. In years past 16 case managers in satellite offices could provide one-on-one services; now, only nine (9) case managers cover the two counties (Windham and Windsor).

The agency continues to allocate its  limited funds to the senior nutrition program and despite a growing target population, there is no waiting list for the program (meals on wheels) as is the case in some other states.

The Senior Solutions Board looked at the funding challenges and realized that case managers could meet with 10-12 people in an office setting per day and could make four (4) home visits per day in rural areas. While the reality is that many seniors have a hard time articulating the questions they have, Helpline staff can assist in defining the question and directing the caller to the appropriate service. Volunteers can also be utilized to assist with person-to-person services.

It is not expected that Town, State or Federal funding will increase in the near future therefore the agency will rely more on volunteers to deliver meals and  to introduce seniors who are new to Medicare.

In response to a question concerning whether philanthropic funding sources might be sought, Joyce explained that as Senior Solutions receives funding via the Older Americans Act, it cannot charge for services but might explore fee for service arrangements when providing services that are not now provided. A statewide association of senior service agencies could better apply for private funding sources.

In the area of Elder Advocacy, Senior Solutions was involved with other agencies in a lawsuit against the State charging that some 300 elder abuse investigation referrals were deferred to a waiting list. A settlement, agreed to in August, involved, among other things, an increase in the number of State abuse investigators from four (4) to eleven (11), and the establishment of quarterly benchmarks for following up at risk abuse/neglect cases. cf: "Elder abuse settlement reached," WCAX News, Aug 28, 2013. http://www.wcax.com/story/23276076/elder-abuse-settlement-reached

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