by Mark Boutwell, Executive Director
At Senior Solutions, every day brings an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of older Vermonters. But May is special because it’s Older Americans month—a time to celebrate the lasting impacts of the Older Americans Act (OAA), which was signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson, as part of his “Great Society Initiative.” The goal of the OAA, then and now, is to support older Americans who wish to live at home and in the community with dignity and independence for as long as possible.
For five decades, according to the USAging website, “the OAA has been the foundation upon which the federal, state and local organizational infrastructure has developed, planned and delivered home and community-based services and supports to older adults and their caregivers.
Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) were added to the Act in 1973 to be the on-the-ground organizations charged with helping vulnerable older adults live with independence and dignity in their homes and communities.
Today, AAAs coordinate a complex local service delivery system that serves millions of older adults and caregivers in every community in the country, providing access to critical home and community-based services.”
At Senior Solutions, our staff play pivotal, varied roles every day as critical providers in this complex service delivery system. In March, our HelpLine received 467 calls, 113 of which were Medicare-related, with the other top topics being long-term care (Choices for Care), nutrition, and transportation. Monthly, our case managers coordinate care for an average of 213 long-term care clients and work to sort out the complex needs of 39 clients with self-neglecting behaviors. They do all this through the extensive network of community partners they have cultivated over the years. And we are now up to 70 community visitor volunteers who put in countless hours running errands, making friendly visits, providing Vet to Vet companionship, and giving needed respite to caregivers with loved ones suffering from dementia.
Our nutrition program coordinates Meals on Wheels and congregate meal programs across 29 community meal sites and 13 home-delivered meal programs. These programs cover the 46 towns of our service area from Thetford to Vernon to Readsboro and back north to Barnard. And we continually train volunteer leaders for wellness programs such as tai chi and water aerobics.
Our outreach and communications staff continually find creative ways to get the word out to older Vermonters who could benefit from programs and services. From our Meals on Wheels 50th anniversary campaign, to our weekly radio broadcasts, to our regular presence in local senior centers, we strive to be more engaged in all the communities we serve.
No less important, as advocates for issues related to successful aging in Vermont, Senior Solutions has a presence at several state government policy committees and associations at which we promote legislation and practices that will benefit our older citizens in years to come.
So, for Older Americans month, we applaud the vision of President Johnson, 57 years ago, and we celebrate our dedicated staff and the strong regional delivery system that carries on this vision throughout southeastern Vermont.