It is hard to believe that we are 40! The office has transformed from a staff of one to that of 21 (including office staff and meals drivers, combined county and contracted individuals), and a budget of less than $20,000 to one that exceeds $1 million. Although the programs have changed over the years to meet the need, the dedication and compassion to ensure support to the county residents older than 60 continues to this day. We will celebrate all that we have done and what we now do at an open house from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday in our office at 113 Park Place in Schoharie.
The Office for the Aging was started by a group of individuals who felt that the needs of older citizens would be better addressed if there were an organized entity that could partner with an already established nonprofit with support from the county Board of Supervisors. The program director, Ethel Benninger, worked with the local Community Action Program, who at the time was running a pilot congregate meal program. The CAP agency had worked for several years to form several clubs within the county and united them under the incorporation of the Schoharie County Council of Senior Citizens.
A request was made to the Board of Supervisors, and the Office of the Aging opened its door in July of 1973. They worked hard the first year to determine the needs of older adults and determine how to address them on a modest budget. They moved into a room in the old Lark Street School for $100 a month. They took over the meal program, serving lunch as well as hosting monthly activities.
Over the years, several programs came and left. The department helped start the transportation program that has now grown into a public transportation system within the county. The department had worked to bring in revenue from sales of crafts in the local SCCAP stores and looked to the state office for additional revenue and programs. Slowly each year, the department grew and the services for older adults were coordinated with other organizations in the county.
Today we work to provide services in much the same way. We administer surveys, look at growing trends, and listen to the requests of many of the older adults we hear from on a daily basis. Then, using resources either within the department or in the community, work to get services in place.
Almost all of our programs are designed for individuals older than 60 and many are for those with lower incomes. But, there are some programs that have eligibility requirements that are not income-based and some that can assist those who are not yet 60. For example, the Health Insurance Information, Counseling and Assistance Program is not income based but requires you have Medicare. Our Caregiver Respite program will assist a younger individual caring for a senior and has no income guidelines. If you think any of the following programs could help, please call us to find out more and make an appointment to see our friendly staff.
Home Delivered Meals: Meals are provided to homebound eligible clients, three to five times per week.
Congregate Meals: Meals are offered at noon, Monday through Friday, in three locations in the county.
Nutrition Consultation: A registered dietitian will meet with you individually to discuss your particular dietary needs and concerns.
HIICAP: Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program helps with Medicare forms, health bills and other health insurance questions.
EPIC: The Elderly Prescription Insurance Coverage offers prescription cost assistance to New York residents 65 and older.
Legal Aid: Legal Aid offers assistance and referral for legal advice and/or representation for concerns that are non-fee generating.
HEAP: Home Energy Assistance Program assists seniors with applications for heating assistance to supplement their fuel costs. This program has income guidelines.
Health Promotion: Evidence-based services are provided to help promote good health and well-being through activities, information and classes.
Recreation and Education: These are activities and programs designed to promote socialization and physical, mental and emotional health.
Our mission is to assist and advocate for county residents ages 60 and older and their caregivers through programs and services designed to promote health, safety, dignity, independence and community involvement. The office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Although we can see you if you just drop by, it is best to make an appointment so that the individual with the expertise you need is available. Don't forget to stop by on Wednesday to meet the staff and learn more about our programs.
Nancy Dingee is director of the Schoharie County Office for the Aging. ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.