Community services can help with senior independence

Posted April 25, 2011, at 5:23 p.m.

I’m a homebody by nature. It is undeniable there’s a certain comfort that comes from being at home. Most of us feel it after a long day of work or an extended vacation.

Imagine the comfort that comes from living in the same home for decades. Every turn is a memory, from notches carefully carved on the door frame to measure growth spurts in children to the faded wallpaper in the kitchen with the small stain in the corner near the ceiling where the ice backs up in particularly bad winters.

Seniors surrounded by their own personal history and reminders and memories of the past can feel more connected to the community in which they have lived for so long. For some seniors, the importance of remaining at home and aging in place is paramount to their well-being and emotional health.

Eastern Area Agency on Aging has a variety of programs and services that can help accomplish that goal. For instance, the Community Services program has the most updated information on available services and provides options, assistance and referrals, not only to the senior but to family caregivers as well.

Each community services specialist is well-versed in benefits such as Medicare, and Social Security. But their knowledge doesn’t stop there. These dedicated individuals also can explain other programs to seniors, including food stamps, Medicare buy-ins, heat assistance, MaineCare and Supplemental Security Income. The ins and outs of these programs are at the specialists’ fingertips — and consequently at the fingertips of the senior or the person living with a disability.

But along with the educational piece comes assistance in completing the necessary paperwork to actually receive the benefits. What all this amounts to is extra money in the senior’s pocket.

While money may not be able to buy happiness, it can go a long way toward promoting peace of mind. Worrying about finances and how to make ends meet takes a toll. For seniors who wonder how they will manage — how they will pay for oil, groceries, prescriptions and home repairs — a little extra income makes a difference.

Sometimes the money saved can be put into an emergency call system. For a person living alone, it is an invaluable tool. One touch of a button summons help. It’s like having a roommate without having to share the television remote control.

Living alone also may present nutritional challenges. Cooking for one can be bothersome and consequently, meals might be lacking in nutritional value. A friend of mine who lives alone has a sweet tooth and enjoys ice cream for supper.

This, of course, is not a good idea on a regular basis, but EAAA can make it less of a problem. Our nutrition program will make you a delicious lunch that is also well-balanced and can relieve some of the guilt of having a sketchy supper.

There are more than 50 EAAA Community Cafes in Eastern Maine. Every one of them is a little bit different and yet there is a common thread — the joy of having a delicious meal with peers and the sociability found around the tables.

For seniors who are homebound, Meals on Wheels delivers. Good nutrition is but a phone call away.

It is part of EAAA’s mission to help ensure that seniors live out their lives independently. This includes helping them remain in their own homes, if that is their wish. While staying at home is the dream of some seniors, others prefer to downsize, perhaps even moving into an apartment setting. No yard work, no shoveling, and close neighbors with whom to share a cup of tea and a couple of cookies on occasion.

Whatever your preference, EAAA will try to make your wish a reality.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. Email Higgins Taylor at chtaylor@eaaa.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, email info@eaaa.org or log on to EAAA.org. TTY 992-0150.

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