Representative from Lawrence & Douglas County Advocacy on Aging to chat on aging issues

April 10, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Linda E. O'Donnell, who works with the Lawrence & Douglas County Advocacy on Aging and a professor emerita at UMKC, will chat about issues facing the county's elderly.

Moderator:

Good afternoon. This is Dennis Anderson, managing editor of the Lawrence Journal-World. Our guest today is Linda E. O'Donnell, who works with the Lawrence & Douglas County Advocacy Council on Aging. She will chat about issues facing the county's elderly. Welcome, Linda.

Linda E. O'Donnell:

Thanks. I appreciate a chance to discuss issues on aging.

Moderator:

Can you explain what the council does and how it helps the elderly?

Linda E. O'Donnell:

The Lawrence & Douglas County Advocacy Council on Aging (LDC-ACA) is a group of individuals who serve the county as advocates. The organization serves community interests by advocating in support of coordinated services systems. The unique feature of this group is that we are aging ourselves, with member ranging from 65 to 90+ years old and we are appointed by the city and the county commissioners to serve on this advisory board. We work as unpaid volunteers benefiting from the validity of our own experiences, as well as working with the many agencies and service providers assisting the nearly 10,000 people in Douglas County who are over 65 years of age.

trombeck:

I keep hearing that Lawrence is a top retirement community, but housing prices are so high here. How can Lawrence be a more welcoming retirement community for all people, not just those with money?

Linda E. O'Donnell:

There are two parts to this issue related, first, to the availablilty of housing for aging individuals of all socioeconomic levels, and second, to assistance and supportive policies and funding to support the those with limited incomes. The housing issues require cooperation across local, state, and national agencies with federal flow-through dollars. Locally, our city commission in Lawence recently hosted an excellent conference on the issues of affordable housing, bringing together the right community-wide participants. We look forward to the leadership from the city and from the Kansas Department on Aging at the state level.

ChristyLittle:

What kind of caregiver resources are available in Douglas County?

Linda E. O'Donnell:

The Kansas Department on Aging has developed a new caregiver program which is available in Douglas County through the Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging (JAAA)programs. This is only one of several essential services JAAA offers to individuals aging in their own homes and other settings. While many programs have more visibility in the county, JAAA is the powerhouse which we expect to see become better know in the future. JAAA has the advantage of providing services to people of all socioeconomic levels, and their case workers and staff provide the state and federal flow through dollars directly to individuals needing assistance--not only with caregiving but in other areas of home and community based services. Other agencies and organizations also provide training and caregiving assistance including Project Lively in the Health Department, the Douglas County Senior Services programs, Visiting Nurses Association, and the Lawrence Area Partners in Aging. Still, about 80% of the caregiving is done by families without the assistance of professional. It is a complex field with major changes ahead of us all.

trombeck:

How do you think Lawrence ranks in terms of intergenerational interaction? Could more be done to get older adults interacting with, say, KU students, children or even younger adults? Is there a need/benefit for that?

Linda E. O'Donnell:

We need more information, research, and data about local intergenerational interactions to answer this question. Personally, I think there is a need to prevent isolation of individuals as they age. The benefits, especially for frail elderly, are powerful within positive and loving, extended families and communities. KU students do offer a special opportunity. We know of interactions with students and faculty--especially from the School of Social Work gerontology program, the Gerontology Institute in the Dole Building, and the KU Medical Centers Center on Aging. Another KU aspect is the Lifelong Learning Institute at KU which offers courses where students of all ages interact and enjoy intellectual issues.

ChristyLittle:

Vision care is expensive and not always fully covered by insurance. Are there any resources available for seniors to make vision care more affordable or accessible?

Linda E. O'Donnell:

Individuals needing insurance-related information on vision (and other medical care) can contact the SHICK counselors at the DCSS. "SHICK" stands for Senior Health Insurance Counselors in Kansas. I, myself, just finished a three-day training on the issues SHICK covers. The rules are continually changing, evolving...The "DCSS" refers to the Douglas County Senior Services center which your city and county taxes help to pay for, along with several other funding sources. Call DCSS and ask for SHICK.

Moderator:

Are there any initiatives the council hopes to address this year?

Linda E. O'Donnell:

Yes. Our Council has studied the programs funded by the Douglas County and the City of Lawrence governments; as part of our work, we visited locally funded programs to prepare ourselves to be better advocates to the city and the county (who appoint us). In the process of our work, consensus leads us to see the most urgent needs competing with each other and hard to prioritize. As a result, Our Council members would like to carry our an orderly and systematic study of needs, leading to recommendations for what needs to be done to benefit aging individuals and their families locally. The last time our local area did a full-blown, large-scale assessment on needs in aging was Spring of 1989 when a two-year study by the LDC-ACA yielded an ambitious plan with a final report. Many of these widely disseminated 1989 recommendations were followed to the benefit of us all. Now, so much has changed that we face the need for a new, comprehensive, careful analysis of the needs. We plan for our land use. We plan for our library use. We plan for our business development. We need to plan, on that scope, for the services of aging which lay before us as a major challenge. Therefore, our Council began searching for a way to persue this kind of a study. After a national search, and visits with several consultants, an approach has come to our attention that may assist this initiative: "Lifelong Community Initiative" assessment process. It is a designed for the community-wide, complex range-of-services on aging. Its strength is that is enlists cooperation of: community services, business, government, transportation, housing, and health care. Last month our Advocacy Council on Aging received training in Topeka introducing us to the use of this assessment tool; the training was provided by the Kansas Department on Aging and JAAA. So, your question is especially timely for the local work going on to understand and to better plan for aging. FYI, the LDC-ACA members will be discussing the LCI TOOL BOX, the system for gathering county-wide data, on Friday April 20, 2007, from 10:00-11:30 AM at the Lawrence Fire and Medical Station #5 (just off Iowa Street) at our next LDC-ACA meeting. This will be a working meeting, but it is open to the public, so you are welcome to come and give input, or just listen in, if you are interested. We are in the beginning stages of a very big idea. No decisions have been made to do it yet, but we are very interested. Our work is to advocate, and this LCI process may help us all address the challenges and opportunities ahead.

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