Douglas County Senior Services figures it helps 425 people a day.
Many of its programs are offered at the Lawrence Senior Center, but the agency is working to make service to local senior citizens a community matter, involving other local agencies and professionals.
To be sure the word about local senior services gets out, the DCAA has been reaching out to lawyers, doctors, pharmacists and even local police.
The need to get police involved in the senior service information network came to light when a local resident saw an elderly person having difficulty walking in a grocery store parking lot. The concerned resident called the DCSS office at the Lawrence Senior Center, 745 Vt., and asked what could be done to locate the elderly person and find out if some type of continuing assistance was needed, recalled Tonia Salvini, DCSS executive director. Lawrence police were called to see if the elderly person could be located through an auto license number. Because of confidentiality of license numbers, police couldn't give out the name of the elderly person, but the incident led to a DCSS presentation to the police department on DCSS services for the elderly, Salvini said.
Officers may find themselves in situations with the elderly where the law doesn't apply but where a phone call to DCSS might help, Salvini said.
The presentation for police is one of about 35 conducted since last May by DCSS through its community service programming.
The programs seek to reach anyone who might encounter people over 60 who need assistance but continue to live at home, she said.
The living at home distinction is important to DCSS, which helps residents over age 60 remain " . . . independent and active in their home and community," according to its mission statement.
Last year DCSS detailed its services at a program for retiring city employees. DCSS now is providing referral information to the Kansas University Gerontology Center, which is compiling a directory on elder care for KU employees.
DCSS also prints and distributes about 4,000 newsletters every other month.
Through its newsletters, presentations and pamphlets, DCSS informs the community about its other five areas of programming nutrition, transportation, recreation, adult day and legal service. Nutrition is the largest program, Salvini said, providing a meal a day to about 225 Douglas County seniors.
Age, not income, qualifies Douglas County residents for the meal program, Salvini said. It's important that seniors realize income isn't a factor, she said. The program is there to provide residents over 60 with a nutritious meal and to give seniors who live alone a chance to socialize, Salvini said. The program has room for about 75 more participants, she said. Interested seniors can call and make a reservation, she said. In Eudora, DCSS meals are offered three days a week rather than daily. A donation of $1.50 is suggested per meal.
In Lawrence, Eudora and Baldwin City, DCSS offers bus transportation to meal sites. Reservations are needed. The Bus 62 program also provides rides to work, doctor offices, grocery stores and many other places. There are many fixed stops in Lawrence and weekly bus trips are made from Baldwin City and Lecompton to Lawrence. A target date of July 9 has been set for a new bus service to meal sites in Lecompton, said Bob Skaggs, director of transportation. A $1 donation is suggested for each ride.
At the Lawrence Senior Center bridge, bingo and exercise classes are among the many recreational activities offered.
Though many seniors go to DCSS activities unassisted, others need assistance and a structured daytime environment. The Adult Day Programs offered at the Lawrence Senior Center and Valleyview Care Home cater to seniors who have had strokes, head injuries or are wheelchair bound or otherwise need assistance.
Salvini said people accepted into Adult Day attend daily or a few times a week, taking part in activities such as crafts and baking along with therapeutic activities.
Adult Day lets primary caregivers take a few hours off, Salvini said, and it also works to increase the seniors independence and self-worth. Seniors needing legal advice also call on DCSS, Salvini said. An attorney is available two days a month to discuss problems seniors face in obtaining public benefits such as Social Security disability, Medicare, food stamps and other services. Salvini said the attorney slots fill up quickly each month and that seniors wanting advice should call in advance.
DCSS services are offered on an annual budget of about $580,000, which includes federal and county monies along with donations and other grant funding. Salvini said donations by seniors using DCSS accounts for 10 percent of the budget. Seniors frequently volunteer to help with projects that result in a donation to DCSS, she said. DCSS employs 37 people with half being 60 or older and relies on about 350 volunteers.