Senior needs discussed at Community Foundation event

by Heidi Litchfield

Morris Daily Herald

October 2, 2014


Is Grundy County a retirement-friendly community?

That was the question posed Wednesday at a program sponsored by the Community Foundation of Grundy County.

“We have a lot of networks in Grundy County covering different groups,” said Julie Buck with the Community Foundation of Grundy County. “We decided we needed a senior network.”

Community seniors were invited to the program to discuss what they believed their needs were while hearing from local community members and members of different agencies that work with senior citizens.

“We came because we thought it would be interesting to see what is available, and to make suggestions,” said Jackie Buckley, who attended with her husband, Paul.

The event had two speakers: Lisa Hollis-Sawyer, Ph.D, associate professor of psychology at Northeastern Illinois University; and Lucia West Jones, executive director with the Northeast Illinois Area Agency on Aging.

Jones said everybody wants to live and die at home, and communities need to look at what they need for the aging population to do that.

She said there are four key areas: Seniors need affordable and accessible housing, transportation, access to health care, and to be close to family to stay in their home.

“I like to say everyone is one banana peel away from not being able to stay home,” Jones said. “When they step on a banana peel, have a catastrophic event, sometimes they need home assistance. They need to be closer to family and people who love them. Care giving is about loving to the end.”

She said 20 percent of the population is over the age of 65, but there have only been 25 good years of aging experience to guide the resources in place to help this population.

“We’ve not been able to be proactive,” Jones said. “We are reactive. All the things we have put in place are in retrospect.”

One staggering statistic she shared was that two-thirds of the people who have turned 65 years old are alive today. When Medicare and Social Security were set up, people were not living as long as they are today.

She asked the senior residents attending the meeting if they’ve picked out their long-term care facility. All replied they hadn’t.

“People stay in their community, and plan to stay in their home because you all told me you haven’t picked out a nursing home,” Jones said.

Hollis-Sawyer, who is the gerontology program coordinator at Northeastern Illinois University, said transportation is one of the biggest issues seniors face.

“Accessibility, as we think about changing mobility, increases needs. Transportation access becomes paramount,” Hollis-Sawyer said.

Jones agreed the issue isn’t that seniors need fixed route transportation, but para-transit, which takes people door-to-door.

Buck said since the county is multi-generational with a lot of older residents not wanting to leave the community, the conversation needs to start about what is needed.

“Instead of speculating what they need, we want the seniors to tell us what it is that is needed,” Buck said.

Phil Jass with the Grundy County Health Department said he is looking into putting into place an advisory board for seniors.

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