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Senior Center: Gatekeeper for services

One of Ashland senior services’ goals for the new year is getting the word out.

A recent analysis of needs within the community revealed most seniors don’t realize services are available for them in Ashland, says newly appointed Senior Services Superintendent Isleen Glatt.

“We provide some things, but the range of needs is met by connecting people to resources that exist for them, many of them free or low cost; which they had no idea could meet their needs especially as a budget shrinks on fixed-income,” Glatt says. “We’re, in essence, a gatekeeper to other resources.”

Glatt says she connects people in need of assistance to various organizations around the Rogue Valley, ranging from financial assistance for winter heating to transportation.

She says anyone can come in to seek help, but there are also a multitude of other daily activities available, such as social hours, games, weekly assistance navigating Medicare and other health insurance plans and computer training.

The senior center at 1699 Homes Ave. also provides lunches Monday through Friday and is the staging area for the Meals on Wheels program, which collectively serves about 600 meals a month to seniors.

Rogue Valley Transportation District partners with the senior center to help seniors plan trips and to provide free bus and Valley Lift passes.

These free and low-cost activities are available for those 50 and older with some special privileges for those 60 and older.

Anne Bellegia, a member of a senior services advisory committee, says the center is hoping to implement a “Gatekeeper Program” that trains people who may meet seniors often — such as bank tellers or postal workers — on how to help them when they show signs of decline.

“If we can get people to support earlier, we can save a lot on the other end,” Glatt says. “Early intervention is always much more helpful.”

About 31 percent of Ashland residents, or 8,000, are 60 years or older, and 46 percent — more than 11,750 — are 50 years or older.

Advisory committee chairwoman Sandy Theis says research shows there are more older adults than ever before.

“The prevalence of older adults is not just a Boomer phenomenon,” Theis said during an update at a joint study session with both the City Council and Parks and Recreation Commission on Dec. 17.

If trends continue, in 2035 there will be more adults over 65 than children for the first time in U.S. history, Theis said.

People may be living longer, but often with chronic diseases that inevitably require long-term care. Senior care is exceedingly harder to come by and expensive. Caregiver costs can range from $4,000 to $15,000 a month.

An ad-hoc senior advisory committee held forums and conducted surveys readying for the restructure of the senior services division. One survey, on senior quality of life and senior services in Ashland, received 750 responses.

Of those responses, 308, or 42 percent, rated their present circumstances (health, finances, housing, social connections and transportation) as fair or poor.

“Identifying vulnerable individuals and making sure they’re getting the help they need is a big priority,” Bellegia says.

Bellegia notes that although Ashland excels in programs for mental stimulation and social interaction such as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, it has limited public transportation and residential or adult day care options.

Bellegia says Ashland needs more adult care options and parking for the mobile-impaired. She says the implementation of ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft would bridge some of the transportation gaps.

Bellegia says Ashland exceeds in engagement opportunities with all the clubs and volunteer roles available, but these can be difficult for some people to get to if they can’t drive and aren’t on the bus route.

Glatt hopes to provide senior programs dispersed throughout the city. She’s currently working on building more relationships with community partners.

To contact the senior center for more information, call 541-488-5342 or visit ashlandseniorservices.org.

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Painting is one of the many daily activities provided at the Ashland Senior Center at 1669 Homes Ave. Photo courtesy of Isleen Glatt