TWIN FALLS — Transportation. Meals. Someone to shovel the snow.
Those are a few of the things south-central Idaho seniors need to stay in their own homes according to a new College of Southern Idaho Office on Aging four-year plan. The Idaho Commission on Aging approved the document Oct. 16.
Ultimately, the CSI Office on Aging wants to keep seniors in their own homes and living independently for as long as possible. The 2017-21 senior services plan maps out how to accomplish that goal.
“It’s kind of a road map for us to take a look at,” director Suzanne McCampbell said.
The plan addresses topics including transportation, caregiver support services, chore and home modification services, disease prevention and healthy lifestyles programs and legal assistance.
It also outlines how the agency will use state and federal funding it receives.
The plan for south-central Idaho is based on the state’s plan for 2016-20, a requirement under the Older Americans Act.
Office on Aging employees presented a draft plan at all 16 local senior centers in April and May, and held a public meeting at CSI to seek feedback.
Here are four of the key topics covered in the plan:
The CSI Office on Aging oversees nutrition programs by contracting with local senior centers, which provide meals to those ages 60 and older.
A goal in the plan is to “increase participation at meal sites to reduce isolation and increase socialization.” Another goal is to identify seniors who could benefit from receiving home-delivered meals.
For this fiscal year — which started in July and runs through June 2018 — CSI’s Office on Aging has a budget of $287,308 for congregate meals, which are those served at senior centers. That’s an increase of about $11,000 over last year.
The budget also includes $248,703 for home-delivered meals, an increase of about $7,500.
From July through September, local senior centers have served 25,480 meals and distributed 17,614 home-delivered meals.
Another big budget area for the CSI Office on Aging: $118,826 this fiscal year for caregiver support programs.
That includes help for family members who care for someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease, or another neurological or brain condition, and grandparents who provide care for grandchildren or other relatives.
One the biggest topics that came up during the CSI Office on Aging’s needs assessment: Seniors requested chore services, such as help with snow removal and yard work.
Of 489 respondents, 132 said they’d love to see chore services offered.
A related topic is homemaker services, such as providing funds to help seniors with housekeeping, meal preparation, errands, paying bills, personal hygiene and managing medications.
CSI’s Office on Aging has a $122,760 budget for homemaker services this fiscal year. But there’s no money set aside for chore services or minor home modification.
In the past, the Office on Aging has provided help with home modification such as installing ramps and grab bars in homes, but the work has been pretty limited, McCampbell said.
The Office on Aging partners with Interlink Volunteer Caregivers for some of that work.
In order to expand services such as offering chore services, “we will have to be creative,” McCampbell said, and rely on volunteers.
A challenge is no insurance for volunteers and figuring out who at the Office on Aging would coordinate that effort, CSI Office on Aging spokeswoman Shawna Wasko said. “I think we have to find the partners to help us.”
“Transportation is a big thing for us,” McCampbell said. “That’s always a big challenge for our area.”
Without a city bus system, seniors who can’t drive are looking for ways to get to places such as medical appointments and the grocery store.
CSI’s Office on Aging has $51,545 budgeted for this fiscal year for transportation. That’s about $1,000 less than last year.
The 2020 Census will almost certainly show Twin Falls’ population to be more than 50,000, triggering a federal requirement to form a Metropolitan Planning Organization — the entity that oversees urban public transit and other transportation planning.
“The City of Twin Falls anticipates having a public transportation program available by approximately 2023,” the plan states. “We will continue to work with them to make sure that the needs of the senior population are represented as they move forward with their planning effort.”
But in the meantime, one of the main transportation options is Trans IV Buses. The cost to the general public is $5 for a round-trip ride and all trips are scheduled in advance.
The CSI Office on Aging’s senior services plan also lists a few senior centers, Living Independence Network Corporation and Interlink Volunteer Caregivers as places that provide transportation services.
Even though the city is looking into a future public transportation system, Wasko said, “2023 is a long ways away for a lot of people who are aging and need help.”