Lorain County’s population is aging and there is a dire need for programs and money to fund those initiatives to ensure those seniors can live out their golden years in safety and comfort.
That’s the major takeaway from a survey of Lorain County older adults completed by the nonprofit Lorain County Office on Aging.
Lauren Ksiazek, executive director of the Office on Aging, spoke about the results of the April 13 survey during the Lorain County commissioners meeting.
The survey, which started in February 2020, was not completed until November 2021 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Ksiazek said.
“We are aging at a rapid rate,” she said. “The tsunami (of aging adults) we’ve been talking about for several decades, is here folks.”
The Office on Aging’s goal is to provide support and services to senior county residents so they can age successfully in the place they choose to call home, according to its website.
Lorain County currently has just over 76,000 people older than the age of 60, which is approximately 25 percent of the county’s total population, the website says.
According to the survey, 97 percent of those want to remain in their house and avoid a nursing home.
But to do that will take programming and money, Ksiazek said.
A key finding in the survey was that older adults want dignity.
“They don’t want to be viewed as unable to care for themselves,” Ksiazek said. “They want to retain their dignity and independence as long as they can.”
One of the worrying things the survey uncovered, according to Ksiazek, was that 18,000 older-adult households in the county may struggle to afford home- and community-based services as they age.
This group does not include the poor, who can receive help from Medicaid, or the wealthy, she said.
“It’s those folks that I call the gray area,” Ksiazek said of the group which makes between $ 25,000 and $ 75,000 a year.
“They don’t qualify for Medicaid, and they can’t afford the services that they are recommended,” she said. “They might go without the homemaker services they need.
“They might go without the home-health services that they need. They may forgo adult daycare. ”
The Office on Aging offers what it calls a homemaker program, Ksiazek said.
“It provides light housekeeping services every other week, just to keep their house clean, updated, so they don’t fall,” she said.
But, the program costs money.
It currently has a waiting list of 453.
To clear the waiting list would cost $ 600,000, Ksiazek said.
But the tradeoff would be that it might allow those 453 households to remain independent, she said.
Another troubling finding in the survey was that one in four survey respondents reported running out of food before they can get more.
“That to me is the definition of food insecurity, so we have a concern there,” Ksiazek said.
Based on the survey results, she said she and her board have developed four areas of focus.
- Providing accessible and affordable community-based services to gray-area older adults
- Providing affordable housing, access to nutritious food and transportation to seniors in need
- Creation of a caregiver safety net
- Providing education on finances and technology for seniors
“We’re not doing a good enough job as a country, as a state, as a nation to care for these folks,” Ksiazek said. “We have the people in the community to do the work, and we just need the money, but we aren’t getting it.”
Ksiazek said she plans to go back to the commissioners to see if they can provide funding for programs her office is developing to help seniors.
Commission President Matt Lundy said it’s important the public be made aware of the county’s aging population and the problems some of them are facing.
“We have a lot of seniors who are having a hard time making ends meet,” Lundy said. “I would hope that the federal government and the state legislature would provide more resources to help them.
“And we’ll have to find some resources to help them.”
Lundy noted that the state of Ohio has more than $ 2 billion in a rainy day fund and could be using that money to help out programs like the Office on Aging.
“State funds are being cut for senior services,” he said. “That to me is shameful.
“We’ve got to take care of our seniors. They made county and state a better place, and they even paid their fair share of taxes and they need to be taken care of. ”