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Clyde Fahnestock column: Rowan County Senior Services Department strengthens quality of life for seniors

It seems to be a well known “rite of passage” that upon turning 60 years of age, one must make a visit to the Rowan County Senior Services Department to pick up their Senior Tar Heel Card. However, with this article, it is hoped that the general public will be more knowledgeable about other vital services provided by the department.
The Rowan County Senior Services Department is co-located with the Rufty-Holmes Senior Center on 1120 South Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. Walk-in visits are welcomed as well as telephone calls by dialing 704-216-7700. Another option is to use the Web address to obtain more detailed information: www.rowancountync.gov/seniorservices
The primary mission of our department is to preserve and strengthen the quality of life for seniors and caregivers of Rowan County, with visionary programs and activities that address the needs, opportunities and challenges facing our senior population. The principal goal is to help shape a “livable” community for seniors with the delivery of community-based services that support independent living and improve the quality of life.

The Senior Help Line is one of the most used services of our office. It is staffed by a social worker with access to a wealth of information about community services. This staff member can answer any question about our department services and provide personal guidance on other significant community resources that may be needed by seniors or caregivers.

The Lunch and More Program serves a full-course meal at eight congregate meal sites. More than just eating a meal, participants enjoy fellowship and a variety of informative programs and recreational activities. Limited transportation to and from the meal site is available at most locations. In these hard economic times, the Lunch and More Program is an opportunity to save on the cost of groceries, eat a nutritious meal and enjoy the socialization with other people. Participants are encouraged to contribute toward the cost of the meal.
The Caregiver Support Program is intended to help any unpaid person who is assisting a physically and/or mentally disabled spouse, friend or neighbor with activities of daily living. The goal is to strengthen the capacity of the “caregiver” in his or her traditional role of caring for a loved one in the home. While there are a variety of ways to provide the assistance, one of the most preferred services is “in-home respite” that gives relief to the caregiver. Grandparents raising grandchildren may also qualify for assistance.
The Adult Day Care Service is another form of relief for the caregiver. With these grant funds, Senior Services can help those with a lower income afford the cost of placing a loved one in the safe and secure environment at the Abundant Living Day Care Center.

Another community-based service that is helping seniors maintain their independence and improve the quality of life is the In-Home Aide Program. To deliver this service, the department contracts with several licensed home-care agencies. Using in-home aides, a senior can be helped with bathing, dressing, washing hair and light housekeeping. Imagine the tax dollars that are saved by helping seniors remain in their own homes, thereby preventing premature placement in a nursing home.

Need a job? The Title V Senior Employment Program is helping qualified low-income seniors, age 55 and older, to find employment. Initial job assignments are with units of government and other nonprofit agencies. In the interim, the individual participates in a job club, receives employment counseling and may enroll in skill development courses with the ultimate goal of finding unsubsidized employment.
The Supplemental Meals Program is designed to help seniors who have significant nutritional impairments when there is a medical need to maintain or gain body weight. Requiring a doctor’s authorization, seniors can receive a high calorie, enriched beverage called Ensure Plus.
The SAFE Project is a local initiative to improve the safety in the home by providing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and reflective house numbers. Duke Energy also gives our department a grant to purchase fans for distribution to seniors needing heat-relief in the summer.
The Are you OK? Program is a free daily safety check for subscribers who live alone or for couples in poor health who need someone checking on them. The 911 Telecommunications Center generates the daily calls at the prescribed morning time. If calls are not answered, emergency contacts are notified which may result in the dispatching of Emergency Responders.
The Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) provides education and personal assistance to help Medicare recipients understand all the different components of Medicare benefits, including supplemental policies, Part D Prescription Drugs, Medicare Advantage and long-term care questions. Many seniors are helped to select their provider for prescription drugs.
The Nursing Home and Adult Care Home Advisory Committees members are appointed by the board of commissioners. Volunteers make regularly scheduled visits to facilities to monitor the rights of residents and assist in resolving any issues. More volunteers are needed.
The administration of the Rowan Transit System, and its fleet of 28 vehicles, is an additional responsibility of the Senior Services Department. The major functions of RTS are to help human service agencies with client transportation, operate the city of Salisbury’s Para Transit Services, assist with dialysis transportation, manage the Rowan Express fixed route, participate in emergency response transportation as needed, and operate the RITA general public transportation for residents not served by the city transit bus routes.
The RITA Transportation service is an essential mobility option that is helping Rowan residents maintain their independence. Each area of the County has two designated days of the week to reserve transportation to go to medical appointments, grocery stores, government offices and general shopping trips. Many people think this service can only be used by seniors and people with disabilities. However, Rural General Public funding from the N.C. Public Transportation Division allows RITA to also serve “general public” passengers of any age group needing transportation. Seniors over 60 plus are encouraged to give a contribution. Under 60 individuals must pay a fare of $3 per day as a condition of the DOT grant.
The Rowan Express service is the newest fixed transportation route connecting the Salisbury Transit System with the CK Rider System in Cabarrus County. Two buses depart from stops at the Amtrak stations in Salisbury and Kannapolis hourly between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Additional stops are made in China Grove and Landis. The passenger fare is $1 and free transfer passes are available to the Salisbury and CK Rider buses.
The Veterans Service Office is the most recent addition to our Senior Services Department. Veterans (of any age) or their survivors will be advised of all veterans benefits to which they are legally entitled, and will receive assistance in applying for those benefits. Appointments are recommended by calling 704-216-8138.
Please contact the Senior Services Department for additional information and assistance.
Clyde Fahnestock is director of Rowan County Senior Services

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