The Senior Citizen Wellness Center
The elderly population of our city is a much larger percentage of the total population than in the country as a whole.
The median age of the U.S. population is 35.3 years. The median age of our city's population is 49.2 years (U.S. Census, 2000).
Of the overall population of the United States, 12.4% are 65 years and over. Our city's population is 23.8% 65 years and over (U.S. Census, 2000).
The average household size of owner-occupied housing in the United States is 2.7 persons. In our city, this average household size is 1.4 persons (U.S. Census, 2000).
The problems of the elderly are well-documented. Health and wellness head the list. Physical decline inhibits the elderly from moving about easily, making the normal functions of life, such as shopping, difficult or impossible. Mental decline makes the elderly susceptible to mistakes with medication and dealing with the complications of life, such as taxes and paying bills. Lack of mobility also decreases the opportunity for social interaction, which furthers mental decline (Aging and its Effects on Everyday Living, AARP, 2000).
The federal government, the state, the city, and private organizations offer a wide variety of services to the elderly, ranging from help with utilities to mental health counseling. In our city, we have identified 24 such programs. This variety causes very real problems for the elderly since each program has its own eligibility requirements, application procedures, paperwork, and follow-up.
A survey undertaken by the Senior Citizen Center found that the average senior has knowledge of only seven programs, with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Meals on Wheels consistently being four of the seven. A further result of the survey was that 75% of the seniors found the experience of applying for the benefits of the average program to be "terrible." There was no real variation among sources whether federal, state, city, or private. The application experience was uniformly rated as bad to terrible (Senior Citizen Center Survey: What Seniors Think, 2002—see appendix for a copy of the survey questionnaire and compilation of results.)
Comments given by survey respondents found application processes to be "made for much younger folks" and "confusing and demeaning." The general consensus was that they had worked hard all their lives and deserved better at this stage of their lives than to be demeaned by "begging" for the means to live.
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