Senior citizen centers across the state are having to get creative to fund their programs due to a decrease in federal and state allocated funds for the Area Agency on Aging (AAA) combined with an increase in the number of clients using services.

Across the state, senior citizen centers, and in particular the Northwest Missouri AAA, have implemented various pilot programs impacting transportation, home-delivered meals and other services in order to save on costs and continue to provide services to the elderly in their communities.

The Nodaway County Senior Center in Maryville will participate in two new pilot programs that will begin in September.

Privatized center

The local center, which serves more than 100 people, will become privatized, meaning that it will not be receiving any state or federal funding, which subsidizes approximately 41 percent of the centers’ congregate meals and 60 percent of the home-delivered meal budget, according to Northwest Missouri AAA Executive Director Rebecca Flaherty, who is based out of Albany.

Flaherty expressed her excitement about the pilot program for Nodaway County, stating she believes it will create new opportunities and that the Nodaway County community will rally behind the senior center, helping to support it.

In addition to community support and other contributions such as United Way, the county-wide center administrator, Amy Firavich, will be working with the Small Business Development Center in Maryville to develop a working business model to generate new revenue for the center to replace state and federal funding.

Some of Flaherty’s ideas included offering a membership to community residents for a fee. The center could offer services such as handyman services, plumbers, snow removal, lawn mowing and anything that a citizen in the area might need, which would be paid for by the fees.

By being privatized, the center would no longer have to adhere to government guidelines and regulations about how it spends its money, who it serves or services it offers, opening up more options.

“This is a positive thing. It’s challenging, no doubt. It’s scary, no doubt, but we truly do believe that they can succeed in this and that it’s necessary. It’s an honor to be selected because they do have the ability, the structure, the town, the community; they are the only one in our area. They are one of the best, most well-positioned, to be able to do it,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty hopes that Firavich can share with other senior centers next year across the state about the pilot programs’ success she believes the Nodaway County Senior Center will have.

According to Flaherty, State Representative Allen Andrews “is very supportive and hopes this could be a model up here, and if we could share ideas with the rest of the state, that would be amazing.”

Home-delivered meals

Another pilot program that will be tested beginning in September in Nodaway County is the use of frozen home-delivered meals instead of the hot meals that are currently delivered daily, Monday through Friday.

With the privatization of the Nodaway County Senior Center, the AAA will begin offering a new frozen meal program for Medicaid clients and other eligible seniors the local center is unable to serve.

The frozen meals will be procured from a St. Joseph-contracted firm and delivered by AAA staff and volunteers once a week. The drivers will check on residents and a wellness assessment will be conducted regularly with clients.

Flaherty stated the pilot program will test to see if they can provide more independence for their clients because they will not have to stay home each day waiting for a meal. The program will also lower costs and provide more client input and menu choices. Currently, the only food choice is what the center is serving that day. With the frozen meals, clients will be able to choose their meals from a menu.

The pilot program is currently approved for one year. Then, the program will be evaluated to see if it is working.

Even if the program is not completely successful, Flaherty hopes that some pieces will work and can be implemented elsewhere.

She stated that government funding was never meant to fully fund centers, but instead to act as a safety net.

“Change is coming. If we don’t start these pilot programs, then more centers will close and then what options will our seniors have,” Flaherty said. “We’ve got to find a way for families and communities to start taking a bigger role in caring for their own because the state and federal government is backing out more and more every day.”

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