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Caring for those who have cared for us

Caring for those who have cared for us

Many cultures revere and care for their elders; it is now crucial for Orange County to do the same.

The silver tsunami is upon us, and the numbers are staggering. About one in eight residents of Orange County, roughly 370,000 people, is age 65 or older. Over the next 20 years, that cohort is expected to more than double. 

Some local seniors will enter their 65-plus years with livable incomes. But many others will not.

So here’s a question: How do we, as a community, care for those who have cared for us?

“Forty-four percent of older adults in Orange County are economically insecure,” said Todd Hanson, Vice President of Donor and Community Engagement for the Orange County Community Foundation. “And one in five lives alone, which makes them even more vulnerable to both economic and health risks.” 

When seniors are isolated, with no one they can depend on for support, concerns like access to basic healthcare and adequate food are exacerbated. Organizations such as Anaheim-based SeniorServ and Age Well Senior Services of Laguna Woods are working hard to prevent any vulnerable older adult from going hungry, but the challenges grow every day.

“We provide Meals on Wheels and case management services to homebound seniors who receive three meals a day, five days a week,” says Holly Hagler, president and chief executive of SeniorServ. “However, the need is going to overwhelm our social services and health-care systems if we don’t find new ways to help our citizens remain healthy and living in their own homes.”

Hagler said government cuts, particularly sequestration, have dealt a blow to SeniorServ’s resources. The agency is expected to serve 67,000 fewer meals than it did a year ago.

“We have a waiting list for Meals on Wheels, which is deeply troubling given both the tremendous need and the potential impact of our support.” 

Age Well Senior Services is working on the same fronts in south Orange County. A nonprofit supported by a combination of funds received through the Older Americans Care Act and other governmental resources, as well as private philanthropy, Age Well offers programs including home-delivered and congregate meals; adult day health care and Alzheimer’s care; in-home support; transportation and health and wellness programs, among others.

“Over sixty-eight percent of seniors live solely on their social security benefits, and they are extremely worried about losing them,” says Dr. Marilyn Ditty, Age Well’s chief executive. “Secondly, they are worried about getting food and as well as falling with no one around. The fact is that we can’t afford a waiting list for meals in Orange County, or the person simply dies alone and uncared for.”

“The biggest hurdle for the continuation of these programs is that older adults don’t garner the same kind of charitable response as other needs, such as children’s programs,” says Hanson. “And yet, a small amount of philanthropy can make a major impact.” 

To learn more about how you can support our community of older adults visit Nonprofit Central at ocnonprofitcentral.org.

Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected]

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