Wood County Committee on Aging

Giving the gift of gab – Volunteers sought to visit with seniors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   More senior citizens are living independently in their homes, thanks to physical modifications to their houses and home-delivered meals. But some of those seniors are missing a vital component to a happy life – human contact. They may go days without engaging in a conversation, said Lisa Myers, director of social services at the Wood County Committee on Aging. “We’ve noticed a need from our seniors who are homebound or on meal deliveries,” Myers said. Many seniors really enjoy the brief contact with those delivering meals. “But sometimes that’s just not enough.” So efforts are underway to create a volunteer “Friendly Visitor” program for senior citizens in Wood County. The goal of the program is to reduce loneliness and isolation in older adults. Social isolation has been shown to increase rates of depression and mortality, Myers said. “People need that social interaction, or it can lead to a decline in their mental and physical health,” she said. The role of the volunteers is simple – just talk and listen. They are not there to cook or clean. Just engage in conversation. Volunteers will be asked to visit their senior’s home at least one hour a week, to just sit and chit-chat. “We’re just looking to connect people,” Myers said. “We’re hoping these are lasting friendships.” Senior citizens can qualify for the visits if they live alone, receive the home-delivered meals, if they can’t drive to one of the county’s senior centers, or if they are on the Wood County Adult Protective Services client list. So far, four seniors have signed up. So now, the Friendly Visitors program needs volunteers to sign up. The program will be available throughout Wood County, so volunteers and seniors will be matched by geography. Volunteers will go through a brief training with Myers, and will be asked to submit a quarterly report on their time with their senior. The volunteers will also be asked to be the “eyes and ears,” and observe any problems the senior might be having. “This should be a fulfilling volunteer job. Both people would benefit,” Myers said. Requirements for Friendly Visitor volunteers are: At least 21 years old. Able to commit for six months. Desire to work with older adults. Willingness to complete a background check. Wood County Adult Protective Services will pay for the background checks. The role of the volunteers will be: Communicate with the senior weekly. Spend a minimum of four hours per month, one-to-one with the senior. Provide emotional support. Build meaningful relationships….


Registration underway for July 18 workshop on opioid addiction and older adults

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Registration is now open for the Opioid Crisis Workshop: The Unseen Impact on Older Adults, to be held from noon to 5 p.m. July 18 at Penta Career Center. Guests will learn from key leaders from northwest Ohio who will discuss the impact of the opioid crisis on middle-aged and older adults. Information on opioid use, misuse, abuse and dependency will be provided, along with information on alternative strategies for pain management and community resources. This workshop will also address the unique challenges faced by grandparents who are raising the children of the opioid epidemic. The workshop is free for grandparents raising their grandchildren and individuals aged 60 and older. For others, the cost is $25 per person. CEUs are available for social workers, counselors and marriage family therapists. Registration is required. Guests can download an application at https://areaofficeonaging.com/event/4930 to register. More information is available at bgsu.edu/oai. The Bowling Green State University Optimal Aging Institute, the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio Inc. and the Wood County Committee on Aging are hosting the workshop. Guests with disabilities are requested to indicate if they need special services, assistance or appropriate modifications to fully participate in this event by contacting Accessibility Services at access@bgsu.edu or 419-372-8495 prior to the event.


Niese awarded for meeting changing needs of seniors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Old age is not the equivalent of being obsolete, according to Denise Niese, executive director of the Wood County Committee on Aging. That attitude led Niese to her career in gerontology. “I always enjoyed the population,” Niese said. “This is back when people didn’t know how to spell gerontology – let alone have degrees in it.” That attitude has now led Niese to an award from the Ohio Association of Senior Citizens named after a predecessor in her profession – Muriel Bertsch. “She was an amazing woman,” Niese said of Bertsch, the founder of the first senior center in Ohio in 1954. The facility – called Partners in Prime – is still in existence. Bertsch also was instrumental in passage of the Older Americans Act in 1965. “She advocated for seniors,” Niese said. “She was a community organizer before community organizing was a vocation.” And now Niese has received an award for following in Bertsch’s footsteps. “We would like to honor you for all you have done to protect Ohio’s most vulnerable persons, including our senior citizens,” the Ohio Association of Senior Citizens wrote to Niese. Niese took over as director of the Wood County Senior Center in 2005. She not only enjoys the population she serves, but also the administration and policies involved. “That reinforces why you are doing what you do,” she said. “Our constituents are apt to let us know if we’re not doing it right.” The needs of seniors have changed just in the time Niese has been in the profession. The population is growing, and the changes in health insurance often send seniors home from the hospital when they still have significant needs. So there is more demand for medical services and physical accommodations in seniors’ homes. Many seniors are more willing to have assessments done to make sure they stay mentally sharp. Many more are staying home longer, so they need home-delivered meals. Programming has to meet a broad swath of needs – from exercises for 50-year-olds, to meals for those over age 100. “It’s a wider spectrum in age than we’ve ever programmed for in the past,” Niese said. Niese has advocated for that range of programming – and for a new senior center in Bowling Green to meet those needs. The center, which could open in 2020, will include more room for activities like bridge, shuffleboard, tai chi, yoga, painting and a writing club.  There will also be respite care for people with dementia, and a “memory café.” “Today’s…


State grants $1.6 million for new senior center in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The news was worth a brief delay in the country fried steak as the lunch hour approached Monday at the Wood County Senior Center. “We’re smart enough to know to not get in the way of lunch,” State Senator Randy Gardner said to the seniors as he made the big announcement. The new senior center in Bowling Green will be getting $1.6 million from the state, secured by Gardner and State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, both R-Bowling Green. That amount is the largest state capital bill grant awarded in Bowling Green since at least 1992, Gardner said. “Wood County does a lot of things well. This is one of the hallmarks of Wood County,” Gardner said about the county’s senior agency. “This is one of the best organizations in the entire county.” “I am so thrilled to be in a position to work for you this way,” Gavarone told the seniors gathered for lunch. “It’s going t be a tremendous benefit to all of Wood County.” Other community projects in Bowling Green are also in line for capital bill funding. The Cocoon Shelter will receive $375,000 to help protect women and children from the dangers of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Two years ago, the Cocoon was given an $800,000 grant, adding up to $1.175 million in the last two capital budgets. The BGSU Forensic Program will be getting a $200,000 grant to help enhance the BCII Crime Lab’s forensic academic programs. The announcement of the senior center funding will help move along the proposed construction of the new facility in Bowling Green. “We are very, very excited,” said Denise Niese, executive director of the Wood County Committee on Aging. Last year, the City of Bowling Green gave 2.35 acres at 140 S. Grove St., to the Committee on Aging for a new building. The seniors had outgrown the existing building – which was considered state-of-the-art when the agency first moved in more than 35 years ago. After the land had been given to the Committee on Aging, the board set a stipulation that ground can’t be broken until the board has secured at least two-thirds of the dollars needed. At that point, Niese predicted it will be a three- to five-year process to complete a new senior center. But Monday’s announcement of the state funding has moved up the timeline, Niese said. “This moves us forward,” she said. “I would like to break ground a year from now.” Ben Batey, president of the Wood County Committee on…


Seniors get “shelf meals” in case of bad winter weather

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Like squirrels putting away nuts for the winter, food is being boxed for seniors throughout Wood County. About 850 “shelf meals” were packed up recently at the Wood County Senior Center. The boxes will be delivered to the seniors who receive home delivered meals from the Wood County Committee on Aging. The goal is to make sure the seniors have food available in case inclement weather makes it impossible for the home delivered meals to make it to them. “If those individuals can’t get out of their house, and we can’t get to them because of the weather,” explained Angie Bradford, director of food services at the senior center. “It’s those extra two meals if we can’t get to them.” The Wood County Committee on Aging used to hand out pre-packed shelf meals, but found the quality lacking. Some of the food was not intended for long-term storage, Bradford said. Such was the case with canned pears one year. “They all exploded in my storeroom,” she said. So now the volunteers pack the boxes themselves. Bradford enlisted the help of people served by Wood County Developmental Disabilities to pack up the boxes. One can of beef stew, two peanut butter packets, powdered milk, corn, green beans, peaches and more. “It’s been a great partnership,” Bradford said. Those packing the boxes enjoy the work, she said. “Phyllis was asking about it in August.” As she packed cans in the boxes, Phyllis Layman explained her motivation. “I like helping people.” Tricia Romero agreed. “We want to be able to give back to the community.”


BG offers senior center land so old site can be retired

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The aging Wood County Senior Center is being retired. In front of a packed room of seniors waiting for lunch, Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards announced Thursday that the city has plans to give the Wood County Committee on Aging some land for a new home – the old school central administration property at 140 S. Grove St. The announcement was welcomed among those who use the senior center on a daily basis. “It’s about time,” said Mary Hansen, of Bowling Green. She and Virginia Combs quickly listed off all the deficiencies they have noticed at the current senior center which is over a century old. Too many stairs, not enough parking, poor heating and cooling topped the list. “It gets hot and then it gets cold. We always layer up,” Hansen said. And then there’s the unreliable elevator. “It makes noises when it does go,” she added. The news was also welcomed by Herb Hoover, Bowling Green, who frequents the senior center for lunch and card games. “My wife and I come here five days a week for lunch,” Hoover, 89, said. “It really breaks up the day.” The gifting of the land for a new senior center may also help the city solve its own building dilemma. For years, city officials have talked about cramped conditions at the city administration building which is located directly to the west of the senior center, which the city owns. The senior center moving to South Grove Street would free up space for a new city building in the area currently shared by the senior center and the city building. One problem in the plan may be the fact that the current senior center is on the National Registry of Historical Places. So it is unclear exactly what can be done to the structure. The building, constructed in 1913, was formerly the city’s post office. In 1981, it became a “state-of-the-art” senior center. “As a community, we’ve witnessed countless individuals benefit from the services provided at this facility,” the mayor said, mentioning the thousands of meals served at the site. “We are so fortunate to have the Wood County Committee on Aging as part of our community and applaud your work in providing seniors throughout Wood County the resources needed to maintain independence and enjoy this season of their lives.” But over the years, the building’s age has gotten in the way of its goal to serve the aging. When Edwards stops by for lunch, the shortcomings are often…