*This story originally appeared in The Budget’s January 11, 2017 Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
As members of the Baby Boomer generation reach their golden years, staff and volunteers at the Tuscarawas County Senior Center work to meet the needs of the area’s growing older adult population.
“We’re busier than ever,” said Pam Ferrell, executive director of the local nonprofit organization which serves Tuscarawas County residents ages 50 and older. The Tuscarawas County Senior Center provides a wide array of services at its main hub in Dover and five satellite locations throughout Tuscarawas County. Services include daily meals and activities, transportation, Medicare consultations, fitness and recreational activities and in-home care.
Ferrell said many of those programs are designed to help older adults stay in their homes. “With our transportation, our home repair program and in-home services, we can really support people in that goal,” she explained.
The Dover center hosts games and activities on weekdays throughout the day, and half-day programs are offered Monday through Friday at the organization’s five satellite centers, located in Uhrichsville, Sugarcreek, Mineral City, Newcomerstown, and Tippecanoe.
Ferrell noted those daily activities can bring peace of mind to the families of par- ticipating seniors. “We have people that come here at 8 a.m. and they don’t leave until 4 p.m.,” she explained. “That’s reas- suring for their children to know that their mom or dad is here. And, if there’s a problem we’re going to be able to handle it.”
Marley Miller is the director of the Sugarcreek satellite, the Garaway Senior Center, located at 221 Dover Rd. She said the main goal of the organization is to help seniors remain independent and not confined to their homes. “It gives them a place to socialize and be around others,” she explained.
Among the local seniors who regularly take advantage of the local center’s daily meals and activities are Joan Lingler and Mary Sinnett. “It’s fun. I enjoy it a lot,” said Lingler. The 87-year-old widow and great-grandmother of seven said she visits the center every day it’s open and utilizes the organization’s transportation service to and from the facility.
“It’s fun, and it gets you out of the house,” Sinnett added. The 80-year-old great-grandmother said she enjoys a meal and takes part in activities every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Ferrell noted that the organization’s programming is funded through a combination of local tax dollars, membership dues, contributions and grants. Ferrell said the majority of the organization’s funding, about 65 percent, comes from a 0.8-mill local tax levy that brings in about $1.3 million annually.
A weekday lunch is served at 11:30 a.m. in the Dover center, located at 425 Prospect Avenue, and at three of the organization’s satellite locations. Lunches are $3 for individuals age 60 and older and $5 for those ages 50 to 59. Ferrell said the meal is complete with a drink and dessert.
Reservations are required to dine and must be made by 9:30 a.m. the day of the meal. Reservations can be made by calling or stopping by the senior center or satellite center where one wishes to dine. The Dover site can be reached at 330-364-6611 and the Garaway center at 330-852-1311. Anyone planning to dine regularly can fill out a monthly form. Carryout meals are also available.
There is also a 1950’s-themed diner, the Happy Days Cafe, located inside the Dover center. The cafe is open to the public weekdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The diner offers daily specials and a regular menu featuring sandwiches, soups, salads, and sides.
In-county transportation services are available by donation to individuals ages 60 and older. The service is offered between 8:15 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. every Monday through Friday excluding holidays. After- hours transportation is also provided to anywhere in Tuscarawas County at a cost of $4 one way or $6 round trip. After-hours transportation is limited to Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Ferrell said the service can be used for many different things. “Some people think we do medical only, and that’s not true,” she said. “We take a lot of people for social activities. We take people to Walmart, people to get their hair done, to do their banking. Honestly, it’s really about anything.”
Individuals wishing to use the service are asked to notify the organization of their transportation needs at least 24 hours in advance by phone. “Generally we like for people to let us know when they want us to pick them up as far in advance as possible,” Ferrell said. “We have a lot of people that will go to the doctor and they’ ll make their appointment like four or five in a row and then they just turn them in to us. We get those people on our schedule, and then they don’t need to call us back.”
Home repair assistance
The organization also provides a minor home repair assistance program to low-income seniors age 60 and older residing in Tuscarawas County. The program can be used for any project that enhances the participant’s independence, improves their safety, upgrades accessibility or provides energy savings. “We repair steps. We repair porches. We build handicap ramps. We repair windows. Anything really that would have to do with safety and energy” Ferrell said. “That’s a great program for people where we can help you get some things repaired and save you some money.”
The program can also be used for things like repairs to furnaces or water heaters, plumbing and electrical repairs, roofing and shingle replacement, and installation of electrical fuses or breakers. The Senior Center will pay a portion of the total project cost, up to $500, and the individual will pay a service fee determined by the Federal Poverty Guideline.
The center also offers in-home services to individuals age 60 and older who do not qualify for the state’s PASSPORT Medicaid waiver program. A sliding scale fee is used to determine the hourly rate for the client’s share of the service.
Ferrell shared that the center employs trained staff members who are available to assist individuals with daily tasks such as preparing meals, shopping, cleaning and bathing on both short-term and long-term plans.
“We have people that we’ve been assisting in their homes for five years or more and then we have people, maybe they’ve had a knee replacement, and they only need us for six weeks,” Ferrell said. “We can be very flexible in all of that.”
Ferrell noted the organization also provides free Medicare consultation and can help seniors get enrolled in the right health-care program based on the prescriptions they are taking. “It’s really important for people to do that annually, because if your prescriptions change, the supplemental insurance program that you’re with needs to be looked at,” she said.
The organization encourages individuals to call the center to set up an appointment with resident Medicare expert Carla Mayfield to sit down one-on-one and talk about their supplemental insurance choices. In 2015, Ohio seniors ages 65 and older filled an average of 34 prescriptions at retail pharmacies, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
There are always all kinds of activities and special events going on daily at the Dover site. Half-day programs are offered at all five satellites.
The Dover Senior Center hosts a weekly Bingo game every Monday beginning at 10 a.m. The cost to participate is $2. Other games are played throughout the week including mahjong, bunco and a dice game called LCR. Games based on the popular television game shows Wheel of Fortune and The Price is Right are held monthly.
The Garaway Senior Center hosts a Bingo game every Tuesday at 10 a.m. Other games including dominoes, cornhole, and euchre are scheduled throughout the month.
The Tuscarawas County Senior Center also provides many classes and programs to help seniors remain fit and active. The Dover site houses an indoor fitness center and walking track and hosts a variety of fitness classes throughout the week including Zumba on Tuesdays from 8 to 9 a.m.; Tai Chi on Fridays from 10 to 11 a.m.; yoga on Mondays from 4 to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays from 10 to 11 a.m. and line dancing Tuesdays from 12:30 to 1:30. Beginning this month, the center will be offering a new drumming program in which participants utilize drumsticks as a fitness tool.
For those who may be less mobile, the site also offers several programs and activities that can be done while seated including chair volleyball and a total fitness program that focuses on increasing range of motion and flexibility. “Really about anything in health and fitness we have available here at the Dover site,” Ferrell said.
The Garaway location offers fitness classes on Mondays and Fridays. The organization employs a fitness manager who assists clients with developing fitness goals and designing an individualized plan to help them meet those goals.
Fitness programs are available to individuals ages 50 and older who pay an annual $20 membership fee. There is an additional per class fee for Yoga, Tai Chi, and Zumba.
Technology classes are also available at the Dover site to paying members ages 50 and above. Classes are designed to teach participants basic computer skills and how to use mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. The center also offers courses on how to use Facebook and the Windows 10 operating system and a monthly forum where seniors can find answers to all their computer questions. An additional fee is required for each course. Anyone interested in participating is asked to pre-register at the front desk at the Dover Center.