By YVETTE C. HAMMETT
Over 50 and feel like putting on your dancing shoes? Looking for someone to workout with? Just need a companion or someone to take you shopping? Hillsborough County’s Aging Services programs may suit your needs perfectly.
The county has been providing services to seniors for more than 42 years and took a major step in 1982 to create its Department of Aging Services, focusing on community-based services for seniors to prevent unnecessary institutionalizing of elderly people.
Director Tracy Gogichaishvili said the department’s mission is to coordinate essential health and wellness services for older adults, encouraging their independence and continued prosperity. It emphasizes seven dimensions of wellness: Physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, environmental and financial.
When funding is available, the department offers a number of services, including case management, in-home services, nutrition services, adult day care, home care for the elderly and some transportation.
A case manager meets with those who apply for services to determine need, then continuously monitor the client to anticipate any future needs, Gogichaishvili said. Those providers, in addition to the county, include for-profit, nonprofit and faith-based organizations.
In-home services may include respite care for caregivers, personal care, housekeeping, companionship, shopping, an emergency alert system and even pest management.
Active seniors 60 and up can visit one of 23 dining centers throughout the county for midday meals when funding is available. Others may be eligible for home-delivered meals. All meal recipients receive nutrition education and those considered nutritionally at-risk may get added counseling.
Four areas of the county offer adult day care and home care for the elderly, and the county may be able to help, if in a small way, with fulltime caregivers when funds are available, Gogichaishvili said.
For those looking to get to a senior center or for dining, Aging Services works with the county’s Sunshine Line to provide transportation.
It’s not all about needs, Gogichaishvili said. It’s also about providing some fun for seniors 50 and up.
Tai chi, yoga, exercise classes, health screenings and wellness lectures are held during the year.
Senior centers offer arts and crafts, hobby clubs, current events lectures and holiday and birthday celebrations. There are even occasional field trips, Gogichaishvili said.
“All services are equally important and designed to assist seniors at all stages of the aging process,” she said. “We may have more in some programs than others, but that is generally due to funding limitations, not popularity.”
If a storm is approaching, Aging Services contacts each of its adult day care, congregate dining, home-meal recipients and in-home service clients to offer help.
Case managers go through a detailed checklist with clients to verify they have an evacuation plan, which includes who they will be staying with if they are required to evacuate.
Prior to the beginning of hurricane season, the department, in conjunction with Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue Office of Emergency Management, makes sure the seniors have an annual Disaster Planning Guide, which is printed in both English and Spanish.
Guides include topics such as Pull Together Disaster Supplies, Discuss Your Evacuation Plans, Review Your Insurance, Help Your Neighbor and Keep Your Pets Safe. It also contains county contact information.
The Hillsborough County Health Department is the designated manager of the Special Needs Shelter Program for the county fire-rescue department. Clients must be registered with the county.