The Mid-East Area Agency on Aging Celebrates National Senior Center Month.
Agency Has Made Growing Older an Enriching Experience for the Past 40 Years.
Every day, approximately 10,000 baby Boomers turn age 65. That trend will continue through 2030. Since 1973, the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging (MEAAA) has been helping older adults make this transition easier, by providing them with countless opportunities to lead satisfying, healthy lives. After 40 years of service, MEAAA has earned its reputation as “Experts at Living Well,” which just happens to be the theme of National Senior Center Month.
“The challenges as we grow older are many, but so too are the opportunities,” said Mary Schaefer, MEAAA’s executive director. “We exist to assist adults through the journey of aging, with a wide range of programs and services that help them remain healthy, active, independent and productive.”
As one of only 10 Area Agencies on Aging in Missouri, MEAAA serves more than 40,000 adults each year in Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis Counties. Its 24 senior centers provide information, referrals to community services, and personalized support. Services include caregiver resources, senior employment, transportation, energy and legal assistance, consumer problems, in-home services, information on housing, assisted living and nursing homes, disaster preparedness, and assistance with acquiring medical equipment and supplies. Case manager and benefits counselors are available to help identify clients’ needs and ensure they can access all the benefits to which they are entitled.
MEAAA also operates the region’s largest Meals on Wheels program, bringing nutritious meals and companionship to more than 2,800 homebound seniors each week. “Meals On Wheels" provides much more than vital nutrition on a daily basis,” explained Schaefer. “Sometimes, the senior's only visitor for that day is our "Meals On Wheels" volunteer and that socialization is key for these home-bound seniors. Furthermore, according to a recent Brown University study, states that invest more in home-delivered meals to seniors have found this to be the leading factor in reducing the number of residents that need to enter nursing homes.”
Unfortunately, she added, cutbacks in federal budgets have severely strained MEAAA’s ability to meet local demand for this service. “Sequestration reductions in federal funds and rising costs have forced us to change from providing daily hot meals to providing once a week frozen meals for some area seniors,” she said. Using frozen meals stretches available funds to serve more seniors. “The last thing we want to do is turn away homebound seniors who need this food.” MEAAA is hoping that individual and corporate donations will help make up some of the funding shortfall the program faces.
After 40 years, the staff at MEAAA understands the challenges facing today’s seniors. “For many, it’s simply the fear of the unknown,” Schaefer said. “For instance, today many seniors need to go back to work to make ends meet, but they may not know where to start or how to overcome barriers such as a lack of computer skills. For others, health concerns may be foremost, so we help them understand how Medicare works, and we provide a range of health and fitness classes that encourages more physical activity and healthy eating.
“Our goal is to help every senior become an expert at living well,” she added.
MEAAA will celebrate its 40th anniversary on October 17 with an Open House at the Museum of the Dog at Queeny Park to thank donors, board members, contractors, employees and other supporters for their dedication and commitment to MEAAA’s senior services and activities.
The Mid-East Area Agency on Aging provides supportive services to persons age 60 and over, family caregivers and adults with disabilities in St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson Counties. For more information, go to www.agingmissouri.org.