Serving Seniors in Northwest Arkansas
The Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Arkansas (AAANWA) is a private, non-profit agency dedicated to improving the lifestyle of people 60 years of age and older in Northwest Arkansas. AAANWA is committed to making the difference for seniors. As the foremost provider of senior services, the agency provides an array of services designed to help seniors remain independent and in their own homes until they need the skilled care of a long-term care facility. Jerry Mitchell, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging of NW Arkansas, when asked about the importance of his agency to our aging population is quick to point out, “Our agency is a leader in the aging industry. We are a non-profit organization that has been providing services for seniors for over 30 years. While a lot of agencies provide services to the senior population, this is the only thing that our agency does – I guess you could say that we specialize in the needs of our aging population.”
The agency provides a wide array of services for seniors in the area which includes case management, in-home services, long-term care advocacy, personal emergency response system, senior center services, incontinence supplies, family caregiver program, home delivered meals, housing and adult day centers. These programs are made possible through a mix of federal, state and community support, as well as donations and charitable gifts through the Area Agency on Aging Foundation.
Case managers often help the elderly with forms and paperwork that will help them access various services and programs. The agency’s case management services are available, free of charge, to seniors from all economic levels and are an important resource to help them plan for and face the challenges of aging. This includes help with Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Veteran’s benefits and other services.
As seniors become elderly, and sometimes earlier if a debilitating disease such as arthritis strikes, there may be some jobs around the home that they just simply can’t take care of anymore. To help seniors meet this challenge, AAANWA offers a program in which a trained personal-care assistant comes to the home and helps with light housekeeping, personal care, shopping, cooking and laundry. According to Mary Patrick, director of in-home services for the agency, “The work that our personal care assistants do is crucial in helping seniors remain at home and quite often keeps them from entering a long-term care facility prematurely.” Patrick adds, “In many cases, the staff members who provide these services may be the only contact these people have with the outside world – and quite often they form a strong bond of friendship. This socialization aspect of our service is almost as important as the work they actually do for the clients.”
Personal Emergency Response System
Another service that the AAANWA provides is to help seniors remain independent and at home is the Personal Emergency Response System (PERS). It is an electronic device that operates through the phone line to give an immediate, hands-free connection with a “real live” person in case of a personal emergency. The system also has a silent panic button that an elderly person may push if they are afraid, the operator will come on the line, monitor the situation and call emergency personnel if the situation dictates. This is a great service for frail elderly who are at high risk for a medical emergency or for any senior who lives alone. It provides safety and security for the elderly – as well as peace of mind for their loved ones who may be worrying about their safety.
Senior Activity Centers
The senior activity centers are designed to meet the needs of seniors from all socio-economic groups. Instituted by the Older Americans Act and funded through a combination of federal, state, and local contributions; the senior center program provides older Arkansans with an opportunity to get together, enjoy each other’s company through common interest and activities; to get a nutritious hot noon-time meal; to stay physically fit through use of exercise equipment and classes; and to enrich their lives through participating in educational programs. According to Nadean Raney, director of senior center services, “These programs are not limited to low-income seniors. These are services that all seniors need – staying active and alert, enjoying the company of one’s peers, getting a hot nutritious lunch, and stretching both physically and mentally.”
Other services provided through the senior center, include scheduled transportation and the home-delivered meal program for frail seniors who cannot come to the centers for the noontime meal. The same delicious, nutritious meals are delivered hot to the homes of our frail or disabled elderly. The centers also provide frozen meals to frail seniors who live outside the delivery area.
The AAANWA, partners with the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District in Baxter, Boone, Carroll, Marion, Newton, Searcy and Washington Counties and partners with Office of Human Concern in Benton, Carroll and Madison Counties to operate the senior activity centers.
Adult Day Services
Adult Day Centers offer a safe, secure place for the elderly who are frail in body or mind to spend a few hours or the entire day. The centers offer the full time-caregivers relief as they go about their lives – while they work, go shopping, run errands, or just get a much-needed break from stress of constant care giving. The center provides participants with hot nutritious meals, recreational activites, physical exercise, social interaction and caring supervision. “The adult day service, “ according to Nadean Raney, director of senior center services for AAANWA, “is one of those facilities that people don’t seem to know about until they need them – and then they think that is it the most wonderful service available for the elderly. We currently have day service centers in Baxter and Boone County.”
AAANWA also works to assure that seniors have access to comfortable, affordable housing. The agency currently offers attractive 1- bedroom apartments in Baxter, Benton, Carroll, Marion and Washington Counties in Northwest Arkansas. The ground-level complexes offer seniors many of the amenities that they would find in their own homes. AAANWA has the following complexes: Ozark Meadows I and Ozark Meadows II in Berryville, Oak Hills in Green Forest, North Arkansas Senior Housing of Bull Shoals, Willowbrook in Mountain Home, Fallen Ash in Flippin, Flint Creek Apartments in Gentry, Billy V Hall Senior Complex and North Arkansas Senior Housing of Gravette in Gravette, Osage Heights Apartments in Bentonville, Dixieland Gardens and Miller Place in Rogers and White River Senior Complex in Elkins. The rent for the complexes is based on the income after medical expenses have been deducted and preference is given to seniors with an extremely low income.
Long-Term Care Advocacy
Even after the elderly have found it necessary to enter a long-term care facility, AAANWA is there for them. The agency provides an ombudsman who will be there to advocate for their individual rights with family members or the facilities in which they are housed.
Area Agency on Aging Foundation
The Area Agency on Aging Foundation was established to develop volunteer and philanthropic support to assure the availability of senior services that promote health and independence for the area’s elderly. It provides individuals, corporations, service organizations and others in the community an opportunity to make tax-deductible contributions to help provide for the elderly. These contributions may be through planned giving, a one time gift, an annual gift, sponsorship of special programs/events, and memorials and honorariums, just to name a few.
The services have changed and will continue to do so as the needs of the senior population change, but the agency will continue to be the foremost advocate for the older generation in Northwest Arkansas.