Agency on Aging helps ease the stress of aging

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Let’s face it, growing older is not for the faint of heart. Even the most able-bodied older citizens may find challenges as the years go by, whether it’s the loss of a spouse, financial struggles or finding the right caregiver.

With the number of older residents in Flathead County growing at a faster rate than expected — 28 percent of the county’s population currently is 60 and older, though 26 percent was projected by 2020 — it’s comforting to know the Flathead County Agency on Aging is on the front line of helping our seniors through the process of aging in myriad ways.

The agency held a public meeting last week to gather input for the agency’s area plan, a local guideline generated every four years that dovetails into one big statewide plan on aging. This demographic shift toward an older local population is unprecedented and has far-reaching social and economic impacts, agency leaders pointed out, advising that other organizations providing resources to older adults also need to be prepared for the shift.

Agency on Aging Director Lisa Sheppard stressed the urgency, saying “sometimes I feel like I’m standing out there yelling ‘fire! fire!’ and no one’s listening … We are trying to get everyone to understand what it means to have us all aging at once.”

It’s not too late to get involved with providing input for the new area aging plan for the next four years. Several concerns were voiced among those who attended last week’s gathering. Access was a buzz word — access to nutritional meals, access to transportation and access to affordable housing were key concerns.

Flathead County is fortunate to have the Agency on Aging working day-in and day-out to improve life for older citizens. The South Campus Building in Kalispell, where the agency is housed, also has a fabulous facility that’s used by the Kalispell Senior Center to provide activities and services. Senior centers in other local communities are equally vital links for our older residents.

If you’re an older resident in need of services, or simply the fellowship of other seniors, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Agency on Aging. Its mission is enabling persons 60 and older to lead independent, meaningful and dignified lives. Their staff can point you and your family in the right direction. Give them a call at 758-5730.

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