by Dave Warner

The Herkimer County Office for the Aging held their annual public hearing at 10 am this morning at the Travelodge. One is typically held in Old Forge, and the other somewhere in the Mohawk Valley. There were two main themes for the crowd of more than 80 seniors to ponder.

First, what could the OFA do better to serve the aging population of Herkimer County? They wanted to hear opinions from those in attendance about how there were doing and what ideas those people might have for new programs.

Secondly, the OFA was there to provide information on the new STAR exemption requirements for 2019 and other property tax deductions that are available.

The public hearing was also informational, in that OFA was able to go through the range of services that they provide.¬†According to Kathy Fox, Director of the organization “We want to know if we are on track to provide the things that the community needs or are there areas that we can sort of branch into. We have some ideas about that, but we’re looking to get community input.”

The senior citizen population of Herkimer County (those age 60 and older), currently comprises 23% of the total population. The OFA stated that in about five years, that percentage will rise to 30%.

Many of those seniors are doing well, and many are not, according to the group.

One of the things that the Herkimer County OFA wants to address is the fact that many people consider older adults a burden.¬† “Older adults have a lot of wisdom, knowledge and they bring a lot of financial assets into our communities,” stated Fox.

She continued “I prefer to think of older adults as bringing something to our communities, instead of taking away from them.”

Part of the OFA’s job is to support older adults in the community so that they can age well. They also want to be able to educate seniors about the aging process. “We want to change people’s minds about older adults,” said Fox.

The OFA provides a wide range of services to seniors and their families. The Meals on Wheels program alone provided 75,667 meals to 605 people last year.

“We are now understanding that there are ‘younger’ older people that may not need the more intensive services, so we’re beginning to try and provide some of the other types of services that they would like to see,” said Fox.

Ideas that have come out of previous meetings have been the wellness components. “One of the things from last year was a transportation program that was needed in the Newport/Poland/Ohio area for grocery shopping. We pick people up and bring them down to the valley so they can shop. They are basically in a food dessert up there and they don’t have any options for grocery shopping, so this was a great help to them,” said Fox.

If you have questions and missed the meeting, you may call the Herkimer County Office for Aging at 315-867-1121.