By Mike Steely
It is obvious that our population is aging. The average life expectancy in our nation is now almost 80 years. While our nation’s total life average is 53 years among nations of the world, the 79.13 year estimate is much greater now than it was fifty years ago.
Knoxville and Knox County citizens have a slightly smaller life expectance of about 74 years and statewide it is about the same. The expectance has increased by almost 10 years since 1950.
Senior citizens, those aged 60 and older, are about 16% of the local population and growing. Baby Boomers have entered the mix and demands for services, housing, medical care, etc. are growing among that population.
Many seniors are looking to downsize from their traditional family homes and others are adding in-home family members or companions to help with their daily lives. There are numerous services in our community that provide home-bound visitations, meals, etc.
This downsizing has lead to the rapid growth of senior living facilities in Knox County which include apartments for the able, assisted living and nursing homes. The news in recent years has featured former public schools being converted for senior living, new facilities being built, and seniors seeking better financing for their homes or finding reverse mortgages.
For most seniors their income drops as they retire. Many only have company retirement, 401K and/or social security as income. Most have Medicare or retirement insurance but medical care bills increase with aging.
Budgeting becomes a priority. More and more senior citizens are caring for adult children or grandchildren and that tugs on whatever income they have.
The changes as we reach our senior years are numerous. So are the available services from federal and local governments and various local organizations.
The CAC Office on Aging is a primary contact for various services, information, and help. The office operates 24 different programs, is nonprofit, and is especially interested in helping elderly poor in frail health or who are alone.
Susan Long, Director of the Office on Aging, told The Focus that the agency is best known for the O’Connor Senior Center, Meals on Wheels and the Yellow Directory of Senior Services.
“At this time volunteers are delivering 925 meals to older adults every Monday through Friday,” Long said, adding that the meals are “more than a meal” because the volunteers see the clients every weekday and keep critical information on them if needed.
The Office on Aging also provides case management for older adults in crisis and will be adding a case manager later this year to help victims of Elder Abuse.
In November the office will offer a day-long seminar called “Aging, A Family Affair” for the 31st year. The event features a keynote speaker, breakout sessions on health and wellness, Medicare and Social Security information, supportive services, etc.
“We will have a huge vendor fair with more than 60 folks that offers an excellent opportunity for caregivers to talk about assistive living, caregiver services, technology in the home, insurance and health care,” Long explained. The event is November 9th at Rothchild’s.
The Office on Aging also offers volunteer assisted transportation, assistance with Medicare and Social Security, information and referral services, support for grandparents raising grandchildren, senior companions, volunteer opportunities, SNAP assistance for seniors, senior employment and two job fairs, Placing Animals with Seniors, assistance with glasses and dentures for adults over 60 years, discounts on Philips Lifeline and education and outreach on Elder Abuse.
“We are passionate about helping those for whom aging is a great hardship,” she said.
Information from the Office on Aging can be obtained by calling (865) 546-0832 or on line at firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is located at 2247 Western Avenue.