U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, began the discussion at her roundtable discussion Monday with talk of the Older Americans Act and the benefits it serves for senior citizens in the community.
In attendance at Fox Valley Older Adult Services in Sandwich were senior service providers, advocates, elected officials, senior citizens and community members.
The discussion focused on act, originally passed by Congress in 1965 to help coordinate resources for individuals age 60 and older. It is set to expire on Sept. 30, unless it is reauthorized.
The hourlong event started with introductions and remarks from Underwood. After which, representatives for several senior service providers took time to highlight their work and discuss needs from the OAA.
Underwood, who sits on the House Committee on Education and Labor, said she is excited to engage the community in discussion on this topic.
“We want to hear from you on improvements that are needed, ways that we can boost funding, and opportunities to enhance the services that are provided in the 14th district,” she said.
Congress is expected to take a close look at reauthorizing the OAA this fall.
Among the services provided by way of the OAA are meals, transportation, counseling, legal assistance, health screenings, caregiver resources and more.
There are several area senior service agencies taking the charge, including Senior Services Associates, Voluntary Action Center DeKalb, Fox Valley Older Adult Services and Prairie State Legal Services.
Ana Mejia, a representative for Senior Services Associates, said it’s clear that the population is aging more actively in today’s world compared to years past.
Several panelists noted there are a plethora of services to help people avoid isolationism, which can contribute to mental health problems among aging populations. Panelists also mentioned the need for transportation for seniors.
“These aging services support people not only to age in place, but they also create a strong workforce in the economy,” said Marla Fronczak, a representative for the Northeastern Illinois Agency on Aging. “Most of the services that are delivered are delivered by locally employed people. This is an economy generator, the Older Americans Act services. They serve more people in the community than is estimated to cost about a third of what it would cost in an institution.”
Mejia also noted how trying it can be for individuals to serve as a caregiver. Caregivers have the ability to access support through the OAA, as well.
The event served as the first of a series of roundtable discussions on this topic planned for the 14th Congressional District of Illinois. Other events will take place in Naperville, Shorewood, Huntley and Mundelein.