Agency On Aging Nearing 45 Years of Service To Oskaloosa

The Mahaska County Agency on Aging has been serving Mahaska County senior for 45 years.

The Mahaska County Agency on Aging has been serving Mahaska County senior for 45 years.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The Mahaska County community has a way of blazing a trail for others. One of those examples is the Mahaska County Agency on Aging, which will be celebrating its 45th year this October.

The program started out with a sack lunch at the Downing Hotel and has continually evolved over time to serve the senior population of the county. Executive Director Cheryl Brown said that evolution is ongoing because senior citizens also change over time.

“You know, I’m a senior citizen now, and I don’t feel like I’m as old as my grandparents felt when I was young and they were 60,” says Brown.

“When we first started out, it was kind of a new thing,” says Brown of those early days which may have had its start with a conversation among church friends.

“The congregate meals site that Oskaloosa had was the first in the state of Iowa,” shared Brown. “So they were kind of pioneers.”

Forty seniors had signed up, but maybe 5 or 6 would show up every day. “They enjoyed the socialization and the idea that it was special for them.”

Brown says that most everyone involved with making the senior center possible back in 1973 are now gone, “but I think they would be very pleased to know it has lasted for 45 years and had grown like it did. Hope to be here another 45 years. I hope it’s here when I need it.”

“And it kept growing and growing, and look at this fabulous place we’re at now,” shared Brown of Grant Hall, which houses the Agency on Aging. “We still have room to grow.”

The facility at Grant Hall enables all the food preparation for Meals on Wheels.

In Oskaloosa, those meals are delivered by the Christian Opportunity Center. “It’s a win-win”, says Brown. “Good workers. Very dependable. Everybody likes them.”

A staff member from the Agency on Aging delivers meals to the New Sharon area three times a week. Another volunteer comes from Ottumwa and delivers meals to Wapello County, Ottumwa, Eddyville, and Agency.

For many seniors that receive Meals on Wheels, they don’t have children, or their children live far away, and the visitor is many times the only human contact they may have during the week.

At times, that daily contact is important, as volunteers are able to summon help when they notice something isn’t quite right, which is a big benefit for the seniors being served.

Approximately 150 people are being served by Meals on Wheels in Oskaloosa per day, which is down from what it used to be.

With Iowa’s change in Medicaid, along with less funding to the Department of Human Services, fewer seniors are now receiving funds for Meals on Wheels. “So we had to cut back a little bit. We use to offer a supper meal to everybody, and weekend meals and holiday meals, we just can’t afford it anymore,” explained Brown.

Before the budget cuts, Brown says that 400 were served in a day, and it’s now down to 275 per day. “We just don’t have the money to do that.”

Seniors who have paid taxes their entire life are now falling through the proverbial crack. “It’s sad isn’t it,” says Brown.

By keeping seniors in their home, they continue to contribute to the tax base, versus a managed care facility.

Brown says that the board continues to vision for the future, and the baby boomer generation is now a part of the senior population. The local board helps to keep the lights on and provide for the maintenance of the building, but their funding suffered due to changes in Medicaid.

For Brown, grant writing has become more important, while the board works on hosting some fundraisers to help fill some of those gaps. “We’ll survive,” added Brown.

Local funding comes from the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors and United Way.

The Agency on Aging will be hosting an open house in October to celebrate their 45 years of service to the community.

Posted by on Sep 3 2018. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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