Springfield’s SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging celebrates golden anniversary of helping seniors in 17 counties

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 6:32 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Springfield’s South Side Senior Center on Freemont Avenue is one of 38 senior centers run by the SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging. On Wednesday, a large crowd turned out to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary.

“We are looking forward to 10 years from now because that’s when SeniorAge itself will become a senior,” said SeniorAge Co-CEO Becca Fields. “For our services, we classify seniors as those who are 60 and over.”

When the OAA Older Americans Act passed in 1965, State Units on Aging (SUAs) were formed to receive each state’s share of funding. Missouri’s first State unit on aging was the Office of Special Services within the Division of Family Services.

In the early 1970′s, Missouri was divided into 21 planning and service areas (PSAs) called Regional Councils on Aging. Each council received a planning grant to identify local senior needs and then coordinate grass-roots services to meet those needs.

According to the SeniorAge website, the organization aims to “develop comprehensive, coordinated services designed to encourage the optimal health and independence of older adults. This is a complex challenge because the range of capabilities among older persons is wide. At one extreme, a senior may be in excellent health without any challenges to independence. Conversely, a senior may be very frail and require constant care. In between these two extremes are diverse economic, social, and medical conditions.”

The organization’s programs have expanded numerous times since southwest Missouri’s SeniorAge started in 1973. The offerings range from caregiver support to driving classes, Christmas gifts for seniors, foot care, transportation, scam, and fraud alerts, and almost two million meals served annually at the senior centers and through their home delivery network.

“We have things like telephone reassurance which is a friendly phone call to seniors just to check on their well-being,” said Julie Jordan, the SeniorAge Director of Marketing and Development. “A lot of people don’t have anybody to check in on them. We have a benefits enrollment where we can help find programs that help put money back into the senior’s pocketbooks. And we have a new patient companion program where we can provide a volunteer to go to your doctor’s appointments with you to be a second set of ears and eyes. It all boils down to helping them stay independent and in their homes.”

“We can tell you how to get in-home services, tax counseling, and how to get information on Medicare or Medicaid,” added Fields. “Anything senior-related. It may be something we do, but if it’s not, we can provide you information on where to go.”

Many of the people who provide the help are volunteers themselves.

“I’ve been coming to the senior center for about two years now,” said Dennis Mooneyham, a 71-year-old from Springfield. “They asked me to be a volunteer and then be on the board. This organization helps so many seniors in so many ways that I was happy to do it. And the number of seniors is growing. We’ve got a lot of 90-year-olds here.”

One of those is 91-year-old Billie Frederick, who has volunteered by singing at all the senior centers over the years and also served as a caregiver, pointing to a photo on a wall that honors Veterans.

“I met that man here at the senior center,” she recalled as she pointed at the photo. “He was in the Marines. I took care of him for three-and-a-half years, and he died two years ago. But that’s just my life. I want to help people. If I can do anything to help, I just love it.”

The importance of the senior centers was never more evident than during the pandemic when the facilities had to close, and seniors were turned into shut-ins.

“The socialization was really the biggest thing that we missed,” Mooneyham said. “The thing I enjoy most about coming into this building is just seeing people visiting with one another and laughing.”

“It makes so much difference in people’s lives,” Frederick added. “If they will come here just one time and find out what it’s like, they’ll be wanting to come back.”

“It was a really dark and lonely place during COVID,” Fields said. “So a lot of our senior centers are even bigger than they were before. Our services have continued to expand as senior needs have expanded. And that growth is only going to continue because so many more folks are going to be classified as seniors.”

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com