For older adults in Clay County, the last 10 years have opened avenues for aid and education.
When Clay County Senior Services began a decade ago, the center was primarily focused on resources to help with critical basic needs such as transportation for medical services, caregiver support in the home and other personal emergency response programs. As of 2013, about a thousand people were enrolled in the lifeline services.
The funds come from a property tax — about 5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation — that voters approved in 2003. At the time, Clay County officials said they hoped to pattern their program after Platte County, which passed a similar levy in 1992.
The Clay County tax has generated about $1.7 million a year.
“We’ve been able to build capacity in a time when state and federal dollars for aging services have not kept up with growth,” said Tina Uridge, executive director.
And services have grown as has the aging population.
“More and more folks are needing some of the services they provide,” said Carol Suter, former Gladstone mayor and current City Council member. “Ten years ago there were not a lot of people thinking about those things.”
Now, the center makes wellness and prevention programs part of its central mission.
Clay County seniors can now apply for scholarships to chip away at the costs of exercise classes at local community centers, or “lifelong learning” programs through institutions such as MCC-Maple Woods or the North Kansas City School District.
Educational scholarships can be applied to any area of interest, including art. A partnership with the Kansas City Art Institute’s campus in the Northland was forged about three years ago.
“Preparing prevention programs to keep people healthy is our main goal,” Uridge said. “We’re focused more on quality-of-life issues. We want everyone to live a long life but we want them to live a quality life, too.”
Last year, about 2,200 seniors took advantage of the exercise scholarships.
“These exercise and lifelong learning classes are very cost-effective and they keep people engaged,” she added.
Home repair is also one of the options for county seniors. The center partners with cities and agencies to help with projects that include safety repairs such as ramp and stair-railing installation.
“We want to keep people living independently as long as possible,” Uridge said.
The center was directly involved with about 200 home repairs last year.
Working with local centers, cities and organizations helps Senior Services have a hand in many of the programs in place to aid the aging population of the county.
“If people come to us and we don’t have something that exactly meets their needs, Clay County Senior Services is one of the first places you send them,” said Suter. “We can leverage each other with the programs we have in place. Working together, everyone gets more benefits.”
The average age of the population in Gladstone is higher than in other cities in the metro area, Suter said, and the partnerships have been especially important because Clay County doesn’t have enough social service agencies.
“In the last few years there has been growth in social services, but Clay County is still way short to meet the needs of all kinds people,” she said.
Clay County Senior Services has partnered with a number of local agencies, including the Clay County Public Health Center. They work together, specifically, on preventing falls among older adults.
“There was not a coordinating hub for all these types of services,” said Public Health Center Director Gary Zaborac. “This has brought some real organization to developing collaborative programs and providing services. It’s really helped make it cohesive.”
As for the newest thing on the Senior Services agenda: more educational based programming, specifically helping to fund the virtual Senior Learning Network for the city of Liberty, the Gladstone Parks and Recreation department and the Shepherd’s Center of the Northland.
Kearney is already offering classes at its tech cafe, which Senior Services also helps financially.
The Senior Learning Network offers a video stream of live presentations. It’s a two-way camera, so participants can ask the presenter questions. Topics include Pearl Harbor, Eleanor Roosevelt and NASA.
“We’re able to do what we do because of all of the partners and all the grants,” Uridge said.
More events and information
In celebration of its 10-year anniversary, Clay County Senior Services is hosting refreshment and information sessions.
Upcoming events are:
Sept 3: Excelsior Springs Senior Center, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., 112 Thompson Ave.
Sept. 8: North Kansas City Community Center, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 1999 Iron St.
Sept. 19: Liberty Silver Center, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 1600 S. Withers Road
Sept. 26: Kearney Senior Center, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 600 N. Jefferson St.
Oct. 7: Gladstone Community Center, 1 to 2 p.m., 901 N. Holmes St.
For more information on services, visit www.claycoseniors.org