Agency begins working on four-year plan

Like all of you, the Office for Aging Services (OFAS) is itching to get back to in-person programs and activities that have been on hold during the pandemic. While I can’t say that we are done with COVID-19, my staff and I feel that we are at a point where we can set aside some of the emergent things we were doing and focus on rebuilding programs and activities that have been on hold for the last two years.

A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes by our nutrition team to modernize and streamline our Dining-In (Home-delivered), Dining-Out (Restaurant) and Dining-Together (Congregate) meals programs. These efforts have improved the look and feel of the programs so they are more appealing to older adults. In addition, we have improved our internal management systems so we can focus on expanding access to people in our county who need these services. Improving efficiency is also giving us more time to plan special events and rebuild our health, wellness, and exercise programs.

Over the next few months, we will be hiring a new Health and Wellness Coordinator, a position that has been vacant since February 2020. I am also pleased to announce that this May, we will be having two events in place of the Senior Picnic for older adults in our county to gather and celebrate. How appropriate as this May is Older Americans Month AND the 50th Anniversary of the establishment our Office for Aging Services. Details and information on tickets will be released in the next few months.

In the past few weeks, OFAS, has launched a new messaging system powered by Blooming Health. This will allow our office to send text, voice, or e-mail messages to keep older adults up to date on programs and services or remind you of appointments with our staff.

We have launched this messaging system with our home-delivered and congregate meal clients so we can notify them of changes in service like closures due to weather or to link them to health education information. The text messages will be from Chautauqua County OFAS with a personal message from me or the staff. You will know it is OFAS as it will only come from two numbers (716) 303-3301 or (716) 303-3741. If a voice mail is left it will be the voice of our Nutrition Coordinator, Lacy Wilson. We realize that older adults are nervous about new technology so never hesitate to call our office and confirm the message is from us. Clients will be notified as we roll out the system to other programs. If you do not want to get thee messages, you can always opt out by calling our office. We are grateful to state Office for Aging for funding this program through Blooming Health at no cost to the county or our residents.

In 2023, OFAS will be preparing our four-year plan to guide and shape the focus of our work over the next four years. The most important thing when preparing a plan is to get input from the people who use or might need our services. That is you! Everyone over the age of 60 or anyone caring for someone over 60 who lives in Chautauqua County is asked to provide feedback to our office. What do you like, what don’t you like, and what are we missing that is important to you and your neighbors? What are those things that older adults need so they can age in place in their homes? We get a lot of information from the older adults we work with but we need to hear from a wider audience so we can continue to modernize our services to serve as many people as possible.

The first step in the process is to conduct a survey. This year, New York State Office for Aging (NYSOFA) is sending out a survey to select older adults all over the state. The survey comes on blue half-page card stock postcard with the NYS logo on it. It gives you a unique link so you can go online and complete the survey. For those who are not comfortable completing the survey on-line, a paper survey will arrive to your home in the next few weeks. If you receive a survey, I urge you to fill it out.

Even if you have never touched our office. Your thoughts about our community resources and what you need to continue to live independently are very important. Your answers will remain anonymous but collective reports will be shared by state, region, and county. Over the next 6 months our local OFAS will be reaching out to groups, housing, and churches where seniors gather to do our own listening sessions.

If you would like OFAS to meet with your group to discuss aging services in Chautauqua County, please call our office at 716-753-4471. For more information on programs or services in Chautauqua County or anything mentioned in the article, call our NY Connects Helpline at 716-753-4582. Stay Well!

Mary Ann Spanos is director of the Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services.


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