Aging gracefully

By Allan I. Ross

Mid-Michigan organization provides specialized senior resources

According to the 2010 census, there were about 79,000 people aged 60 or above in the tri-county area, comprising Eaton, Ingham and Clinton counties. The Tri-County Office on Aging, founded in 1974, was designed to improve the quality of life for Lansing-area seniors — and take a lot of the guesswork out of things that could cause anxiety and confusion.

“What we’re offering to the community is an invaluable resource that, hopefully, everyone will need someday,” said organization spokeswoman LeeAnna Olson. “The TCOA has many longstanding services, but we’re always developing new programs to better fit the changing needs of the growing senior population.”

The group’s highest profile program is Meals on Wheels, which provides food to shut-ins and people who are temporarily laid up at home because of injury or illness. Within the last month, TCOA unveiled its Community-based Care Transitions program, which targets high-risk seniors who have recently been released from the hospital.

“The goal is to help people make the transition back home as smoothly as possible,” Olson said. “We try to help people take control of their own health and be proactive. It’s designed to keep people from having to go back to the hospital by providing basic help and information.”

Olson said that many people don’t completely understand the full implications of what their doctor tells them — including dietary recommendations, medication schedules and exercise regimes — after they’re released from full-time hospital care.

“They usually just nod their heads and the hospital lets them go,” Olson said. “We make sure they know what they need to maintain their health, and provide everything from transportation services to making sure they have food in their fridge when they walk in the door. It’s a really easy time to get confused; we organize all that chaos.”

The organization subsists on federal grants as well as private donations. Vaughn Thompson is the TCOA’s fundraising and volunteer specialist

“Our two biggest fundraisers are the upcoming 25th annual golf outing, and the fall dinner/auction, but we get creative anywhere we can,” Thompson said. “And we’re always accepting donations auction items. We know the economy is hard for everyone, but we’re dedicated to giving our seniors all the care they deserve.”

“We focus on helping seniors keep their independence and dignity in the setting of their choice,” Olson said. “And of course, ensuring their high quality of life.”