Crystal Carter, Director of the Clinton County Office for the Aging, at her office on Margaret Street in Plattsburgh.
The Office for the Aging tries to find answers for people, says Crystal Carter.
“People will call here for almost anything, and we try to find the answers,” said Carter, Director of the Clinton County Office for the Aging. “We make sure someone answers the phone and answers your question.”
The mission of the agency is to help people live independently as long as possible.
That is done through advocacy, information assistance and the use of sub-contractors.
One role of advocacy is writing letters of support for grants, such as to build senior housing.
“We meet with legislators about what we are doing and how it would affect them,” Carter said.
If it has anything to do with the older population, the Office for the Aging usually has input.
“Right now it is time for them to reauthorize the Older Americans act, and we provide input,” Carter said.
The Older Americans Act of 1965 was the first federal initiative focused on providing comprehensive services for the elderly.
It created the National Aging Network, state units on aging and similar agencies at the local level, such as the Office for the Aging.
The Network provides funding based on the percentage of an area’s population of 60 and older for nutrition and supportive home and community-based services.
Congress reauthorized the act in 2006, effective through 2011.
“Each local area has an Office for Aging,” Carter explained. “The Act has different titles in it for our programs.”
Through Information Assistance, the Office for the Aging offers NY Connects, which enables people to call in and get unbiased information on long-term health care.
“We do a lot of health insurance counseling here,” Carter said. “We make sure people are in the right health-insurance plan and tell them their options, but we do not sell insurance.”
People often contact the Office for the Aging for advice when they begin noticing differences in their loved ones.
The Office for the Aging works with an array of sub-contractors, including legal counseling, JCEO, YMCA, North Country Homes Services, Behavioral Health Services North and dietary assistance.
The agency provides case management, though not for those who are eligible for Medicaid.
“The case manager does a comprehensive in-home assessment,” Carter said. “If they need services, we refer them or authorize services through one of our sub-contractors.”
Those services include home delivered meals, assistance with power of attorney and much more.
“Case managers look at a lot of different things,” Carter said.
The Office for the Aging is vital, she said, because sometimes the needs of older people get lost in the shuffle. It is important to have a program that strictly focuses on seniors.
The Office for Aging services roughly 3,500 individuals yearly.
“It has gone up over the past five years with Baby Boomers and confusion with changes in Medicare,” Carter said.
“Information Assistance is what we focus on the most,” she continued. “When people have information and can make plans, they don’t necessarily need other services.”