By MATT CRANE
For the Golden Triangle Area Agency on Aging, the work is not about providing a service, it is about fulfilling a need.
As the agency’s director for 39 years, Bobby Gann said the organization provided free social and nutritional services for people ages 60 and older including meal delivery, homemaking, legal and transportation to name a few.
“We are here to help seniors remain independent and in their own homes for as long as possible,” he said. “Our goals is provide these services and identify older adults who have needs and to help them remain independent.”
Serving seven counties, field screener Cindy Brown said she loved her job since starting one year ago.
“I’ve never worked with the elderly before and it has been an eye opening experience and sometimes heartbreaking,” she said. “It is hard seeing these seniors that have those needs and knowing that we as a society have a tendency to forget about our seniors.”
Funded by federal, state and local dollars, Gann said Oktibbeha County had 13 percent of its residents ages 60 and older.
“Our services are not based on income, but they are for anyone who has a need,” he said. “People get the idea that this is a welfare program, but it’s not.”
With help from both the city and county governments, Gann said he had been encouraged by the continued growth of support the agency received.
“Community support has been growing for the past decade now and we used to really struggle with that,” he said. “It has taken a lot of hard work to get our message out there and convincing people that there is a need for us to meet in this community.”
That need, Brown said, was not realized until a week into her current position.
“I get emotional about it sometimes because some of the places I have visited, I have met seniors who did not have anything,” she said. “Of course, I want to get the word out about the fabulous program we have, but also address the awareness aspect of it because people need to know. It’s hard to know about this until you have been out there.”
Gann said there were times when eligible seniors refused or fought the idea of the services his organization provided because of misconstrued implications.
“Sometimes they think that if we help them, then the next step is going into a nursing home,” he said. “We are trying to delay or prevent institutionalization. We have seen people who were at the point of going into a nursing home, but we can provide them social and nutritional services to keep them at home.”
With homemaking services providing light house cleaning and physical assistance along with meal deliveries averaging 1,7000 meals a day in seven counties, Brown said the agency offered services for full-time caregivers who need a break from the stress of their every day job.
“Our respite services are for those caregivers of adult seniors to allow for intervals of rest from that constant burden of care,” she said. “Workers sometimes feel guilty for feeling like that, but where you are there 24 hours a day, seven day a week, it can be hard.”
Brown said the team she joined had been outstanding.
“We have a really great department over there and our supervisors do a great job,” she said. “As for Bobby, I can’t speak for all the years that he has been there, but in my last year working with him, he has done just a wonderful job.”
Above all, Gann said community awareness was crucial to the success of the seniors in the counties he serviced.
“We are trying to give seniors a better quality of life,” he said. “We are trying and succeeding at making a difference.”
For more information on the Golden Triangle Area Agency on Aging, call 662-324-7860 or 1-888-324-9000.