Grass Valley event focuses on aging, disabled
Special to The Union
More than 100 elderly and disabled people, along with professional and personal caregivers, gathered at Grass Valley’s Gold Miners Inn Wednesday for the third annual “Our Community: Aging and Disability Conference.”
The event showcased the many supports and services available to aging and disabled Nevada County residents.
Workshops and breakout sessions focused on assistive technology, healthcare reform, universal design and aging in place, preventing fraud and abuse, advance healthcare directives and affordable housing.
“Without affordable housing, we are not going to be able to properly care for our older adult population,” said keynote speaker Meghan Rose of LeadingAge California. “So many older adults are on fixed incomes, and those incomes have not increased in years nor will they. The cost of living has skyrocketed. Forty percent of people age 65 and older are making less than $25,000 a year.”
Rose went on to say the average monthly rent of a one bedroom apartment in California is $1,261.
She also shared current senior living trends and cutting-edge home care collaborations. She urged attendees to lobby their elected officials, especially state legislators.
John Gulserian, head of Nevada County’s Office of Emergency Services, highlighted lessons learned while sheltering the hundreds of people evacuated during the Oroville Dam crisis earlier this year.
“We’d like all our emergency shelters to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible, but if they’re not, we’ll make them that way,” he said.
Gulserian urged audience members to go to the county’s OES website and register their cell phones to receive notifications about fires and other emergencies.
“Click on CodeRED to get emergency notifications,” he said. “And you can enter the cellphone number of family members who may not live here so they’ll also know what’s going on.”
Ana Acton, executive director of Grass Valley’s FREED Center for Independent Living, recommended calling 211 for information, which will get people the answers they need without clogging up 911 lines.
Gulserian also cautioned the crowd to plan ahead.
“If you need help evacuating, call early,” he said. “If the fire is close, it becomes a rescue instead of an evacuation and there may not be enough resources for it. Evacuate early if you think you’re going to need more time.”
Gulserian said that advice applies to the elderly, disabled, and those residents who have a lot of kids or animals.
During a workshop entitled “Accessibility and Your Mobile Device,” Emily Flynn with the California Foundation for Independent Living shared tips on using the built-in accessibility features of iPhones and iPads.
“The magnifier magnifies a certain section on the screen with three taps on the screen,” Flynn said. “Dictation is a voice-to-text tool. It really helps with writing emails and other messages, although it’s not always 100 percent accurate.”
Carl Sigmond, FREED’s Disability Community Advocate, explained the accessibility features of Android smart phones.
Local service providers staffed booths to showcase the services they offer to the elderly and disabled. One booth featured Helping Hands, Nevada County’s only Adult Day Care Program.
“Our daily fee is $65, but the cost could be free because we charge on a sliding scale,” Helping Hands Marketing Director Peter Stack said. “The program includes transportation to and from our facility in Penn Valley. It’s wonderful for the caregivers because the people they love are in good hands while they take a day for themselves. It gives the loved one a chance to make new friends, and the caregiver gets to go visit their old friends.”
The center offers respite care and has served more than 30 families.
The Aging and Disability Conference was organized by FREED and the Agency on Aging/Area 4, sponsored by Westamerica Bank, Telestream, and California Health and Wellness, and funded by a grant from The SCAN Foundation. Admission was free and lunch was provided.
“It was a great success,” said Acton. “We had so many people from our community come out. It shows this is needed. People want access to this information and learn how to advocate.”
“It was exciting to see how many people want us to put on another conference next year,” said Pam Miller, executive director of the Agency on Aging/Area 4. “When we asked, almost every hand in the room went up.”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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