Patricia, a 61-year-old woman from Swannanoa who wishes to be identified by her first name only, was living alone after her husband died. She was having trouble getting up and down the steps to her house and couldn’t use her shower for fear of falling. She contacted the Council on Aging of Buncombe County, which installed a ramp to her house and put hand-holds on her shower.
“If it hadn’t been for them,” says Patricia, “I don’t know what I would have done. They were a lifesaver. I would have had to move somewhere else. I didn’t want to leave my home.”
Patricia is one of approximately 5,000 older Buncombe County adults who receive services from the Council on Aging, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. A gala celebration will be held Saturday, Aug. 23, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in Biltmore Village. Festivities will include music and dancing with the band Citizen Mojo, a plated dinner and a silent auction offering theater tickets, weekend getaways, dining out, jewelry, art and more.
“Our goal and passion is to make sure older adults have equal access to the opportunity to age with independence, health, well-being and choice,” says Wendy Marsh, executive director of the Council on Aging. There are no income guidelines to the program, which is available to anyone over the age of 60 and their caregivers, she explains.
The main accomplishment of the Council on Aging during the past 50 years, says Marsh, “is to be a go-to place for information and assistance about how to get help.” Through its Resource Coordination program, the COA connects people to a variety of programs and agencies they work with collaboratively. “I liken it to a map,” says Marsh. “Some people you can give a map to, and all they need to know is what direction to go. With some people you need to sit down and work out the route with them, … and with some people you have to get in the car and ride with them.”
The Council on Aging also provides in-home aid with its Seniors Safe at Home program. It offers minor home repairs for health and safety needs, which allow people like Patricia to continue to live independently in their homes.
The Call-a-Ride program offers transportation for medical appointments and errands. Kevin Miller, a volunteer with this service, says, “I’ve become friendly with the people I drive, and a bond forms. Rather than a taxi service, it becomes a social thing during the course of the ride. We both look forward to it.”
The agency’s Senior Dining and Wellness program offers participants the opportunity to share meals, exercise and make friends at five locations staffed by community agencies.
The significance of the Council’s anniversary celebration, Marsh adds, “is that we’re still here and responding to the growing population of older adults. In Buncombe County there are more people over 60 than under 17— the highest ratio in the state.”
Marsh says she hopes the Council can expand services in the future to keep more people in their homes. “Currently there are 400 people on the waiting list for in-home aid,” she notes. “In general, it’s cheaper to help a person stay at home than it is for them to go into a nursing home.”
For more information about the Council on Aging, go to coabc.org or call 277-8288.