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Southeast Alaska senior services to be expanded

Posted: October 10, 2013 - 11:06pm

JUNEAU — Two organizations in Southeast Alaska said a program that helps senior citizens live independently will be expanded because of additional federal funding.

The Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority and Catholic Community Service announced the expansion this week.

The housing authority’s chief executive officer, Ricardo Worl, said coordinators will be hired in Saxman and Yakutat, where the authority recently opened new senior centers.

“A lot of our tenants in the senior housing facilities have spent their entire lives in the community, and they want to remain there,” Worl said. “Their family lives there, their grandchildren live there.”

The housing authority received a total of $246,000 from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this year for elder service coordinators, KTOO (http://is.gd/ts1ieV) reported.

Worl said he is fairly confident funds will continue to be available, despite the federal government’s partial shutdown.

The authority has received federal funds in the past five years for an elder service coordinator on Prince of Wales Island. The senior program helps seniors with various services, including health care, financial information, events and activities.

The authority contracts with Catholic Community Service to operate its senior services program. CCS operates similar programs in Juneau and the entire region.

“The main thing is to keep them active, healthy and connected with other people,” said Marianne Mills, director of CCS’s southeast senior services. “Not just being in their place by themselves.”

The Yakutat and Saxman elder coordinators will tailor activities and programs to the needs of those communities, according to Mills. She said the Prince of Wales program has partnerships with other agencies and has benefited from that. For example, she said, one clinic obtained some exercise equipment and senior apartments there and arranged for regular doctor and physical therapy visits.

“If they don’t have programs that allow our elders to age in place, in rural communities, it’s going to be even more expensive to bring them to our urban centers, where it’s a lot more competitive,” Worl said. “The wait lists to get into these senior housing and health care programs are tremendous.”

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