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Hertford Senior Center offers beacon of light#8217; By Meagan Williford 07/26/2008 WINTON – The Hertford County Office of Aging, which became a county agency in 1977, serves adults in the county who a

WINTON – The Hertford County Office of Aging, which became a county agency in 1977, serves adults in the county who are 60 years old or older.

According to Linda Blackburn, director of the Hertford County Office of Aging, the organization is the lead agency of aging for Hertford County.

The funds for the agency come from a Home and Community Block grant, state and federal funds and the Hertford County government, she said.

According to Blackburn, on May 15, 2007, the office became a North Carolina Center of Excellence. This means the agency meets or exceeds all guidelines put forth by the Division of Aging.

Blackburn added that the Hertford County Office of Aging in the second in its region to become a N.C. Center of Excellence. This region services five counties: Bertie, Hertford, Martin, Pitt and Beaufort.

“There was a lot of work involved in order to become a Center of Excellence,” Blackburn said. “There was a lot of paperwork involved and the staff had to ensure the agency was meeting all of the guidelines.”

However, she added that there is monetary value to becoming a Center of Excellence, which is used to help improve the senior center and nutritional sites.

According to Blackburn, the agency receives many phone calls about how to take care of seniors.

The office has the ability to go on the web and has access to software and links to all services available to people in the state to show seniors what resources they have available to them.

Blackburn also said caregivers can come to the office and receive information about how to help older adults.

“With the web and resources in the office, we have access to a lot,” said Blackburn.

The agency’s mission statement is to respond to the needs of older adults by providing opportunities to receive needed services, acquire new skills, improve physical strength and enhance creative talents for an improved quality of life.

The agency fulfills its mission by offering various services for older adults.

Services available through the Hertford County Office of Aging

One of these services is the “Are you O.K. Program,” which is a free public service made available through the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office. The funding is provided by the Office of Aging and the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office.

This program is a computerized telephone system which calls each enrolled subscriber at the same time of day each week. When the subscriber answers the phone at the specified call time, he or she will hear a prerecorded message such as, “Good Morning, are you ok?”

If the subscriber fails to answer the phone after several attempts or the line is continually busy, the computer will automatically notify the telecommunicator at the Sheriff’s Office who will have a Deputy Sheriff dispatched to check on the person.

The agency also provides transportation for seniors through a contract with CPTA (Choanoke Public Transportation Authority).

In addition, the office offers nutrition programs with sites at R. L. Vann School in Ahoskie, Walter Reed Annex in Murfreesboro and the Hertford County Senior Center in Winton. According to Blackburn, the agency feeds 140 seniors each week.

There is a Home Delivered Meals Program in Ahoskie, Murfreesboro and Winton as well. Blackburn said this program currently delivers 45 meals each week to home- bound seniors.

She also said another program, Respite Care services in the home, serves 21 clients each week.

According to Blackburn, there are eight senior clubs available through the office. The clubs have about 270 members total and the president of the North Carolina Association of Senior Citizen Clubs is a member of a local club.

Other programs available are health promotional programs, outreach programs, tax preparation assistance and wellness and fitness.

Also available are prescription drug and hearing assistance, Project Safe Return, durable medical equipment assistance, reverse mortgage counseling and vision and hearing support services.

The Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program was started two years ago.

“We are the third largest county in the state for grandparents raising grandkids and those statistics are not getting any better,” said Blackburn. “It’s heartbreaking; I have taken this program to heart.”

About 40 grandparents are in the program and the agency works to get the grandchildren involved, said Blackburn.

The group meets once a month to have dinner. Different speakers come to the group, including people from the school systems, nutritionists who talk about healthy diets and childhood obesity and individuals who address legal issues.

“We talk about whatever they want to talk about,” said Blackburn. “We bring in a family law attorney to educate the grandparents on their legal rights and to make them more stable legally.”

SHIP (Senior Health Insurance Information Program) offers seniors information about Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance. Blackburn said the program helps seniors with Medicare part D. Congress passed bill to assist senior citizens with buying medicine by reducing out of pocket medicine costs.

She encourages seniors to come to Office of Aging in order to sign up for Medicare part D program.

Another service available for seniors is the Project Life Saver Care Trak Program. This program is an organization of the Stokes County Mountain Rescue, Care Trak Program in King, N.C. which partners with sheriff’s offices and agencies around the state in providing training and support on managing the clients who are at the risk of wandering.

This program uses radio technology and trained search and rescue taskforce members. Individuals in the program wear a personalized wristband that emits a tracking signal.

If the individual wanders away, the caregiver notifies N.C. Project Lifesaver through the local sheriff’s office and a search and rescue task force will respond immediately.

The bracelets can be obtained through the sheriff’s office and the cost is a one-time payment of $230. There is an additional cost for batteries which must be replaced every 30 days.

The Hertford County Sheriff’s Office delivers the bracelet and puts it on the seniors’ wrist and will help with any problems individuals may experience while using the bracelet.

The Senior Center at the Office of Aging offers many classes seniors can participate in. Some of these classes are creative writing, line dancing/wellness, ceramics, quilting, general crafts, art, basket weaving, crochet and computer classes.

The classes are co-sponsored by Roanoke Chowan Community College.

The center also offers such services as senior breakfast clubs, legislative advocacy, planning and advisory committees and Legal Aid of North Carolina. The center also has exercise equipment for seniors.

Seniors also have the opportunity to take trips through the Senior Center.

“Part of our mission is to decrease isolation,” said Blackburn. “We are a rural county and some of our seniors don’t get out; the trips give them an opportunity to fellowship with others and to get involved.”

Blackburn added that volunteer opportunities are available through the Office of Aging. Volunteers are needed for home delivered meals, seniors helping seniors, administrative assistance, craft classes, etc.

“It is amazing that we are 30 years old and are still not as well known as you would think,” said Blackburn. “We are a beacon of light for seniors and caregivers.”

For more information about volunteer opportunities or about the Hertford County Office of Aging in general, call 358- 7856 or visit their website at www.hertfordcountyseniorcenter.com.