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Seniors encouraged to start lobbying for program funding

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
April 20, 2012
— What is an area agency on aging and why should you care about it?

That question will be answered Friday, May 4, as part of the 2012 County Senior Statesmanship Program presented by the Rock County Council on Aging.


The event, which takes place May 3-4, will feature more than a dozen speakers including John Schnabl, program manager for the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources in Brookfield.


“I will talk about what my agency does as well as what the (aging) agency does in Rock County, then talk about a few hot topics within the aging network,” Schnabl said.


These topics include what’s on the horizon and what’s happening with funding and federal reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, which is where Rock County gets its funding for aging services, Schnabl said.


While there haven’t been any financial decreases to state agency resources, funding has been stagnant. Considering the overall fiscal environment at the state and federal levels, that will likely remain the case for some time, he said.


That means funding likely won’t keep up with the cost of inflation to meet a growing need for programs to serve those 60 and older, Schnabl said.


He says it’s important to get involved in the process of how program-funding priorities are determined at the local level.


“A lot of people are familiar with calling a congressman or senator but don’t think a lot about involvement at the county level,” Schnabl said. “But a lot of decisions get made at that level.”


Schnabl used this example to make his point: If the county’s council on aging offers nutrition services—home-delivered and/or congregate meals—and there is less money to spend, local officials might consider cutting one or both of these meal programs. Knowing who to contact to share input about the importance of these programs might determine whether they continue, he said.


Joyce Lubben, director of the Rock County Council on Aging, agreed, saying the mission of the senior statesmanship program is providing an environment where older citizens can learn how county government works, how it affects them and how they can impact it.


As part of his talk, Schnabl also plans to discuss the demographics of aging and the elder boom—growth of the 65-plus population—between now and 2035.


“Rock County is going to see some growth because in 2005 this age group made up at least 12 percent of the population, but it’s going to increase to a bit under 21 percent (over the next 20 years),” he said.


Schnabl isn’t sure how the county will meet those needs. That’s why he plans to stress the importance of getting involved in the process.


IF YOU GO

Who: Rock County Council on Aging


What: 2012 County Senior Statesmanship Program


When: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday and Friday, May 3-4.


Where: Rotary Botanical Gardens, 1455 Palmer Drive, Janesville.


Cost: $10. Scholarships are available, if needed. On day one, speakers include Rock County officials from public health to human services. On day two there will be a breakfast with Rock County Board supervisors and presentations from state officials. All conference materials, one breakfast and lunch for both days are included with transportation available.


Registration: Due Thursday, April 26 online at www.co.rock.wi.us/aging or by calling (608) 757-5472.

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