As we all struggle to maintain some sort of “normal” in these challenging times, one segment of our society is even more vulnerable than others: our elders.

People want to grow old gracefully and maintain their independence as long as possible. Families have many decisions to make and piles of information to sort through as they try to ensure their loved ones’ needs are met in their golden years.

Fortunately, resources are available to help make those decisions.

Families can start by researching the National Council on Aging (www.ncoa.org). The council is a trusted national organization that helps people ages 60 and older. It works with nonprofits, governments and businesses to organize programs and services at the community level, and it’s an excellent place to find senior programs that can help people age well emotionally, physically and financially.

AARP (www.aarp.org) is an organization that’s also dedicated to helping seniors. The AARP website offers a variety of information on everything from senior discounts to products to health care.

The Association of Mature American Citizens (amac.us), also advocates for and provides resources to seniors.

The federal government mandates that counties and cities have agencies on aging (see www.n4a.org). Rock, Walworth, Jefferson and neighboring counties all have Aging & Disability Resource Centers, which provide information on programs and financial resources for area seniors. They can help seniors access volunteers who can transport them to appointments, and some provide Meals on Wheels services. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services also oversees the Council on Aging in each county, which offers valuable information. Check your county website for details.

Military veterans or those who are/were married to a veteran might be eligible for benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (www.va.gov). The VA offers health care services, disability compensation, burial benefits and much more. County and state assistance is available.

Non Government resources can include local churches, which often have senior outreach committees.

And when you or a loved one can no longer be cared for at home, there are numerous senior care facilities in most communities. It is best to start thinking about your preferred living arrangements ahead of time. Having those tough conversations with your family and loved ones in advance makes life more predictable if a crisis arises.

The current pandemic has been trying for everyone, especially seniors. The situation is a good reminder for everyone -- young, middle-aged and older -- to seek out help and resources now rather than wait for the next personal or national crisis to occur.

The Insiders: This article is sponsored by Fairhaven Senior Services.

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