In this continuing series on seniors’ issues in Park County, Executive Director Bobbi A. Gore, of the Park County Senior Coalition, was interviewed to get her take on the conditions of senior matters in Park County. Gore was asked to answer the following four questions.
What issues do you see seniors facing in living and aging well in Park County?
Gore stated that seniors in Park County face the same obstacles to living and aging well that seniors anywhere face, with the additional obstacles of being more isolated than many, being a less homogenous or similar group than those in more populated areas, accessing services that are often at a distance and out of the county and finding it necessary to take a more self-directed and proactive approach to address their needs than seniors in service-rich areas.
The service network in our rural county is strong, yet has fewer provider agencies and groups to support an ever-growing population of seniors.
Gore said this results in some of the services available in more populated areas being unavailable within our county. Park County seniors enjoy the advantage of having greater accessibility to these individual providers and being on a first-name basis with them, rather than being a number.
Gore emphasized that the ability to self-advocate is stronger. The providers are strongly motivated to help their community, are knowledgeable across a broader range of services available both in and out of the county and work hard to match residents to the resources available.
What is your organization working to do about these issues?
Gore stated that the PCSC assists seniors to live and age well in Park County by bringing resources together to provide free programs and services that address senior needs.
PCSC works with volunteers, local service agencies and other organizations to provide grant-funded programs and services (such as information and assistance services, shelf-stable meal delivery, chore services and transportation assistance) that would otherwise be unavailable.
Each year, PCSC reviews current service requests from seniors throughout Park County, compiles service evaluations, and applies for grants to address the needs and programs that seniors have identified.
What resources are needed to help face and answer these challenges?
Gore replied that funding and volunteers are the lifeblood of the programs, and these are the resources that are minimally necessary to provide the programs and services each day, month and year. Education, advocacy and operating support are also needed to ensure longevity and continuity of the programs.
One of the greatest challenges faced in providing service in a rural area is demonstrating the value returned to stakeholders. Gore said that when serving a small population that is distributed across a wide geographic area, the cost of providing service is greater than providing the same service to a denser population.
The value of that service to those who rely on it and have no alternatives must continually be presented to the stakeholders, to prevent services going to where they are more easily and inexpensively provided.
What obstacles, if any, are your organization facing when serving seniors in Park County?
Gore responded that the rapid increase in demand for senior services nationwide has caused additional resources to become available for senior programs and services, improving resource availability.
Gore said government funding restrictions and regulations have simultaneously limited the value of these resources to rural areas and smaller populations by decreasing cost reimbursement rates below the cost of providing service, increasing the administrative burden to the point that it reduces service delivery, and standardizing programs and services to the point that they often lack the flexibility to address the needs and delivery channels of a rural population.
Gore also said that partnerships built with other providers and relationships with stakeholders have allowed PCSC to stretch every dollar, limiting the impact of these obstacles.
Gore has been delighted to see the response of Park County residents during the current health crisis: the awareness of individuals who are likely to require some assistance, an outpouring of community support and the generosity of volunteers.
These leverage the resources available to support seniors’ programs through difficult times.