Guest column: Jaclynn Faffer ... Jewish Family & Community Services of Southwest Florida

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Photo by Elizabeth Stone Feldman

By Jaclynn Faffer

Naples

President/CEO

Jewish Family & Community Services of Southwest Florida

Chair, Leadership Coalition on Aging

The long-awaited findings of the Naples Area Senior Needs Assessment have been presented to the Leadership Coalition on Aging (LCA) of Collier County.

The LCA commissioned the study to find out if the needs of local seniors justified the development of senior centers in the county and, if so, what programs and services should be included.

The study surveyed agencies and seniors in most of the county except Immokalee and Marco Island.

Areas under consideration for the development of senior centers include Golden Gate, East Naples and North Naples. Plans are well under way for the first senior center in to open in the fall at 5025 Castello Dr. in Naples, sponsored by Jewish Family & Community Services, a non-sectarian social service agency.

The needs assessment was funded through a generous grant from the Community Foundation and support from LCA member agencies: Alzheimer’s Support Network, Assisting Hands, Care Club, Catholic Charities, Collier Senior Resources, Council on Aging, Hope PACE, Jewish Family & Community Services, Shelter for Abused Women & Children and VITAS.

Key stakeholders, representing senior service agencies in Collier County and seniors attending two town hall meetings, provided the information for the qualitative part of the study. There was much agreement among the professionals and the others.

Findings: What do our seniors need?

Seniors are alone and lonely. There is a significant need for companionship and socialization.

Seniors are struggling with food insecurity and feel there is a scarcity of food pantries.

Seniors who are expected to manage on their own find themselves overwhelmed by “the system.” They need assistance in navigating programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Seniors often find themselves out of the mainstream, unaware of cultural, religious and social service programs, even if they do exist. They need better access to communication about what is available.

There is a significant need for transportation to get seniors where they need to go.

Seniors express a desire to live independently. However, they often require in-home support services to make this happen.

Seniors and their caregivers need education about senior abuse and neglect.

Caregivers need coordination of support group and networking, as well as education and support related to caregiver stress.

Key demographic findings

There are 57,557 individuals over age 65 in the areas studied; 48 percent are male, 52 percent are female; 16,606 of them live alone — 31 percent male and 69 percent female.

The senior population is spread out, with the largest concentrations in the northwest corner of Naples as well as in the area between Davis Boulevard and Rattlesnake-Hammock Road.

Ethnicity: Of the 57,557 seniors in the study area, 86 percent are white, 6 percent Hispanic/Latino, 2 percent black and 1 percent Asian.

Income: 6 percent have annual income less than $10,000; 15 percent are between $10,000 and $25,000; 27 percent are between $25,000 and $50,000; 18 percent are between $50,000 and $75,000; and 34 percent are above that.

What do our seniors want? Senior centers with information about and referrals to social, medical/dental and mental health services, and self-help groups; creative arts classes and activities; transportation to centers of activity; social activities such as meals, dances, shows and outings; access to affordable in-home services such as light homemaker and handyman services; and newsletters in English, Spanish and Creole about the availability of services.

There is no question that the seniors living in our neighborhoods would benefit from one or several central access points for social and supportive services. The Florida Department of Elder Affairs has a list of 260 senior centers located throughout the State of Florida. Let’s add Collier County to that list!

On Aug. 2 at Florida Gulf Coast University, the findings were presented by Thomas Felke, Ph.D., and Scott Anstadt, Ph.D., co-directors of the project. Mary Hart, Ph.D., director of the Division of Social Work at FGCU, was in charge.

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