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ACF grant will help address needs of growing senior population

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Funding will help provide centralized service access for older adults

Direction Home Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging & Disabilities will receive a grant of up to $200,000 from Akron Community Foundation to create a coalition to meet the needs of Summit County's growing senior population. This population will outnumber children in the county by 2020, according to Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University.

The grant was awarded as a result of a community foundation report commissioned last year, as well as a series of convenings it organized that included more than 60 stakeholders and service providers. The No. 1 priority that emerged from the convenings was helping aging adults remain in their homes, regardless of their ability to pay.

Akron Community Foundation President and CEO John T. Petures Jr. acknowledged the goal is a challenging one, given that in 2030, 30 percent of the county's population will be age 60 or older, and 47 percent will have at least a moderate physical or cognitive disability, according to a Scripps Gerontology Center report. In advance of this growth, Petures said now is the time to begin building a more robust and coordinated approach to service delivery.

"Our aging adults are an often overlooked group, and if we don't address this population boom now, we run the risk of straining a number of community resources in the near future," Petures said. "When we considered a grant to proactively address this issue, Direction Home, which already provides a high level of service for older adults, was the clear choice to coordinate this effort."

The grant aligns with the community foundation's new strategic direction of proactively addressing community needs, Petures added.

Another priority that emerged from Akron Community Foundation's convenings was the need for centralized access to services and information, something Direction Home President and CEO Gary Cook said his organization is well-positioned to help create.

"The network of organizations in Summit County caring for older adults is fantastic," Cook said. "We have all been working better together to help this population, but as we found with the convenings, the demand vastly outpaces supply."

Of particular concern is the "gap population" of aging adults whose fixed incomes do not meet Medicaid eligibility. According to Cook, these seniors are at increased risk of not having access to subsidized services like transportation, food delivery and home health aides. While agencies like Mature Services and Catholic Charities currently serve this gap population, their resources are limited.

The first step of this new project includes the coordination of a needs assessment to gauge pressing issues. In addition, several organizations are currently working on creating a shared process to coordinate the intake of Summit County seniors requesting services.

"We have always wanted the resources to bring this issue forward," Cook said. "We are very happy that our partnership with Akron Community Foundation has allowed us to start to address these gaps in supports for those who need help the most but for whom it has limited availability."

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