COA, Senior Center Network Face August Renewal Vote

Two millage proposals on the Aug. 2 primary election ballot will impact services provided to Grand Traverse County seniors.

A proposal for the county’s Commission on Aging (COA) is a renewal for .5 mills for six years, through 2022.  The tax impact on a $100,000 home would be $25 a year or just over $2 a month.

The second measure, a .1 mill renewal, is earmarked for the Senior Center Network and would equate to $5 per year for a home valued at $100,000. The senior center is a membership-based program that has served more than 7,000 members since 2011. GT County residents ages 60 and over qualify for a free membership. Residents under 60 pay $10 per year.

“The millage is critically important for us,” said Laura Green, deputy director of the COA. “If it doesn’t pass, we have funding for one more year and then that’s it.”

Green explained that the COA currently has a $1.3 million fund balance. While GT County’s general fund is facing some financial issues, it’s important to note that COA is self-funded through the millage, client fees and donations.

The millage provides roughly 80 percent of the COA’s annual budget of $2.7 million, according to Green, who has been with the agency for two years after directing a more diverse program in Virginia. “In addition to the millage funding, we do receive funding from the clients who utilize our services and from memorial donations and trusts from wills,” she said.

The COA offers an array of programs, all designed to maintain and improve the quality of life for residents 60 years old and older in an effort keep them living in their home. COA clients can get help for household chores such as vacuuming, washing dishes, doing laundry, lawn maintenance and more.

Another program provides health care assistance, including bathing, hair and skin care, blood sugar checks, etc. Respite care allows caregivers of clients some time to rest.

“We go in and provide that caregiver with a bit of relief,” explained Green. “Clients make four-hour appointments and that gives the caregiver time to run errands or just get away for a little break.”

COA is offering two new services: The Universal Aide program combines housekeeping with personal care skills. The COA’s 13 Universal Aides are state-certified nursing assistants who can handle health care needs and also provide other services, including personal care, light housekeeping and respite care.

“Previously these services would involve two of our staff members going to a client’s home,” explained Green. “We did this to better serve the client with only one person doing everything for them.”

The other new service is Medminder, a program that wirelessly monitors a client’s prescriptions. It’s a medication dispenser that reminds patients to take their meds on time and communicates with COA with real-time notifications if there is a problem. It provides both audio and visual reminders for hearing-impaired or low-vision clients. It’s cellular based, so no landline or internet is needed.

“We’re beginning Medminder this month and I think it will be very popular,” said Green.

To qualify for any COA services, a person must be 60 years of age or older and a resident of GT County. There are small charges for services, based on income and determined by a sliding fee scale.

“For example, a single person with an income under $24,000 a year would pay $5 per hour to have their house cleaned,” said Green. “If it takes two hours, it would be $10. That’s pretty reasonable.”

As for the Senior Center Network, the Traverse City Senior Center and satellite locations in Acme, Fife Lake, Interlochen and Kingsley provide classes in art, computers, nutrition, dance, brain health, finances and more. The Network also hosts dozens of exercise options, such as cardio, strengthening, tai chi, yoga, Zumba and an array of recreational opportunities. Social events include weekly card and board games, dances, musical entertainment, holiday gatherings and more.