Columbia Residents Help Pay for Senior Citizen Care

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COLUMBIA - A fund to help seniors stay in the home and live a healthy lifestyle is wrapping up its first year with funding falling below its needs. The Community Foundation of Central Missouri worked with the Boone County Council on Aging, Meals On Wheels Columbia, and MU's Adult Day Connection to establish the Seniors Matter Fund. The Seniors Matter Fund helps support the unmet needs of older adults. In Boone County, there are 15,038 people over the age of 65.

Each agency helps seniors a little differently:
Boone County Council on Aging focuses on volunteer services for the seniors
Meals on Wheels provides nutritionally-balanced meals to seniors
The MU Adult Day Connection provides support for adults who have experienced physical or cognitive changes

Since the program began in July 2012, private donors in Columbia have given $12,500 to the Seniors Matter Fund. The executive director of the Community Foundation of Central Missouri, John Baker, said he was surprised in how little was donated after a strong early start.

"At the beginning there was a great deal of interest in making sure seniors have their needs met," Baker said.

Executive director at Boone County Council on Aging, Jessica Macy, said all of the agencies wish there was more money, but she is happy with any additional funds the agency can receive.

"I think to raise $12,000 in a year for a brand new program is a really good starting point," Macy said.

All three agencies meet once a month to discuss how to increase public awareness about senior needs in the community. Macy said Columbia is a great place for people to retire. Forbes magazine put Boone County on its list of the top 25 places to retire.

The local nonprofit agencies share a unified goal to keep seniors in their homes independently and safely for as long as possible. MU Adult Day Connect Executive Director Jerry Kiesling said there are a number of reasons to keep seniors in their homes.

"They feel more adjusted, they feel like they are where they need to be, and they are happier that way, so a lot of times keeping someone in their home will make a big difference in their quality of life," Kiesling said.

The money from Seniors Matter Fund not only helps to provide care to seniors who cannot afford it, but it also allows volunteers to have friendly visits with seniors, mow their lawns, take them grocery shopping, and provide them with a well-balanced meal.

One of the agencies involved, Meals on Wheels Columbia, gives out meals to about 100 clients every day. Executive Director JoNetta Weaver said her agency's specialty is the lunch meal. Those meals include an entrée, two vegetables, a drink, and a small dessert.

"Many times by the time [seniors] ask for help with Meals on Wheels, they have been trying to take care of themselves," Weaver said. "Most of the time they are not eating good nutrition. Good nutrition factors into them being able to stay well."

Another important aspect that the fund helps pay for is support for adults who have recently had physical or cognitive changes. At the MU Adult Day Connection seniors participate in exercise and afternoon activities almost daily. The exercise helps rebuild strength and the afternoon activities provide cognitive stimulus.

Kiesling said the Seniors Matter Fund is still relatively new. He also said the agencies are trying to grow the fund are self supporting, and hopes that in the future the fund can be an asset to the community.

If you would like to donate to the Seniors Matter Fund or any of the other programs at the Community Foundation of Central Missouri you can visit its website.