story by Brittany Shepard | photos provided by SARCOA & Drew Chapman
The Southern Alabama Regional Council on Aging (SARCOA) will hosts its 30th annual Older Americans Day on May 3, 2017, at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds.
“May is National Older Americans Month, and we celebrate by hosting our Older Americans Day the first Wednesday of May,” said SARCOA Director of Human Resources and Public Relations Jessica Barefield. “A lot of our programs at SARCOA are established under the Older Americans Act, and the act designates May as Older Americans Month.”
The event is open to anyone age 60 and older and will include a variety of events and activities. Vendor booths will be set up with businesses and organizations that cater to seniors. Beginning in the morning, guests can explore the booths, listen to live music, play games and participate in a costume contest and talent show. Guests will also be able to register for various giveaways and door prizes offered by many generous event sponsors.
The theme of 2017 Older Americans Day is “Hollywood,” and there will surely be some excellent costumes and entertainment related to the theme. To cap off the event, guests will enjoy a delicious lunch served by volunteer students from many of the area high schools.
“We depend on hundreds of volunteers to make Older Americans Day a success,” said Jessica.
Tickets to the event are free, but because of the meal, SARCOA asks that tickets are ordered in advance through SARCOA.
“This day is exciting to me because it is the only event we do that involves all seven of our counties, and all the seniors that utilize our area senior centers come together in one location,” said Jessica. “It’s fun because they all get to see each other and visit. We usually have as many as 1,500 people in attendance, and there are not a lot of events that celebrate being a senior. So this is fun to get together and celebrate them and their accomplishment and let them know that we appreciate them.”
SARCOA was formed in 1986 through the cooperation of seven area county governments in an effort to serve the growing senior populations of Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry and Houston counties.
“We are an area agency on aging established by the state, but we are also funded by federal and local money,” said Jessica. “Our focus is to help seniors stay active and in the community so that they can have the greatest quality of life possible.”
SARCOA’s mission and focus is to work “to bring funding sources and service providers to deliver services that assist senior citizens and disabled individuals, helping them maintain their dignity, independence and quality of life.”
Primarily funded through state funds allocated through the Older Americans Act and the Social Security Act, SARCOA also runs on in-kind support and donations from local government, area businesses and individuals. They also depend on volunteer support from the community to help carry out the services they provide.
“A big portion of our programs provide care in the home for our clients so that they can stay in their home with their family. We provide case management and then contract out for the services,” said Jessica. “We also have a variety of other programs such as helping individuals being discharged from the hospital get the services they need so they do not have to be re-admitted and prescription drug assistance for those who cannot afford their medications.”
One of the biggest resources that SARCOA offers is a network of 38 senior centers throughout the Wiregrass region. These senior centers are the hub for services in their areas. Meals are provided daily as well as transportation services to help with shopping trips and doctor visits. The centers also offer fun activities like exercise, arts and crafts, bingo and more. The senior centers also offer home-delivered meals to homebound seniors.
In addition to Older Americans Day, SARCOA hosts several special events throughout the year including Santa for Seniors, training and continuing development for social workers and long-term care workers, a Valentine’s event and more. They participate in Senior Day at the National Peanut Festival each year.
“We also serve as a resource center for the community so that people can call or walk into the office to get help with whatever it is they have questions about,” said Jessica.
SARCOA is the area expert on aging, and anyone with questions about the services the organization provides or with questions on how to get involved with their work should call or visit.
For more information about Older Americans Day and SARCOA, call (334) 793-6842 or visit www.sarcoa.org. You can also find SARCOA on Facebook or by visiting www.facebook.com/sarcoa.aging.