County OFA is worth its weight in gold

Our Dutchess County Government provides a sundry of essential services that we support through taxes, from its Departments of Transportation and Public Works to its Sheriff’s Office and Division of Veterans Services to it Emergency Response, Parks & Rec, Public Transit and so much more. Residents in the know access these services to enhance their lives, and to assist them when they are struggling.

Certainly we all know what it’s like to go through times of crisis. During the COVID pandemic, many of us have dealt with health, economic and housing challenges. The county’s numerous programs and services have helped thousands cope during that period alone.

Certainly it’s stepped up to aid our elder population during the health crisis, and for many decades prior. Largely that’s done through the Dutchess County Office for the Aging (OFA), which provides a wide swath of services for those 60 and older.

The OFA offers assistance such as nutritional support, meal deliveries, tips on everything from how to exercise properly to how to invest safely to how to find senior housing to general advice on aging.

The OFA has helped the Hudson Valley’s 60-plus population age gracefully since the ‘70s in a healthy and positive way, providing a strong support system so those in their golden years can more easily move through what can sometimes be trying times. After all, not all seniors have family or friends nearby. Some may be left to navigate what can be a daunting time in their lives all on their own.

We all know that life understandably becomes more difficult as we age, not necessarily worse, just more challenging. It’s a fact of life for every generation.

We’ve all heard the same thought echo in our heads while hearing our joints creak or our backs crack:

“I’m not as young as I used to be.”

No one is, and that’s why everyone can use a helping hand at some point. Enter the OFA.

The OFA has programs that can assist with all sorts of situations. Volunteers are more than willing to help make daily living easier (and often, so are neighbors, friends and family) for those who need it.

Some of our more seasoned citizens may stop driving or may not like to drive at night; others may have trouble walking or lifting things like grocery bags, reaching high cabinets in the kitchen or changing light bulbs. Regular chores like taking out the garbage or raking leaves might be too difficult, and certainly shoveling snow or mowing the lawn may be best left to the teenager next door.

That’s all common sense, and the OFA distributes an  informative newsletter, “The Aging News,” with useful tips and topics for seniors. It also includes the fantastic “Golden Living” column by OFA Director Todd N. Tancredi (which also runs regularly in The Millerton News, see this page).

“The Aging News” includes loads of information (like links to the Aging Services Directory and local Senior Friendship Centers), with information about its “A Matter of Balance” classes, senior events like its very popular annual Senior Picnics, scam alerts, free courses and more.

The OFA has long focused on the state of our seniors and their emotional health as they age. It’s been especially concerned if they’ve felt isolated during the pandemic, as so many — of all generations — have expressed feeling lonely during the two-year long health crisis.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy even declared social isolation a “global epidemic.” The New York State OFA reported mid-March that the AARP Public Policy Institute declared “social isolation drives $6.7 billion in additional associated Medicare spending per year.”

Which is why the NYSOFA paired with the state Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Association on Aging in New York (AgingNY) to expand programs connecting seniors with volunteers. One is called Friendly Calls. In a nutshell, neighbors call their senior neighbors to chat for 20 to 30 minutes a week. To participate, call 1-800-342-9871.

New York has made caring for its senior population a priority for many years. In fact, the NYOFA celebrated National Nutrition Month this March by marking the 50th anniversary of the National Nutrition Program for the Elderly, established in 1972.

Since the program’s inception half a century ago, the agency has provided more than 1 billion meals to more than 10 million seniors in the Empire State. The program continues to go strong, supported by a network of volunteer and like-minded agencies.

Dutchess County’s OFA has been serving meals since forming in the ‘70s to seniors. It does so at its eight Senior Friendship Centers countywide, with two locally. They also serve up plenty of fellowship.

The two here in the Harlem Valley include one in Wassaic, at the South Amenia Presbyterian Church at 229 South Amenia Road. The other is in Millerton, at the NorthEast-Millerton Library Annex at 28 Century Blvd. Both are open Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The OFA also prepares and delivers hot meals to home bound seniors weekdays through its Home Delivered Meals Program, so older adults may remain at home for longer. Participants also reap the benefits of getting to socialize during their visits with the delivery person.

The OFA is always looking for volunteers, too, in case that sounds like something that piques your interest.

To learn more about the OFA, call 845-486-2555, email ofa@dutchessny.gov or go to www.dutchessny.gov.

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