Elderly citizens expressed concern about housing, transportation and security issues at forums sponsored recently in each of the city's eight wards by the District Office on Aging.
The series of two-hour meetings, attended by elderly residents, social service planners, community members and the staff of the Office on Aging, was designed to give citizens an opportunity to comment on the Office on Aging plan for 1979 and to get information about social services.
Richard Artis, executive director of the D.C. Office on Aging, explained to a Ward 1 audience at All Souls Unitarian Church that the 1979 plan is based on a survey of seven types of services to the elderly including: nutrition and supporting social services; information and referral, home health care and day car; expanded legal services and expansion of the nursing home ombudsman program, and transportation.
The proposed budget for 1979 is $3.6 million, of which approximately $600,000 would be allocated from the D.C. government. The remainder would come from the U.S. Administration on Aging.
"We have about 58 cents per person per day to work with for over 105,000 elderly people," Artis said. "The problem that we face, as most public service programs do, is that if we efficiently utilize our resources we can address that needs of 10 to 12 percent of the elderly in the District of Columbia."
"We have an obligation to provide you with information that describes your community and your needs and tell you where the D.C. Office on Aging is heading in the next year," Artis told his audience.
At each forum, Artis displayed maps showing the location of services throughtout the city.
"Wards 1 and 2 are most heavily served in terms of services in D.C., while Wards 7, 8 and 6, east of the Anacostia River, are the least served."
About one half of the office's 1978 funding of $2.4 million is used for nutrition programs that provide hot lunches at several centers across the city. Other money is allocated to community groups that sponsor activities for the elderly.
The audiences at the forums varied from ward to ward. Abour 110 people attended the Ward 4 meeting at Columbia Senior Center; 85 attended at All Souls Unitarian Church in Ward 1; 75 at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Ward 2, and 25 at Woodridge Library in Ward 5.
One member of the audience at the Ward 2 forum asked about the possibility of increasing transportation services for the elderly. Artis said that the Office on Aging has proposed a system of "25 minibuses or vans that would be equpped with ramps and lifts to aid people, take them shopping, for outtings or to doctors' appointments." The fleet of vehicles would be centrally disparched and operate seven days a week.
One woman at the meeting at All Souls' asked if there was any chance that the city would build retirement or nursing homes.
"I would rather not see the government provide that type of service," Artis said. "There are many kinds of alternative health care services, including friendly visiting and visiting nurses. According to our needs assessment survey, most of the elderly would choose to remain at home rather than move to a nursing home or other facility."
May Phillips, a member of the D.C. Commission on Aging, suggested that "the government buy an apartment building and sell it as condominiums for the elderly."
The fiscal year 1979 plan will be submitted to the D.C. Commission on Aging and to the community at public hearings scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 29 in the City Council chambers in the District Building.
Late this summer the plan will be sent to the mayor and the U.S. Administration on Aging for funding.