The Cooperative Extension Service can offer seniors help with a number of problems and concerns related to the quality of their lives. Even those who remember only the traditional services will be amazed to learn of the changes in the extension service in recent years. It now provides services and programs for urban and suburban areas as well as rural regions.
Current programs offer help in lawn care, back yard gardening, family nutrition, consumer education, family relationships and much more. The horticulture agent deals with landscaping and gardening problems and the home economics agents deal with all aspects of homemaking and family life. Most extension services are free.
The Cooperative Extension Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has state offices in land grant colleges. Local offices are usually in county seats. In Maryland the state office is at the university in College Park. In Montgomery County the office is in Gaithersburg and in Prince George's County it is in Upper Marlboro. Telephone numbers can be found among the county government listings under Agriculture Extension or Cooperative Extension Service.
One undertaking in the state office now is the development of a death education program. A workshop, to prepare leaders to deal with the subject in their communities, was held in St. Mary's County in May. The program included topics such as attitudes toward death, funeral concerns and helping families face the inevitability of death. Similar programs in other counties are contemplated.
The state extension office has produced a television series called "Aging With Confidence" as part of the "At Home in Maryland" program broadcast by WBAL in Baltimore. It also has been conducting annual statewide conferences on the theme, Action for Aging, selecting different subtopics each year.
County extension service offices are involved in direct delivery of services to the consumer. The Prince George's County office has two agents who deal specifically with the elderly. The home economics division, for example, conducts such programs as cooking for one or two persons while the horticulture division offers programs on gardening (even window box gardening) or home landscaping. Programs are scheduled in libraries, senior citizen centers, nursing homes, public housing units and other sites with assembly facilities.Many informative leaflets on various topics of interest to seniors are available from county offices.
There is provision for response to individual concerns. County agents are usually in their offices for a designated part of their working day. At these times they answer questions by telephone.Someone may request help on canning rhubarb, or in solving a decoration problem, or in keeping in sects from getting the best of a flower garden or fruit tree. There could be help even for such problems as getting nesting bees out of the attic.
The Montgomery County extension staff provides timely tips about gardening or homemaking problems on tapes that can be heard by telephone. New topics are discussed every day or two. Telephone 948-9494. Also, interested persons can get on the mailing list for Horticulture Hot-Line, a bulletin sharing timely information on lawn, garden and plant care.
One of the indirect services of the Cooperative Extension Serivce is sponsorship of homemakers' clubs. Club leaders afe given training and always have available to them the resources of the county extension office and when needed, the state office specialists. Club membership is one way to get up-to-date information on topics such as gardening, home managment, nutrition, and health or consumer education. Inquiry about club member ship can be made by calling the county extension service office.
Veteran participants of extension service programs may be disappointed with the discontinuation of a long-standing event formerly called Rural Women's Short Course and later, College Days. This was a statewide program held annually on the College Park campus to offer a wide range of informal seminars and demonstrations on subjects of interest to homemakers. Plans are under consideration to replace the statewide program with regional or county-based programs of similar nature.
A popular annual spring event sponsored by the Montgomery County extension office is a program known as Open New Doors. It features a keynote address followed by morning and afternoon subgroup sessions. Participation is open to all interested persons. There is a nomimal charge. Announcement of this program is made through a leaflet available in all county libraries.
Among the topics discussed in the program this year were: Adjusting to the loss of a spouse, challenging volunteer opportunities, coping with deafness, selecting ready-to-wear clothes and improving the quality of life for yourself and your aging parents.
Information about the many services offered can be obtained by calling the county extension office. The number in Prince George's County is 952-3313. In Montgomery County the number is 948-6740.