When you're 65 and over, it's time to relax, explore and enjoy life's pleasures and adventures you never had time for before. For too many, however, these golden years may lack luster.
Some seniors are restricted by their gradually deteriorating health and physical abilities. The chores of daily living become increasingly difficult, until one day even simple things -- shopping, cooking, driving, bathing -- become difficult.
This loss of self-sufficiency often is accompanied by an overwhelming sense of helplessness, and life may become confusing and frightening.
There are dozens of organizations -- federal, state, local, private, non-profit, religious and community service -- that help older citizens retain their independence and remain an active part of the community.
Turn to the Senior Citizens' Service Organizations section of your newspaper or phone directory. You may be surprised at how much help actually is out there. Many seniors don't use these programs until a crisis crops up.
If you want to familiarize yourself with the available resources, your local area agency on aging is the best place to start. To find the one nearest you, check the government section of your phone book.
This national network of government agencies was created in 1973 under the Older Americans Act. The goal, as stated in the act, is "to secure maximum independence for older Americans, to prevent unnecessary institutionalization, to reduce isolation and loneliness, to improve nutrition and health and to assist the vulnerable elderly."
The Administration on Aging is responsible for the administration of federal, state and county funds and works in conjunction with other organizations and contracted community agencies to meet the needs of the elderly.
The agency has an extensive information and referral service. Trained specialists assess the needs of individuals and recommend the appropriate resources or services. Through an outreach program, staff members meet with church and social groups requesting information on senior service programs.
Program directors of community and seniors centers are another excellent source of information, as are regional and national publications that provide valuable up-to-date information on available services. Bimonthly magazines are published by the Administration on Aging and by the American Association of Retired Persons.
In some cities, the Department of Public Health publishes an annual information and referral guide called Resources Guide of Services for Seniors. Check your local library for this.
Nutritional services are provided by the AAA through contracted agencies. Daily meals are served, free of cost, in either a group setting or home-delivered. This program is combined with nutrition education to assist participants in planning healthy, balanced diets. Similar "Meals on Wheels" programs are provided by community and church organizations.
Home-care services are available, ranging from help with chores to skilled medical assistance. The AAA contracts out for non-medical in-home services that include assistance in housekeeping, personal care, cooking and yard work. There is a growing number of private home-care agencies that provide these services as well as professional medical care.
Transportation remains a problem for seniors in most areas. Though seniors can ride public transport systems for free or at a reduced rate, it often is too much of a hassle or inaccessible for the senior. In a few areas, there is public transport especially funded for the elderly and handicapped.