Ocean County Press Release
TOMS RIVER – With 10,000 baby boomers nationally turning 65-years-old daily, the focus on senior programs and services continues to grow in order to meet the needs of an aging population.
"Ocean County is home to more than 173,000 seniors," said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. "It's imperative we continue to have services in place to meet the growing demand and to make certain we can assure our seniors live independently and with a quality of life they deserve."
The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Jan. 15 awarded 37 competitive contracts to a host of local network service providers totaling more than $2.7 million.
"All of the funded programs such as access, community support, home support and nutrition support are designed to improve the quality of life for older adults at all stages of aging from the newly arrived senior who benefits from Medicare counseling, educational programs, and health screenings to the older more frail individual who receives a home delivered meal or a home health aide visit," Vicari said. "Our goal is to fund services and provide information and assistance efforts that will keep older adults in their own homes in their own communities for as long as is safely possible.
"And that is their own goal as well," said Vicari, who serves as chairman of Senior Services.
In 2020, the Ocean County Office of Senior Services will oversee a total of 45 Area Plan Contracts with 21 governmental and non-profit agencies in Ocean County totaling over $6.2 million.
In late 2019, the Freeholders awarded a key contract to Community Services Inc. for the county's senior nutrition program. That program is expected to serve about 300,000 meals in 2020. The Kosher Home Delivered Meals component, including a weekend contract, was approved at the Jan. 15 meeting.
"We have no wait list for any nutrition program in Ocean County," noted Vicari. "When we began to see a wait list, this Board stepped in and provided the needed funding to make certain everyone received a meal.
"Our senior nutrition program serves as a lifeline for many seniors that are frail and homebound," Vicari said. "This service delivers not only nutritional value but also regular social interaction. The routine delivery of meals to a client's home provides an opportunity to identify any non-nutritional needs they might have so that they can be connected to additional resources."
The Annual Nutrition Screening for Community Services and for the Kosher Home Delivered Meals programs indicates 96 percent of home delivered and congregate meal clients are at high nutritional risk.
"We are feeding the right people," Vicari said. "This program meets many different needs of our most vulnerable residents."
Other support areas to be funded under the contracts include transportation, legal services, caregiver services, social and recreational activities, benefits options counseling, mental health support and a host of other community based initiatives.
Over 532,000 units of service are planned for 2020 through 45 area plan contracts which project to serve close to 34,000 older residents and their families.
Vicari said that access to information and assistance through direct client contact and outreach events continues as the major focus for the Office of Senior Services.
"There were 106 presentations made to the public in 2019 in an effort to educate residents on our office and the services available to assist them in meeting their basic needs," Vicari said.
In addition, Senior Services staff responded to close to 6,400 callers/walk-ins in 2019 while there were almost 52,000 visitors to the Ocean County Office of Senior Services website as of Dec. 31, 2019, an increase of 5,000 visits to the site compared to the prior year.
"We provide help in a variety of ways to our seniors," Vicari said. "Whether it be nutrition assistance or Medicare information and education, the goal is to help keep our aging population healthy, active and independent."