• 66°

Seniors’ input sought

Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, a nonprofit that supports senior citizens and their families and caregivers in South Hampton Roads, seeks input as it plans services for fiscal 2015.

A public hearing was held Tuesday at Suffolk’s Department of Social Services building, and a second such event was planned for Wednesday at The Center for Aging Education Center in Norfolk.

After Tuesday’s hearing, intended to gather suggestions from Western Tidewater residents, failed to attract participants, John Skirven, the organization’s CEO, is encouraging folks to complete an online survey before May 31.

The survey is at www.ssseva.org.

“The purpose is to hear public input on the issues that older people face — and their caregivers — and what they believe we should be doing … to address those needs,” Skirven said Tuesday.

Besides a reporter, the meeting’s only other attendees were Joice Whitehorn, president of the organization’s board of directors, and Maxine Scott, its executive assistant.

Serving Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Isle of Wight County, Southampton County and Franklin, the organization is one of 25 area agencies on aging in Virginia, and 629 nationwide, Skirven said.

It receives federal, state and local funding as well as grant money, and generates some revenue by charging for particular services on an income-based sliding scale.

Senior Services caters to all seniors aged 60 and older, anyone 18 or older with a disability, and also caregivers.

“We help seniors live with choice and dignity in their communities,” Skirven said. “We help people stay in their own homes as long as possible.”

The organization is waiting to see what it will receive from the state in the next year as the General Assembly inches toward a budget, according Skirven.

“The governor’s budget and the two budget bills from the House and the Senate each contain approximately $1.2 million for senior needs. Of that amount, Senior Services would receive approximately $150,000,” Skirven said.

With the “dramatic” growth of seniors as a percentage of the overall population, one in five folks in Southeastern Virginia will be seniors in the next five years, he said.

“We are a rapidly growing area for the elderly — Suffolk in particular,” he said.

After sequestration hit the organization’s funding, with Congress partially restoring sequestered funds, successful grant applications and contracts to coordinate care for individuals receiving both Medicare and Medicaid — known as dual-eligible recipients — have recently improved the situation, Skirven said.

In fiscal 2014, the organization’s largest chunk of spending — 23 percent — went to providing community-based long-term care.

Other spending categories outlined during Tuesday’s meeting, in descending order, were the Aging and Disability Resource Center, transportation, wellness and lifestyle, managed care contracts, support, benefits and counseling and planning and advocacy.

Feedback from the public will help direct spending over the coming fiscal year, according to Skirven.

“Depending on the answers we get, it helps to inform us how to focus our programs and our resources,” he said.

Whitehorn said that different communities, and different groups within communities, provide different input, all of which is valid.

“You will find different answers from people who spend most of their lives in rural communities,” she said. “Even (between) the age groups.”