“We have a lot of snowbirds. But now we’re finding that our snowbirds are becoming our year round residents,” Deborah said. “They tell us New York has better services for the elderly.”
“Deborah is part of a new wave of Office for Aging directors/commissioners who came on board during the past 18 months,” said Laura Cameron, Executive Director of the NYS Association of Area Agencies on Aging, an umbrella organization for New York’s local offices for the aging and aging network organizations. “We are featuring these individuals in a series of articles to introduce them to the aging services network and learn a bit about them and the agencies they lead.”
New York State is actually finding it’s better to try and keep retirees in New York State because they contribute billions to local economics. But it’s still a juggling act because as with most counties, Sullivan County experienced an increase in its senior population between 2000 and 2010, stretching already stretched dollars to meet demand.
“Things are tightening up but we still manage to get things done,” Deborah said. Transportation and housing are big issues. “Some of our seniors are looking to give up their homes, downsize and move into senior housing. There is always waiting list for housing. We stay in touch with housing complexes and we encourage our seniors to apply to all of the complexes and not just their favorite one. Within six months to a year they usually can get in,” Deborah said.
The primary objective of the Office for the Aging is to be the lead advocate for the older population of Sullivan County. All the programs sponsored or directly operated by each Office for Aging are designed to give choices to older people, with the hope that through these choices they will be able to remain in their own homes and communities as long as possible.
The Sullivan County Office for Aging’s NY Connects is a bridge between consumers and long term care services that utilizes a single point of entry or "no wrong door," as it's now called. A single point of entry makes things simpler for people who are learning about long term care services and who need to make decisions. At this single Point of Entry consumers and their caregivers receive:
· • Comprehensive and unbiased information and assistance regarding long term care options
· • Screening of general social, medical and financial needs
Deborah started her career working as a minority outreach worker for the Office for the Aging, a position that no longer exists. In 1987 she became the EISEP Coordinator and then Assistant Director before taking over the Director’s position, where she now serves as both.
She has seen a lot of change over the years but one thing remains the same: the seniors are the best part of the job.
“My Mom passed when she was 58 and my Dad when he was 62, and coming from a large and close knit family where everyone took care of everyone, I know what they would want me to do,” she said. “I put my heart and soul into doing the best I can, because the seniors here in Sullivan County are part of our Office for the Aging family.”