Daily Reporter staff writer
SHIRLEY — Dean McFarland is spreading the word.
The Central Indiana Council on Aging board member became concerned Hancock County’s older residents might not be aware of all the benefits available to them, and so he began speaking to groups of area seniors to change that.
He was troubled by what he found; McFarland estimated only about 10 to 15 percent of those who attended his presentations were aware of the local resources available to them. He reasoned one solution might be to put all the right people — service-providers and the clients they serve — in the same room; and thus, the first senior community fair, to conducted from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Shirley Christian Church, was born.
McFarland is working with the support and grief group that meets at the church, 202 Meridian St. in Shirley, to organize the open house-style event, which he hopes will provide one-stop shopping for those senior citizens looking to learn more about services available to county residents.
It all started with a presentation to the support group about resources for seniors, which made members want others to know of the benefits available to all who qualify, the Rev. Gary Sickle, pastor of the church, wrote in an email. And so, the planning began.
The free open house will bring together representatives from Hancock County Senior Services, CICOA and Lifestream Services of New Castle. McFarland has also invited representatives from veterans groups. Exhibitors will offer free information about the services they provide and answer questions.
At 2 p.m., McFarland will present his findings about what’s available to seniors.
The 80-year-old’s focus is helping seniors learn to “age in place,” maintaining their independence in the homes they love while making the adjustments necessary along the way in order to avoid having to move to assisted living or a nursing home as their needs increase.
“Many were not that well prepared to do that,” McFarland said.
Kit Paternoster, volunteer coordinator at Hancock County Senior Services, is among those representatives who will be at the fair. Like McFarland, she finds many are unaware of the plethora of local resources.
She sited transportation arrangements, medical equipment available for borrowing, visits from volunteers and other services among those available to seniors through her organization.
Though the agency, now operating on Fields Boulevard, has been in Hancock County for more than 30 years, “a lot of people have no idea we even exist,” Paternoster said.
Tara DeBoo, community outreach coordinator for CICOA, said her organization is also trying to get the word out to people who could use, but might not know about, the information and resources CICOA provides.
“Outreach in each county we serve is very important,” DeBoo wrote in an email.
Resources available at CICOA’s booth will include copies of the Solutions Guide, a directory of community organizations, programs and services serving older adults, people with disabilities and care givers.
A senior community fair, presenting information and resources for senior services available in or near Hancock County, will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Shirley Christian Church, 202 Meridian St. in Shirley. The event is free and open to the public.