A tsunami of the aging is coming to Nevada, and we aren’t prepared | NevadaAppeal.com

A tsunami of the aging is coming to Nevada, and we aren’t prepared

Janice R. Ayres
For the Appeal

I read recently in the Nevada Appeal that close to 200 individuals and companies donated several millions of dollars to complete the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada. I was thrilled, as it is a wonderful place for young people to spend their time and learn to become good citizens. It is long overdue.

At the same time however, I was saddened that the Nevada Appeal’s great story about Heidi Manfroi living in poverty and in a mobile home with no amenities (and in a wheelchair, to boot) brought only three donations, one of which was mine. The other two were from low-income seniors themselves, who gave because they were a “little bit better off,” according to them.

I will continue to try and get help for Heidi so at least she has a door instead of a piece of plastic. However, isn’t it a sad lament that we don’t treat our seniors as well as our youth, or hold them in the same high regard?

Nevada government at all levels needs to wake up to the fact that it is facing a tsunami of aging, and no one seems to see it coming.

Here are some facts taken from the Sanford Center for Aging at the University of Nevada, Reno that should open everyone’s eyes:

• From 1990 to 2000, Nevada’s population age 65 and older grew by 72 percent, while the 85-and-older segment grew by 128 percent.

• From 2000 to 2005, Nevada’s 65-and-older population increased by 19.7 percent as compared to 3.8 percent nationally.

• Those 85 and older in Nevada, referred to as the oldest old, increased by 41.3 percent from 2000 to 2005.

• Nevada’s elder population is projected to increase from 11.2 percent of the population in 2004 to 18.6 percent in 2030. If the projection is accurate, this means Nevada’s senior population will have increased 264 percent in just 30 years (2000-30).

According to the Sanford Center, “The increase in elders has come from both the longer life span as well as the migration of older adults from other states. The demand for services continues to grow proportionately.

“The impact of this aging statewide population will be dramatic, but nowhere as great as in the healthcare system. Current data show that although Americans are living longer, they are not necessarily living in better health during their senior years. It is well known that elders are the biggest consumers of healthcare. Action must be taken now to address the mounting healthcare needs of this rapidly growing population in Nevada. Alternative programs to institutionalization are a must.”

Former Gov. Kenny Guinn allocated a portion of the tobacco-settlement dollars to provide funds to nonprofit agencies serving older Nevadans, to help keep them independent and at home as long as possible; however, those funds are diminishing and there is no plan to replace them.

Our rural Nevada RSVP program has five direct-service programs designed to help keep seniors at home, for which we do not charge. The Lifeline Program (a medical-alert service) we provide on a sliding scale; however, we struggle to pay the full cost we are billed, which is about $15,000 a month.

Before he left office, Gov. Guinn allocated $300,000 into the Executive Budget to help RSVP offer the Lifeline Program to low-income seniors in the rural counties. But it was subsequently removed, and thus we cannot offer this service, which is a deterrent to institutionalization which is a lot more costly ($360 a year for a Lifeline unit versus an average in Nevada of $62,500 to keep one senior per year in a care facility).

I realize that education issues consume the majority of the state budget and certainly we must, as a state, have educated people to be able to offer all potential employers qualified candidates in all categories of service; however, the situation for mounting health care for seniors becomes more urgent every day.

The state of Nevada needs to take a better and closer look at the nonprofit agencies that for years have been keeping seniors at home by utilizing volunteer help, and assist these agencies by funding them to a greater degree or the tsunami will be catastrophic to state agencies responsible for aging services.

The Nevada Rural Counties RSVP Program does not operate exclusively on federal and state funding by a long shot, as it has for years done everything possible to raise funds rather than depend on government.

RSVP holds the Spring Fun Fair, the Fourth of July Spectacular and the Nevada Days Celebration, all in Mills Park. It has also held fairs in Ely and Elko, and has added the Fernley Family Fun Fair this year. It is also a partner with three United Ways in Nevada and the MGM Mirage Voice Foundation in Las Vegas.

RSVP writes grants galore. In fact, RSVP raises 55 percent of its $1.5 million budget irrespective of state and federal funding (state – 30 percent, federal – 15 percent). Last year, RSVP volunteers provided 160,000 hours of service in Nevada, the value of which was more than $3.6 million, if the state had had to hire personnel.

Many of these hours were attributable to the RSVP Home Companion volunteers who adopt homebound seniors and provide basic needs care, which saves millions for the state in institutional costs.

Our RSVP has always been available to all elected officials for consultation on senior issues nationally and statewide and will continue to be available as we see up close and personal on a daily basis the plight our seniors in Nevada are facing.

Please visit our Web site – http://www.nevadaruralrsvp.org – for information on our programs, or call 687-4680, ext. 2. However, hardly anyone ever contacts us at budget time.

If you read this and can help Heidi Manfroi, we have set up a Trust Account in her name at First National Bank of Nevada, Account No. 16504831. I wish I could say that Heidi’s case is an isolated one, but it isn’t. It is common, but many are not as devastating as her plight. Is this how we treat what Tom Brokaw called the “greatest generation”? We can all do better. Thank you.

• Janice R. Ayres is executive director of the Nevada Rural Counties RSVP Program.