MIDDLETOWN—On Aug. 12 SUNY Orange in Middletown once again hosted the annual Orange County Senior Forum. Ann Marie Maglione, director of the Orange County Office for the Aging (OFA), facilitated the state-mandated public hearing and arranged for a variety of workshops for those in attendance.
Maglione unveiled programs and services OFA would provide to 60-plus residents for 2017. A theme of the event was “the boomers have arrived,” meaning Baby Boomers are now entering the 60-plus demographic.
Public officials from the state and the county spoke to a crowd of about 250.
John Cochran, deputy director of the state Office of the Aging, told attendees, “You are tremendous contributors to the local economy, you are tremendous contributors to the social fabric, and you represent a tremendous benefit to the social capital.”
County Executive Steven Neuhaus spoke of projects that would interest seniors. The county will expand the southern tip of the Heritage Trail through the villages of Monroe and Harriman. Construction will begin in the next few weeks, he said.
A concern of many seniors is affordable housing. “I think you’re going to see [senior housing] peppered throughout the county so seniors can live in their same community,” Neuhaus said. “You can be near your friends, your family.”
State Senator John Bonacic said the state budgets about $57 million for senior programs.
Maglione gave a presentation on what OFA is doing for seniors in the county. The County now provides about 900 meals to seniors through the Senior Dining Program.
New meal services will be instituted. OFA will reintroduce shelf stable meals, which will be made in-house. With renewed funding, holiday meals will be offered. A voucher system for meals will be piloted in Goshen that entitles a senior to patronize a pre-approved restaurant for a noon time meal.
OFA plans on a music therapy program for 2017. “Clinical studies can vouch for the health benefits of a music therapy regimen. The beauty of music therapy is that it helps people in a physical, mental, emotional and social way,” a report on the OFA website says.
Maglione said 2015 was a seminal year. Social Security turned 80, 50 years ago Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law, as was the Older Americans Act which expanded health and transportation services.
Over 70,000 county residents 60 and over live here as shown on a table at the forum. The trend of more seniors is expected to continue for the next 25 years.
Attendees came to learn and to do. Seniors Margery Karnas and Genevieve Kennedy have attended the event for many years. Karnas planned on attending the “Fraud, Theft, Scams & Safety” workshop by Sheriff Carl DuBois and Will Garcia, chief investigator in the district attorney’s office. “I learn things,” Karnas said.
Ted Lestrange came for information. Leanne Durning attended “Health Benefits of Local Produce & Herbs,” presented by county dietician Meg Oakes of the Orange County Department of Health.
“I’ve always loved herbs,” Durning said. “I don’t use salt so I think the herbs are a wonderful addition to meals and also drinks.”
Rich Mayfield fielded inquiries at the booth for the county’s Office of Community Development. He said his presence at the forum “provides us an excellent opportunity to interact with the senior population. Seniors like to see you. They want to talk to you. They want to touch your material.”
“This is our report card,” Maglione said, referring to the responses to presentations and comments in the public hearing. At the close of the presentation, she encouraged the attendees to tell her what they would like to see in the next year.
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