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Communities of Strength: Resilience Despite Challenges

As you already know, May is Older Americans Month – What a great opportunity to recognize the achievements and needs of our amazing seniors here in Utah! This is a particularly appropriate time to recognize our seniors after the past year of COVID-19 which has had an outsized impact on older people here in Utah, across the nation, and around the world. Despite the loss, isolation, and frustration of the past year, our seniors have shown strength, resilience and flexibility despite all of the challenges that Corona has thrown at them.

Despite the separation of the past year, we have seen terrific partnerships that have worked to meet the needs of seniors – family, neighbors, community groups and others have rallied to bring in supplies, provide meals, pick up medicines and bring other needed items into homes. The state would not be in as good of shape as it is without all of these many partnerships. Among the amazing partners in meeting seniors’ needs, I would like to highlight the heroic efforts of our local Area Agencies on Aging.

Utah has twelve Area Agencies on Aging, or AAAs as the are often referred to, that cover the entire state and which are part of local governments. The AAAs are on the front lines for serving seniors – They run the seniors centers, deliver meals, provide in-home services, deliver support and information to caregivers, among many others needed services. During the past year, our AAAs have more than stepped up in meeting the challenge of meeting seniors’ needs despite huge obstacles and uncertainty.

CLICK HERE for an interactive county-by-county map.

Just as our seniors have been served by a number of partners over the past years, we have seen great partnerships between the AAAs, the state Division of Aging and Adult Services, and the federal Administration on Aging. The Administration on Aging has done an amazing job in moving the additional funding and resources that Congress has appropriated for serving seniors during the pandemic out to the states. The team at the Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services in turn have moved those funds out to the AAAs and have provided information and guidance regarding these new funds needed to help the AAAs use the funding efficiently and effectively in serving local seniors.

Other partners have included Adult Protective Services, which has worked to resolve potential threats facing seniors. The Department of Health has worked tirelessly on providing the vaccine and other medical supports to seniors. The Alzheimer’s Association, Utah Commission on Aging, and other non-profits groups have provided tools, resources, and advocacy for helping to meet seniors’ needs across the state. All in all, it is a remarkable array of partners which have each done their part in ensuring that Utah’s seniors are able to remain healthy, protected and connected despite the circumstances of the past year. During this Older Americans Month, we want to recognize them and the seniors they serve and look forward to a much better year in 2021!

Nels Holmgren is the Division Director of the Aging and Adult Services Division at State of Utah Department of Human Services.

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