The Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services Turns 50

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Contributing Writer
Dr. Mary Ann Spanos
Director of Office for Aging Services

The Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services (OFAS) turns 50 this year! In May, we will be celebrating our Golden Anniversary with 2 socials events for our older residents to enjoy! You can choose to attend on May 3rd at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel or on May 10th at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Dunkirk. The theme appropriately is “Thanks for the Memories” and we hope everyone will come and celebrate with us and share your memories of the last 50 years. Call NY Connects at 716-753-4582 for tickets and reservations.

OFAS was established on May 11, 1973 through a local law passed by the Chautauqua County Legislature. That same year an advisory council was formed including our own Russ Diethrick, who still serves on the board today! The first programs established were all related to nutrition including congregate dining, home-delivered meals and nutrition counseling and education. These were followed by a transportation service dispatched from SUNY Fredonia, Physical Fitness and Recreation Program, Information and Referral, the Older Worker Employment program called “Senior Aides”, Home Energy Assistance (HEAP), and Advocacy/Legal Assistance. In the 80’s we continued to add to our services through congregate housing program initiatives and the establishment of the OFAS and Medicaid Homecare programs to help people age in place in their homes. This included the establishment of CASA (Community Alternative Systems Agency) and Adult day Care and Respite as well as adding services such as Case Management, Personal Emergency Response service and Home Repairs/ Adaptation. The Long-term Care Ombudsman Program was established in 1985 to advocate for people living in nursing homes. OFAS established 4 OFAS focal point offices at that time in Mayville, Dunkirk, Jamestown and Sinclairville to improve access to our services for older adults living in Chautauqua County. The 90’s continued our expansion of services under various grants most notable were the Medicare Counseling program known as HIICAP, Elder Abuse Prevention, and Caregiver Support & Counseling.

Since I joined OFAS in 2007 as the director, the staff and I have worked to modernize and expand our programs and services to meet the growing and ever-changing needs of older adults. Life is not stagnant and so we can’t be either. People are living longer, they are retired longer, and they are facing more challenges. We hope our mission to guide, connect, and advocate for long-term Services and Supports in the community speaks to the role we need to play as a part of county government. We can’t do it all but we are here to guide, connect and advocate for you. We have established an extensive network of community base partners who work together with us to meets the needs of our older adults. Critical to this network has been the establishment of our aging and disability resource center called NY Connects, formed in 2007. One place that people can contact to find out about and be connected to all the resources available to help them age successfully.

As we come together in May for our 50th anniversary and to celebrate Older American month, we want to promote the opportunities for older adults to explore a wide range of aging experiences, encouraging independence and fulfillment by paving our own paths as we age. While our celebration is just one opportunity to reconnect, we hope Older American Month will be a time to reflect on how you want to age and to expand your horizons by

Embrace the opportunity to change by not letting age define your limits. Invite creativity and purpose into your life by trying new activities to bring more growth, joy, and energy.
Explore the rewards of growing older Continue to grow in your knowledge through reading, listening, classes, and creative activities.

Stay engaged in your community by volunteering, working, mentoring, participating in social clubs, and taking part in community activities and strengthen and form new relationships by investing time with people to discover deeper connections with family, friends, and community members.

Thank you to all who went before us to establish programs, services and a network of people and agencies to advocate for, engage, and care for our oldest residents. You are what inspires me and makes Chautauqua County a great place to work, live and grow old in! For more information on programs and service to help you age successfully call our NY Connects Helpline at 716-753-4582. Stay Well!