Center for Healthy Aging actively works to improve senior care in Northern Nevada | SierraSun.com

Center for Healthy Aging actively works to improve senior care in Northern Nevada

Sean M. Grady
info@nnbw.biz

Center for Healthy Aging founder Lawrence Weiss, Ph.D., and AmeriCorps Vista volunteer Michelle Perry plan the center's activities from their one-room office on Court Street in Reno.

In a small office near the western end of Court Street in Reno, Dr. Lawrence Weiss and his staff are trying to help seniors add life to their years.

“Adding Life to Years” is the slogan of the Center for Healthy Aging, a non-profit advocacy and assistance organization that Weiss — the former director of the Sanford Center for Aging at the University of Nevada, Reno – started nine years ago to help pick up some of the slack in the area’s senior care services.

The center provides information, access to services, speakers on elder care and even some health equipment to area seniors, while forming partnerships with an array of local agencies to spread the word about assistance available in this area.

A doctor of health psychology specializing in gerontological health, Weiss has been planning since his mid-20s to start such a service to offset the obvious strain that his fellow baby boomers would place on the field of senior care.

“Forty-five years ago, I had an idea of creating some sort of senior-health advocacy program,” Weiss said. “It just made sense to me, because people are not that knowledgeable about senior care.”

And, in truth, senior health today is a big and growing problem in Northern Nevada.

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Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the percentage of 65 and older residents in Northern Nevada varies from 30.1 percent in Storey County to as low as 10 percent in Elko County, with Washoe County’s 15.9 percent coming close to the state average of 15 percent.

Other senior populations estimates include Carson City’s 20.3 percent, Douglas County’s 26.5 percent, Lyon County’s 21.1 percent and Churchill County’s 18.7 percent.

Yet Nevada does not do well when it comes to senior health.

According to America’s Health Rankings Senior Report 2017 – the latest in an annual survey of senior health care by the United Health Foundation – the Silver State as a whole ranks 40th in its quality of care, a slight increase over 2016’s ranking of 42nd place.

On the positive side, the report states that Nevada seniors have a very low obesity rate (sixth lowest in the nation), low levels of mental distress including depression (ninth lowest in the nation) and few incidents of preventable hospitalizations (13th lowest in the nation).

The state also shows well in such areas as providing supplemental nutrition, preventable hospitalizations and falls, in which it ranks among the top 20 states.

However, it ranks low on a great many other measures, such as 41st in the percentage of seniors who received dental care, 48th in seniors with alcohol problems and 50th in the number of suicides (almost 30 per 100,000 adults 65 and older).

Moreover, Nevada is just one spot above dead last in terms of dollars spent on each senior 60 years or older living in poverty, sharing 48th place with South Carolina at $209 and above Mississippi at $188, all three well below the national average of $536.

The statewide figures closely track with the situation in the northern counties, particularly in Washoe County and its neighbors.

“We’re behind the curve in most everything,” Weiss said.

To help improve the situation, Weiss’ organization has been providing help of the help-yourself nature.

One of the center’s biggest projects so far involved compiling and printing a resource pamphlet — also available online at the website http://www.addinglifetoyears.com — with the help of AmeriCorps Vista (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteers, to guide area residents to eldercare services and other sources of information.

Which, as it turned out, is what seniors, their families and their friends have needed most.

A Washoe County Health District study in 2014 on how to assist aging residents listed 12 areas that needed special attention.

“The first item on the list was access to information that seniors and caregivers said they needed,” said Donna Clontz, chair of the Reno Senior Advisory Committee, which both advises the city council on senior issues and helps pay for some senior-assistance projects around town.

But the Center for Healthy Aging also has been taking more-direct action through numerous activities, such as helping distribute emergency-response systems to notify ambulance services, family members or hospice care providers in case of a fall or other distress.

There also is an in-home pill dispenser that automatically provides proper doses at the appropriate times, eliminating the medication mistakes that are some of the primary causes of emergency-room visits.

And then there is an Elder Gap Services program to cover expenses where public-assistance money runs short, such as for pest extermination, legal assistance and even microwave ovens for reheating Meals on Wheels dishes, Weiss and Clontz said.

“We need to make sure we provide as much support as we can,” Weiss said.

 

In a small office near the western end of Court Street in Reno, Dr. Lawrence Weiss and his staff are trying to help seniors add life to their years.

“Adding Life to Years” is the slogan of the Center for Healthy Aging, a non-profit advocacy and assistance organization that Weiss — the former director of the Sanford Center for Aging at the University of Nevada, Reno – started nine years ago to help pick up some of the slack in the area’s senior care services.

The center provides information, access to services, speakers on elder care and even some health equipment to area seniors, while forming