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SAFE supplements funding for in-home services

Started in 1995 after a study showed insufficient funding for in-home services for seniors and people with disabilities, the Senior Assistance Fund of Eastern Washington (SAFE) continues to be relevant with federal cuts to programs that promote keeping elderly people in their homes.

Pam Almeida, executive director of Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels, said SAFE was started to draw private donations and grants to supplement inadequate public funding.

Funds are distributed annually to community programs and services through this nonprofit fund-raising arm of Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington.

Initial funding came from an award given by the Ford Foundation and the Kennedy School of Government to the Area Agency on Aging (Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington) and Elder Services, Pam said.

“Dollars for elder services are being cut while more people are aging,” she pointed out.  “Aging of the population is not just a local issue.  It is a global issue. 

“The U.S. population is younger than most of the world. The median age for Europeans, Asians and South Americans is in the 30’s. The oldest is Japan, whose median age is 45.  The median age for Central Africans is 15 to 20,” she said.

While more people in the baby boom generation are aging, people are living longer and fewer babies are being born.

“The population of people over 60 in the United States is growing exponentially,” said Pam.  “Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 60. About 13 percent of people are over 60.  By 2030, the number of seniors is expected to be more than 72 million, about 20 percent of the population.”

The aging population will affect society and economics in terms of housing, transportation, health care and values.  Pam expects a shift from car-based suburban life to other types of communities where essential services are in walking or bicycling distance.

“One of the most worrisome issues is how financially unprepared many people are for their older years,” she said. 

In the next 30 years, she expects the senior population in Spokane, Whitman, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties to be the fastest growing segment of the population while public funding for seniors’ needs and long-term care will not keep pace with population growth or inflation, she anticipates.

So she said SAFE will be more important for promoting independence for seniors.

For information, call 924-6976 or visit www.GSCMealsOnWheels.org.






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