New Funds For The Older Americans Act Will Help Rural Arizona Seniors With Food And Caregiving Needs

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Friday, April 16, 2021 - 8:26am
Updated: Friday, April 16, 2021 - 10:07am

Last month, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Act. The bill included money for Older Americans Act programs, like senior centers and home-delivered meals. The head of one organization in Arizona recently learned she’ll be getting roughly $2.5 million in the coming months. 

Mary Beals-Luedtka is the Area Agency on Aging director for Northern Arizona Council of Governments. Her region covers four rural counties. And for the last year, Beals-Luedtka has been running on fumes, providing meals, grocery shopping, and most recently, helping seniors, who either didn’t have internet access or transportation or both, get a vaccine appointment.

She says this one-time infusion of dollars will help get nutrition to those who need it and, hopefully, eliminate her waitlist.

"Yeah, so the total waitlist and this is hot off the presses: It's 423 waiting for services," said Beals-Luedtka. "Fifty-six is for home delivered meals; 175 for attendant care."

Attendant care involves someone coming in to help with activities of daily living, which include things like bathing, dressing or walking.

They also have requests for housekeeping.

"And housekeeping is really not what people think," she explained. "It's people who can't change their linens or clean their toilet. I mean, it's a health and wellness thing. They need help with that. They can't do it."

She says there also people who need respite and 109 who need case management. Beals-Luedtka says she plans to hire someone to help with that.

Beals-Luedtka is also hopeful that some of the funds can be used to update the local senior centers. 

And some of them are literally falling apart," she said. "I mean, they're horrible. There's a couple I would not eat in."

The money is a step in the right direction, she said, but it can't end with a one-time infusion of dollars.

"I think this country needs to step up and take care of their seniors," she said.

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