- Associated Press - Saturday, January 6, 2018

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - A variety of experiences emerge as one ages, and one local agency is devoted to helping ease matters among the elderly.

Established in 1974 by Auburn and Opelika residents, East Alabama Services for the Elderly, Inc. (EASE) is a part of United Way and offers supportive assistance to seniors in Lee and Russell counties, according to Sherri Long, the agency’s executive director and home health director. Funding for the agency is provided by United Way, state and federal grants, as well as local support and donations.

The agency’s mission encompasses four goals, Long said, which includes improving outlooks about aging and bringing awareness to the difficulties and needs of seniors. The agency offers housing, educational, health and nutritional programs, in addition to addressing various other factors that affect the lives of seniors.

“Our focus is to keep our seniors independent, which means keeping them out of a nursing home facility, or institutionalization,” Long said.

To accomplish its goals, EASE offers multiple helpful highlights, such as the 100-unit facility, EASEHouse, which Long said provides independent housing to seniors aged 62 and older who have low-to-moderate incomes and qualify. The facility also features an exercise room, beauty shop and social services, and residents are provided transportation to shopping facilities and to doctor appointments.

“EASEhouse is the bridge between one’s being completely able to take care of a home and living in a nursing home,” Long said. “It is an independent facility with many, many resources.”

The agency also has programs that help seniors with “activities of daily living,” Long said, which includes personal care and homemaker assistance, in addition to providing sitters for those who are dependent and homebound.

Through the Foster Grandparent Program, Long said those aged 55 and older with limited incomes can tutor and mentor children with special needs.

“Most of the children that we take care of in this setting are from single-parents homes,” Long said while discussing the Foster Grandparent Program. “The foster grandparent serves in the classroom 20 to 40 hours a week in a one-on-one setting, and they have been trained to give that child nurturing, security and a confident environment.”

The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program is also available to people 55 and older, Long said, in which they can assist the community through volunteer efforts at a variety of local nonprofit agencies and facilities.

“It’s kind of two-fold,” Long said. “The RSVP program, as we call it, is to enable a nonprofit agency to carry on business in an affordable way. Because that is a strictly volunteer program. But the second part is it allows senior volunteers to give their talents and their arts back to the community to make sure that those arts stay in the community, or stay anywhere. Like knitting and quilting. Those are dying arts. If we don’t have anyone teaching those arts, then they’re going to truly die.”

Having always had a “soft spot” for seniors, Long said she and the EASE staff enjoy spending time and helping people who have so many talents and insight from unique life experiences.

“We’re all about promoting healthy senior living,” Long said. “Whether it be through providing services to the senior who is just short of institutionalization, or whether it’s for the senior who has so much to give back to their community through their time, talent and skills.”

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