Boomer bust: Iberville Council on Aging prepared for increase of senior citizens

PETER SILAS PASQUA ppasqua@postsouth.com
The Iberville Council on Aging hosts Bingo at its sites throughout the parish. Despite the growing number of senior citizens in the parish, there is no waiting list for services. 
POST SOUTH PHOTO/Peter Silas Pasqua

PLAQUEMINE – Beginning in January of 2011, the first Baby Boomers began the transition into senior hood with their 65th birthdays.

Many of those entering this phase of life in need of financial or other forms of assistance have found themselves on a waiting list for help from local and state agencies.

But not in Iberville Parish.

Charlene Siplin, director of the Iberville Parish Council on Aging said there is no waiting list for programs in the parish.

"We are probably one of the only parishes without a waiting list," Siplin said. "We haven't had to turn anybody away. The parish plays a major part."

The money Iberville COA receives from the government grants is not enough to cover the budget, but the parish supplements the shortfall.

Iberville Parish Council built the new senior center on Court St. in 2007 and officially took over the administration of the COA in 2009. The agency does not collect a tax.

"The parish is definitely dedicated to the seniors," Siplin said. "(Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso) does not want to put them on a waiting list so the parish supplements a lot of funding. As long as we have him, I don't think there will be a waiting list. Where we fall short, he picks it up."

ICOA services include Meals on Wheels, congregate meals for socialization, information, legal assistance and more.

The agency covers all of Iberville Parish with senior centers in Plaquemine, White Castle, Maringouin and Carville.

Each site provides meals to seniors. That is the greatest demand. The second is frozen or homebound meals for the homebound."

The Meals on Wheels program delivers five meals per week or 250 days a year. Congregate meals are served at the center.

"I come to eat and enjoy the people," Charles Gray said. "I have a good time. There are not many places like this. If it weren't here, I would have to eat somewhere else."

Siplin said Gray arrives as early as 6 a.m. each day.

"As soon as the gate opens, he is walking in," Siplin said. "That is not our hours but they know someone is normally here."

The White House projects that Louisiana will lose approximately $488,000 in funds, which provide meals for seniors as a result of sequestration.

There also has been a nationwide cut in funding for programs. According to estimates from the Leadership Council on Aging Organizations, the sequester chopped earlier this year four million

home-delivered meals and two million senior transportation rides nationwide.

Louisiana's assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals Hugh Eley also noted that approximately 6,000 people have been added to senior services' waiting lists since 2009.

Eley said it is difficult for his office to find people to do home repairs or modifications that would assist more seniors to live independently.

He also cited a shortage in respite care providers, transportation and affordable assisted living.

"Assisted living seems to be something only those with a higher income can afford," he said. "If we could have a more middle-income model for assisted living, I think that would help a lot of people."

Despite the suspected gloom, Siplin is assured the Iberville Council on Aging will continue to run without waiting lists.

"We are one of the few Council on Agings like this," Siplin said. "We don't accept donations and we don't have a tax but as long as we continue to be funded by the parish, there should be no waiting lists."