Theresa Freed: [00:00] On this week's episode, you'll hear from a Johnson County commissioner about the board's efforts to promote the wellbeing of older adults. We'll take a look at initiatives to keep Johnson County an affordable place for all ages to live. You'll also hear from some Johnson County departments that offer assistance when it comes to filling out government health care coverage applications and finally learn about an upcoming event for our residents who are 50-plus. Find out about vendors, screenings and session topics at this year's Live Well Age Well.
Announcer: [00:30] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community that you call home.
Theresa Freed: [00:44] Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host, Theresa Freed, a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. Today we're talking about a key demographic in Johnson County, our older adults and how to promote their wellbeing. We'll take a close look at this growing population, including services available to them through a couple of Johnson County departments. We'll also talk about an upcoming informative event for older adults and their families. We're going to kick off this discussion by talking to Johnson County Board of County Commissioners Commissioner Janee Hanzlick. Thanks for joining us.
Janee Hanzlick: [01:17] Thank you, Theresa. I am just delighted to be here. This is one of my very favorite topics, being a social worker, I have had a lot of interest in this topic and I'm glad to be here. Thank you.
Theresa Freed: [01:30] Alright. And that takes me to our first question. Can you talk a little bit about your role with the board and in your assignment and how that relates to the wellbeing of older adults?
Janee Hanzlick: [01:40] Absolutely. Well, the Board of County Commissioners has responsibility for Human Services and Aging in Johnson County. And one of the privileges I have is I serve as the commission's liaison to the Commission on Aging. And the Commission on Aging provides oversight and governance and recommendations to the Area Agency on Aging as well as back to the Board of Commissioners so that we can make decisions on programs and policies and budget decisions that impact services for our older adults.
Theresa Freed: [02:20] Okay. And when you look at the budget process, which we just came out of and evaluating how Johnson County departments serve our older adults, that's kind of hard to say, older adults are we seeing an increasing need there?
Janee Hanzlick: [02:34] Well, that's a, that's a really great topic because we do have a rapidly growing number of adults who are over 65. In fact, in just 20 years, the number of adults over 65 will more than double to nearly 25% of the county's population. And we're starting to see that now, but we, it's not too late for us to address that and make sure that we have services in place and we have a plan to meet that, that rapidly growing population of which I am one. So.
Theresa Freed: [03:12] And so what are the, some of those needs that are attached to that older population growing?
Janee Hanzlick: [03:17] Sure. well, one of the things that I hear a lot from older adults is that their major worry is the ability to physically and financially remain in their own homes as long as possible. And while Johnson County Human Services and Aging offers in home care, nutrition services and, and other types of home rehabilitation programs, these services are not able to meet the current needs. And so that's one of the things that I'm very concerned about that as this demand increases that we as county commissioners are aware of, of our responsibility and our resources to help meet those needs.
Janee Hanzlick: [04:07] Fortunately we have a lot of other nonprofits and human services in Johnson County that are also helping to meet those needs. But, but it's, it's really critical that we, we don't wait until it's a crisis, but that we have a plan in place now.
Theresa Freed: [04:25] All right. And one of the needs you mentioned is just being able to live here. And so we know the prices of homes has gone up over the last few years. And so for those who are on a fixed income, that can be a challenge meeting the, those financial obligations to remain in your home. So what specifically might the County be doing or looking at to help with that?
Janee Hanzlick: [04:45] Well, one of the things that County has been advocating for at the state level, in fact, this was part of our state legislative platform last year and I expect it will be part of it this year going into 2020, but that is, the state does offer two programs to help people with property taxes. One is the Homestead Fund and one is what's called the SAFESR program. And the SAFESR is specifically for older adults. Unfortunately, the qualifications for those programs haven't changed in many, many years. The, the amount that's available is very little. It, especially for folks in Johnson County who generally have higher home values, it barely is a drop in the bucket compared to what their taxes are. But the County, we have been advocating for those funds to have higher benefits for people who, who qualify and also to tie the qualifying factors to federal poverty levels so that it, it will change as those, those poverty levels change. So that's one of the things we're doing is, is trying to put pressure on the state legislature to make, make changes so that more Johnson Countians can take advantage of those funds. In addition we are looking at ways to, to enhance the services through the area agency on aging.
Janee Hanzlick: [06:27] Some of the, some of the things that the, that the human services and, and the aging County programs do offer. First of all, they do offer a minor home rehabilitation program. Unfortunately, they have a waiting list for that. So that's something we need to be looking at. There's also something called the home investment partnership, which is a HUD funded program, but those are, that's to help people with major renovation projects. It is for things like roofs or guttering. And those, those costs can be overwhelming for seniors. They may be able to, to stay in their home and, and pay their taxes, but then something happens where they need new windows or new roof and that's beyond their budgets. So, so that fund is, is there to help with, with those. Those needs. And for me the, the big issues are just as we were talking about how to help people stay in their homes what other kinds of housing options would we need in our community? Say for someone like me, I'm an empty nester and am in a position to downsize, but frankly, most of the, the housing that I would downsize to is, is more expensive than what I already live in. So, so those kinds of issues, transit, seniors need affordable transit options to help them maintain their independence. And then we also have to look at mental wellness and social inclusion because people may be doing okay physically and living in their home, but if they are isolated, that impacts their mental health, their physical health. And it's really important that we have programs, which we do have programs currently to get people out to the various senior centers in the, in the community to make sure they're eating correctly. And so we need to hear back from providers and seniors as to what they see the needs are in the, in the next 10 years.
Janee Hanzlick: [08:40] So that the County commission has, has a guidance on where we need to put the resources because as everyone knows, money is limited and people generally don't want to see their taxes go up. So how, how do we make the most effective use of, of that, those resources and capacity.
Theresa Freed: [09:01] Right. And something you mentioned is meeting the nutritional needs of older adults. And I know that you had the opportunity to volunteer with Meals on Wheels, which is another great Johnson County program. It is, that does that population. Can you talk about maybe some encouragement to people to get involved in that?
Janee Hanzlick: [09:18] Well yes, the meals on wheels program only operates because of wonderful volunteers. We, we cannot do it unless we have volunteers. The, the County could not begin to have the resources to actually pay people to deliver these meals. But the meals are delivered Monday through Friday, takes about an hour of your time and I will tell you from my own experience, you will go away just delighted and your day will be brightened by the opportunity to interact with the seniors. Some of them live in senior apartment buildings like I, I did deliveries in the Santa Fe Towers in downtown Overland Park. Others are to individual homes. Volunteers are very much needed and if anyone wants to to look into that, you can certainly call the Area Agency on Aging to get more information. Fact, I really would like to mention their phone number. They can be reached at 913-715-8861 and that number is good for calling about the services that are available. If you if you are a family member and you're needing to talk to somebody about getting your family member into an assisted living program in the county, that's a number to call. If you need meals on wheels services, if you want to volunteer, you can call that number and they'll get you to the right place.
Theresa Freed: [10:55] All right, great. Great way to, to help our community. Indeed. All right. Just a last question here. Any messages you would like to share with our 65 plus listeners or their families about what the board is doing to promote their wellbeing?
Janee Hanzlick: [11:09] Well, it's, I am so encouraged about Johnson County right now because we are talking about these issues. We're talking about aging issues. We're talking about mental health, we're talking about poverty, we're talking about housing needs. And frankly, when I'm moved to Johnson County about 25, 30 years ago, those weren't issues that we were really discussing. And so I am very, very proud to be part of those discussions. As I mentioned with a background, my background being as a social worker, I feel like I've been able to help raise awareness among the, the other commissioners of the needs that are, that are occurring in the county. So I would, I would tell seniors, reach out to your county commissioners, you can reach out to me. Let them know what, what is important to you, what are you struggling with? Because that's, that is the best way to, to impact those budget decisions and those priorities. In fact, one of our priorities this year for the Board of County Commissioners are services for vulnerable people specifically including aging folks. So, so please reach out, let us know what, what you want us to be doing and what you need in the community.
Theresa Freed: [12:32] All right, that sounds great. Well thank you so much for joining us today.
Janee Hanzlick: [12:35] Well thank you Theresa. Appreciate talking about this really, really important topic.
Theresa Freed: [12:41] Health care is a major focus for our older adults and Johnson County has a couple of programs that provide some assistance in filling out the applications for Medicare and Medicaid. We're going to start with Medicare first. The Johnson County extension office is here to help. Denise Dias is joining me now to talk about that process. Denise, thanks for joining us.
Denise Dias: [13:00] Thank you for having me today.
Theresa Freed: [13:02] All right, so first off. Some people might be confused, just the difference between Medicare and Medicaid. What is Medicare for?
Denise Dias: [13:09] So Medicare is for people generally 65 and older or unless they have a disability, then they can qualify a little sooner. Or if they are at end stage renal failure, they would qualify. So those are the three ways to qualify for Medicare.
Theresa Freed: [13:27] Okay. And what exactly does the extension office do to help people?
Denise Dias: [13:32] So we do several things. We offer programs usually quarterly at our office but also in various locations around the County to help people understand what Medicare is, what they need to know as far as making that decision and navigating through that crazy Medicare maze that everyone talks about.
Theresa Freed: [13:54] Okay. And so some of that process is filling out quite a bit of paperwork, I'm sure.
Denise Dias: [13:59] Right, right. Especially during the fall open enrollment period, we help people to look at what their choices are and give them the top three best choices for them in order to save money.
Denise Dias: [14:15] We don't make their decision for them. We give them the information and knowledge so that they can make a good decision for themselves. People can come and from October 15th through December 7th, they can come and set up an appointment with me and I'll sit down and work with them one on one. They can also do where they fill out a worksheet, send it in, and I can send it out to them. And that works well for folks that are homebound or you know, have transportation issues, we can handle it either through mail or email. So they don't actually have to come in and see me in person. And then we also offer information for people too. So if they want to do it themselves, they can come in. We have lots of charts and, and kinda tools to help them to navigate it themselves.
Theresa Freed: [15:06] Okay. And so this event, well attended every year, but also very successful in terms of helping people. Can you talk a little bit about the, the benefits that people saw last year?
Denise Dias: [15:15] Right. So last year I helped a little over a hundred people in my office and saved them $364,000. So I know for some people it may have only been a few hundred dollars. I had one woman who saved like $1,000, and she was almost in tears because she was so surprised that she could save a little money and actually go out and do something nice for herself as kind of a, you know, special treat. So it's, it's neat. And for our older adults who have to pinch pennies most of the time you know, every dime, every nickel counts.
Theresa Freed: [15:54] So what exactly is the process for someone to get in touch with you to, to get that help?
Denise Dias: [16:01] So the, you can do it a couple of different ways. They can contact the Johnson County extension office either by phone, they can contact us by email or contact me directly, either way. And that is probably the easiest way to, to make those things happen.
Theresa Freed: [16:19] Okay. And we will of course have all that information about how to get in touch with you on our website. And this is a free service, is that right?
Denise Dias: [16:25] That's right. This is a free service. So I am a SHICK, Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas-trained counselor and volunteer. So the service I provide is strictly non-biased and informational. It's not my job to, to sell you anything or anything. So just helping people to get what they need to make a good decision.
Theresa Freed: [16:52] All right. A great service that has a great track record in our County, right?
Denise Dias: [16:56] Yes, it really does.
Theresa Freed: [16:57] All right. Thanks so much for joining us today, Denise.
Denise Dias: [16:59] Thank you so much.
Theresa Freed: [17:01] Also important to some of our older adults and families is Medicaid, which covers some of the elderly Johnson County residents in our community. What you may not know is that Johnson County Department of Health and Environment is here to help residents and their families with that application process. That for some can be a little bit daunting. So to tell us more about that, I'm joined by Elizabeth Mardis. She is with Customer Service at the Department of Health and Environment. Thanks for joining us today.
Elizabeth Mardis: [17:26] Thank you.
Theresa Freed: [17:27] All right. So people probably come to the office asking lots of questions about the Medicaid application, but can you kind of tell us a little bit about, when they approach the department, what are some of the things that they can expect if they come and ask for help with this?
Elizabeth Mardis: [17:43] When they come and ask for help, we usually ask if they can make an appointment with us. So we generally can get all their paperwork together and then we'll make an appointment. When they come back, they'll have all their paperwork. Sometimes it's a lot to bring in. That's why we tried to schedule it about a week out so they can gather all that stuff that we need to enroll them.
Theresa Freed: [18:08] Okay. And what are they generally asked to provide?
Elizabeth Mardis: [18:13] We ask for birth certificates, driver's license and if they have assets, we'll need proof of that.
Theresa Freed: [18:21] Got it. And what kind of assistance does Medicaid provide?
Elizabeth Mardis: [18:25] For the elderly? It can add onto a supplement for your Medicare and it also can help with the health insurance aspect. Some drugs, but usually Medicare covers that with part D but it can also assist people who may have to pay for Medicaid, Medicare and they can get Medicaid to supplement that cost.
Theresa Freed: [18:51] All right. And I'm sure the circumstances and all of that kind of varies from person to person and you guys help to work through all that process. Well what are some of the common questions you get about Medicaid?
Elizabeth Mardis: [19:03] When will it start? If it costs money and that will depend. They'll ask what provider, cause there's three providers they can go with. We usually, generally they have to pick that by themselves. They can do some research before they come in. We can tell them about that when they're making their appointment.
Theresa Freed: [19:25] That first one that you mentioned, I'm sure it's a pretty popular one. People want to know how quickly they get an answer on eligibility.
Elizabeth Mardis: [19:32] Generally right now I've enrolled people and they're getting replies back within three to four weeks, which is awesome because I've heard it's taken longer, but I haven't had any that's taken longer than a month.
Theresa Freed: [19:42] Okay. That's good to know. And how can people access this assistance with filling out that application?
Elizabeth Mardis: [19:49] They can call the health department and they'll get them to me. We also have flyers that we hand out and then they can also access the website.
Theresa Freed: [19:59] Okay, so they go to the state's website or our website?
Elizabeth Mardis: [20:02] Jocogov.org.
Theresa Freed: [20:03] Okay, perfect. All right, that's great information and thank you so much for joining us.
Elizabeth Mardis: [20:06] You're welcome. Thank you for having me.
Theresa Freed: [20:09] We mentioned a little earlier that there is a great event coming up for Johnson County, older adults called Live Well Age Well and it's happening in October. Here to provide the details is Michelle Alexander. She's with the Johnson County Park and Recreation District. Michelle, thanks for joining us.
Michelle Alexander: [20:24] My pleasure, Theresa, I'm very excited for the opportunity to promote this event today.
Theresa Freed: [20:29] All right, well first off, just tell us a little bit about what this event is and what people can expect to come.
Michelle Alexander: [20:34] Sure, absolutely. Well, people can expect a full day of fun of learning and really walk away knowing more about the variety of services, organizations and businesses that are in our area to support community and aging well and Johnson County. And this year we have a new feature. We have a keynote speaker and our keynote speaker this year is Jeff Lanza. He's a retired FBI agent and he worked right here in Kansas City throughout his career. And he still lives here, right in Kansas city. And he's very sought out presenter and he's going to talk to us about hoodlums and hackers, how to prevent cyber crime and identity theft. And as soon as his presentation is over, we'll open up to the vendor fair. And with the vendor fair, we have great representation from our fellow county agencies such as the commission on aging, human services, health and environment, the Sheriff's office, the district attorney's office and public health. We also have organizations such as AARP, the Alzheimer's Association and Silver Haired Legislators, which we'll also have representation and be able to just share with visitors about their purpose that they serve here in our community.
Michelle Alexander: [21:46] We have many other businesses that provide housing, hearing services, Medicare services, financial services and a variety of health services. We'll also have some health screenings that will be available as well. And then shortly after the vendor fair opens, we are going to start some sessions of bingo and some mini learning sessions as well. So these events will be happening simultaneously in two different rooms. So after you visited the vendors you can pop in and play a few rounds of bingo, then go sit in a presentation about sleep or the new JoCo extension program called JoCo Eats or learn about better balance from one of our 50-plus certified instructors and then back to the vendor fair so he can really make a full day of it.
Theresa Freed: [22:28] Wow. It sounds like a lot of fun. And so the important details when and where's this event in, do people need to register and then is there a cost associated?
Michelle Alexander: [22:36] There's no registration required and it's a an absolutely free event. It's going to be on Friday, October 18th at the Marriott of Overland Park at 10800 Metcalf Avenue and our guest speaker will begin at 10 o'clock then we have our vendor fair, will open at 11 o'clock and then our bingo and learning sessions will start at 12 o'clock and the event ends at three.
Theresa Freed: [23:00] Okay, and tell us the website where people can go.
Michelle Alexander: [23:03] www.jcprd.com
Theresa Freed: [23:07] Okay. And that has a full agenda on there, so if you missed any of those details you can just head over to the website and get all that information. All right, very good. Now while we're talking about our older listeners, we want to make sure you check out The Best Times magazine. That's a free bimonthly publication for residents who are 60 and over. There's a lot of great information in there about current events in our area and topics of interest and also some activities for older adults. So look for that in your mailbox or anyone can read it online at jocogov.org. Thanks for listening.
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