History of Blair Senior Services
Serving Older Adults and Eligible Residents in Blair County Since 1974
For more than forty years, Blair Senior Services, Inc. has been serving older adults, their families, and others through a system of quality home and community based programs and services. The Agency was founded in 1974, after amendments to the Older Americans Act of 1965 required the states to establish Area Agencies on Aging to serve geographical units called service and planning areas. Once Pennsylvania decided to designate each county as a service and planning area, the Blair County commissioners elected to establish Blair Senior Services, Inc. as a private nonprofit organization rather than as a service administered by the county government.
Then known as the Area Agency on Aging for Blair County, the Agency hired its first staff members in July of 1974, and the Agency officially opened the following October. Since 1974, the Agency has continuously grown in both the quantity and quality of services that it has provided. Though the Agency started with a budget of just $53,000 in 1974, Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s annual budget is approximately $10 million today.
Senior Meals, Companionship, Transportation, Medical & Legal Assistance
In its earliest years, the Agency provided just seven services. Today, Blair Senior Services, Inc. provides, directly or through subcontractors, 28 different programs and services. These include:
- Health Insurance Counseling
- Information and Assistance
- Adult Day Care
- Care Management
- Environmental Modifications
- Caregiver Support Program
- Home Delivered Meals
- Medical Equipment and Supplies
- Aging Waiver
- Personal Assistance
- Personal Care
- PreAdmission Assessment
- Placement Assistance
- Domiciliary Care
- Nursing Home Transition
- Guardianship/Power of Attorney
- Legal Services
- Protective Services
- Foster Grandparent Program
- VOICE (Volunteer Opportunities Involving Community Empowerment)
- Senior Companion Program
- Housing Assistance and Emergency Food and Shelter
Blair Senior Services, Inc. provides many of these services directly. However, Adult Day Care, Legal Services, Personal Care, Personal Emergency Response Systems, and Medical Equipment and Supplies are each subcontracted to corporate providers. Since July 2001, Blair Senior Services, Inc. has made multiple vendors available to offer consumers a choice of providers for these services.
Care Plans, Recreation, Exercise Classes, and Socialization for Residents
Each year, Blair Senior Services, Inc. helps thousands of Blair County residents with programs that are tailored to meet their individual needs. The majority of the residents the Agency serves are over 60 years of age. Active older adults have come to rely on the Agency to provide volunteer and recreational opportunities, exercise classes, and socialization at Senior Centers. Those with more complex needs, and their families, turn to the Agency to coordinate a care plan that includes services such as personal care, senior companion visits, home delivered meals, adult day care, medical equipment and supplies, and transportation to medical appointments. These care plans can help keep loved ones safely in their own homes.
Home Delivered Meals for Older Adults in Blair County, PA
Older adults depend on Blair Senior Services’ Home Delivered Meals to meet their nutritional needs. Each week, numerous volunteers deliver meals to over 625 persons throughout Blair County. All meals meet one third of the recommended daily nutritional allowances for older adults. In 1998 the Agency added pureed meals for those with chewing or swallowing difficulties. Based on need, the Agency can also provide breakfast, evening, or weekend meals in addition to the noontime meal.
As the Agency outgrew its original 450-meal capacity kitchen located in the Agency’s Altoona Senior Center, the Agency purchased and renovated a free-standing production facility, which opened on June 11, 2002. Today, approximately 2,500 older adults depend on over 170,000 meals provided by the Agency every year.
Blair Senior Services Transportation for Eligible Residents in Blair County
Since 1975, Blair Senior Services, Inc. has helped eligible people of all ages travel throughout Blair County through the Agency’s Shared-Ride Transportation Program. While the Agency started with just two vehicles, today, Blair Senior Services, Inc. operates a fleet of over 36 lift-equipped vehicles, and our drivers provide door-to-door assistance. Constructed in 1992 in Hollidaysburg, PA, the transportation facility has undergone three additions throughout the years to meet increased demand.
Medical Assistance Transportation Program for Medicaid Recipients
Since 1984, the Agency has also operated Blair County’s Medical Assistance Transportation Program (MATP). This Program ensures that Medicaid recipients in need have access to transportation to any needed medical care that is covered under Pennsylvania’s Medical Assistance Program.
Continue Living in the Comfort of Home With Support Services
Agency Care Managers coordinate a variety of in-home support services to help people continue living in the comfort of their own homes. Care Managers arrange hands-on assistance with personal care activities such as bathing, dressing, and grooming, along with various household tasks. Other programs, such as the Federal or State Caregiver Support Program, can also help caregivers of consumers with financial reimbursement for services purchased.
Nursing Home Alternative: Aging Waiver Program
In 1998, the Agency implemented the Aging Waiver Program, which provides community-based, longterm living services as an alternative to nursing home care for consumers who meet medical and financial eligibility requirements.
Long Term Living Services: From Nursing Home to Community Living
The Agency helps individuals and their families select the least-restrictive living arrangement when an individual can no longer live independently. Since 1989, the Agency has conducted preadmission assessments–comprehensive assessments of persons age 18 or older who are seeking a level-of-care determination prior to admission to a long term care facility. In 2006, the Agency began nursing home transition efforts. Through this program, Blair Senior Services, Inc. helps identify individuals residing in nursing homes who could live at home with community-based services and support instead. The Agency assists those who wish to transition. Each year, the Agency transitions dozens of consumers from nursing homes back into community living.
Senior Service Corps: Foster Grandparent & Senior Companion Programs
Blair Senior Services, Inc. sponsors two Senior Service Corps Programs: the Foster Grandparent Program and the Senior Companion Program. Since the early 1980s, these programs have enabled older volunteers to share their time and talents, improving the lives of residents in Blair County. The Foster Grandparent Program serves children from birth to age 21 and the Senior Companions serve older adults. As of March 31, 2012, the Agency discontinued its sponsorship of the National Senior Service Corp Program’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. Effective April 1, 2012 the Agency established an internal volunteer program called VOICE (Volunteer Opportunities Involving Community Empowerment). Through this program, individuals volunteer their time and efforts to a number of vital programs and services provided directly by Blair Senior Services, Inc. Trained volunteers participate in programs like Home Delivered Meals, VITA income tax preparation, APPRISE health insurance counseling, Ombudsman, Healthy Steps in Motion, Senior Centers, and they also support clerical functions.
Blair County Senior Centers: Altoona, East Freedom, Tyrone & Williamsburg
For a number of years, the Agency maintained nine Senior Centers located throughout concentrated population areas in Blair County. Over the past years, this number has been reduced to four to improve cost effectiveness and quality programming. Seniors can now find group dining, socialization, educational, and recreational activities offered daily at the Centers, located in Altoona (Central Blair Senior Center), East Freedom (Southern Blair Senior Center), Tyrone (Northern Blair Senior Center) and Williamsburg (Williamsburg Senior Center).
Advocacy: Crisis Intervention, Guardian, & Power of Attorney Services
Blair Senior Services provides crisis intervention services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to older adults who may be victims of abuse or neglect. For those who have no other responsible party to manage their personal and/or financial needs, Blair Senior Services, Inc. serves as Power of Attorney or Guardian.
Housing Assistance for the Homeless in Blair County, PA
Since 1989, the Agency has also managed the County’s Housing Assistance Program, which serves persons of all ages who are homeless or near homeless. Case Managers can provide assistance with rent, utilities, security deposits and budget counseling. Emergency food and shelter funding is also available to those meeting eligibility requirements.
Choices Program for Older Residents
To meet an unmet need and broaden its funding base, the Agency began Choices in December of 2010. This pilot program, unique in Pennsylvania, created a private-pay line of service for a fee to residents and/or their families, reaching a segment of the older population who would otherwise not be served by traditional Area Agency on Aging (AAA) services.
Looking Ahead and Meeting Challenges
Currently, Blair Senior Services, Inc. employs over 100 employees, who work in one of seven divisions within the Agency: Administration, Long Term Living, Nutrition/Centers, Regional Apprise, Local Apprise, Transportation, and Housing/ Medical Assistance Transportation.
Today’s experienced and dedicated Agency staff will face enormous challenges. Meeting the service needs of the fastest growing segment of the county, the 85+ population, will be very difficult especially should funding from the Commonwealth continue to remain flat.