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Man's death highlights issue of senior poverty

TNS Regional News • Jan 12, 2014 at 8:07 AM

The Wednesday death of 75-year-old William Shaw has cast a new light on the issue of poverty among seniors in the region, an issue that can frequently go unnoticed in the community.

According to the Allen County Sheriff’s Office, Shaw and his wife were living without running water for three months and had no stable heating source.

According to Marva Cowan, centralized intake director for the Lima Allen Council on Community Affairs, part of the reason that this issue is not as well known is that many within the senior community do not make their financial difficulties known.

“Seniors are the most underserved population,” she said, “and I think the reason for that is they don’t make contact with us. The older population is less likely to ask for assistance, and I think it’s just part of the generation they came from.”

“Sometimes they don’t even realize how big of a problem it is or they don’t want to ask for help,” Judy Jacomet, information and referral specialist for the Allen County Council on Aging, said. “They may have some kind of dementia and don’t know how to get help or even that they need it.”

“I’ve been begging the elderly to tell me about their problems and humble themsevles and swallow their pride,” said Jimmy Wilkerson of Without Walls, a ministry dedicated to serving homeless people in the area.

Statistics confirm that senior poverty is indeed an issue in the area. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 7 percent of the 4,011 senior households in Allen County lived below poverty level in 2012. For Jacomet, living on a fixed income with rising expenses contributes greatly to this problem.

“There are some people that we’ve met who are using their ovens or space heaters to heat their homes because their gas was turned off,” she said. “They may have no family or family who lives far away and doesn’t know what’s going on. There are a lot of situations for this, but we definitely do run into these kinds of problems.”

Seniors faced with choices of paying utility bills or buying prescription medications find themselves in a no-win scenario.

“Seniors have very limited income, and especially in the winter when their bills are higher, they might not eat as well or take their medicine, and these are things that could make their condition worse,” Jacomet said.

Some in the elderly community find themselves homeless, along with many others in Lima and the surrounding area. Out on the streets, impoverished seniors face the danger of losing what little they may have.

“Older guys don’t want to stay in the mission with 25-, 30- and 40-year-olds because they’re afraid they’ll lose their stuff,” Wilkerson said.

For seniors dealing with issues of substandard housing and fears of utility cancellations, Jacomet and Cowan encourage them to seek out organizations like the Council on Aging and LACCA, both of whom work to coordinate with other agencies to help those in need.

“Generally, if someone called us with this kind of situation, we would try to work with them in terms of home repair applications, getting them to LACCA or if they couldn’t get out, getting someone to their home to help with applications for heating help,” Jacomet said.

“Organizations like us exist because we coordinate and collaborate with other organizations to link folks up with services for which they are eligible,” Cowan said. “Even if you come in and you’re not eligible here, we’ll get on the phone and figure it out.”


By Craig Kelly - The Lima News, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Lima News (Lima, Ohio)

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