Holiday cheer for elderly population

The elderly population represents about 13 percent of United States residents.

That 13 percent translates to about one in eight Americans, according to the Administration on Aging.

Of the elderly population, millions of people live in nursing homes or are confined to their residences because of serious illnesses or disabilities.

But thanks to area agencies, senior citizens living in Catawba County can enjoy the comforts of the holiday season.

The Catawba County Council on Aging will ensure senior citizens at area nursing homes will have a warm holiday season with donated blankets and lap quilts.

"Any scrap that's brought up here, we'll pass it along," said Mary Mode, the council's executive director.

The council has several women who volunteer to make the lap blankets and quilts for the county's aging population. The volunteers created about two dozen blankets during the course of a year, and Mode is preparing to take those handmade gifts to nursing homes in Catawba County.

Newton Police Department held its annual senior citizen's holiday luncheon Dec. 7 at the Newton Recreation Center. The department invited residents on its call list, which is designed to ensure the safety of the city's older inhabitants.

"We are so glad that we can do this every year," said Newton Police Chief Don Brown. "It's just a small token of appreciation to you folks for what you've given to our community over the years."

Newton's call list is an almost 30-year-old program, where residents call the police department daily to let officers know they don't need assistance. If the department doesn't receive a call from a senior citizen on the list, someone from the police department will call the resident to ensure their safety. When there is no response to the department's phone call, an officer then visits the senior citizen's residence to check on them.

For more information about Newton's call list, call (828) 465-7430.

The Catawba County Sheriff's Office also has similar check-in programs, called Are You OK? and Elderwatch. The county serves about 85 residents in its call program, said Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid.

Catawba County Department of Social Services provides a home-delivered meal program for seniors to ensure the elderly have a nutritious meal daily.

According to Catawba County DSS, seniors are at a greater risk for poor nutrition because they have limited income, eat few fruits and vegetables, and they have health problems that alter traditional appetite patterns.

In addition to meal delivery programs, Catawba County DSS also provides donation match-up programs for needy families and adults in the county.

Kathy Odom, family and children Medicaid supervisor and Christmas program coordinator, said the program matched 118 families this year with donors from businesses, churches, clubs and other groups.

Catawba County DSS also has an Adult Services Angel Tree, which contains needs of area adults, whether it be a T-shirt or something else adults need.

"The (donation) may be small, and it may be large," Odom said. "We don't tell (donors) what to do and what not to do."

Other resources for the aging adult population include the Western Piedmont Council on Aging in Hickory and the North Carolina Division on Aging.