JANUARY 7, 2004

            The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Wednesday, January 7, 2004, at 6:30 p.m., for participation in a Town Hall Forum on Elder Affairs. The meeting was held in the Magnolia Room, Everett A. Kelly Convocation Center, at Lake Sumter Community College, Leesburg, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Debbie Stivender, Chairman; Jennifer Hill, Vice Chairman; and Catherine C. Hanson. Commissioners not present were: Welton G. Cadwell and Robert A. Pool. Others present were: Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; and Judy Whaley, Deputy Clerk.


            State Representative Hugh Gibson, R-Lady Lake, House District 42, welcomed those in attendance to the Town Hall Forum on Elder Affairs. He explained that the Forum came about as a result of a meeting between himself and Commissioner Catherine Hanson and the Forum will offer insight into programs and activities being provided by the State of Florida Department of Elder Affairs.


            Rep. Gibson gave the Invocation and Commr. Hanson led the Pledge of Allegiance.


            Commr. Hanson, who is the Lake County Board of County Commissioners’ liaison to the Elder Affairs Coordinating Committee (a.k.a. Elder Council), stated that Lake County’s 2003 population of 236,000 included 79,000 persons age 60 and older and 63,000 persons age 65 and older. Significant numbers of Lake County’s elderly population live at or below the national poverty level. She recognized four members of the Elder Council who were in the audience and thanked Commissioners Stivender and Hill for attending the Forum. She thanked staff members, Mr. Fletcher Smith, Community Services Director, and Ms. Robbie Hollenbeck, Special Projects Coordinator, Community Services, for their outstanding work in helping establish the Elder Council. Commr. Hanson announced that the Elder Council will sponsor “ELDERHOOD: A Continuum of Life,” a symposium about positive aging, on February 26, 2004, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., at Lake Receptions in Mount Dora, Florida.


            At this time, Rep. Gibson recognized the following officials: Ms. Gail Bass, representing State Representative Carey Baker; Lake County Sheriff George Knupp; the Honorable Donna Miller, Lake County Judge; Mayor JoAnn Huggins, Umatilla; and Mayor Leo Vaughn, Tavares.


            OF ELDER AFFAIRS

            Mr. Terry White, Secretary, State of Florida Department of Elder Affairs, stated that the Department is devoted to being an advocate for Florida’s elders and to promoting the independence of elders. He recognized volunteers, contractors, providers, service agencies and state staff members who were in attendance. Mr. White noted that 3.5 million (23%), Floridians are age 60 or older. Florida has a higher percentage of seniors than any other state and other states look to Florida to see what this state is doing. Florida’s Elder Affairs budget has been increased 56% during the last five or six years. He pointed out that more than 50% of new building construction in Florida is a result of seniors; the majority of Florida’s financial assets are held by older adults; elders contribute about $2.8 billion in state taxes, about $1.5 billion more than the cost of services to seniors; and the majority of Florida’s volunteers are seniors. He discussed the following Department of Elder Affairs’ programs and services (information on the Department and its programs is available on line at http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us or by calling toll-free 1-800-96ELDER):

          Sunshine for Seniors - A prescription drug assistance program which is implemented through the SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) volunteer network. (Information is available by calling the Florida Elder Helpline at 1-800-96ELDER.)

          Virtual Web Site - The Department of Elder Affairs web site has been completely redesigned in an effort to make it more user friendly (http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us).

          Communities for a Lifetime - An initiative focusing on strengthening collaboration between local aging organizations and many other community partners in an effort to co-locate services. (www.communitiesforalifetime.org)

          Intergenerational Connections - Improve relations between young and older adults and address issues of family across the life cycle. Includes three model programs: (1) Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (2) Computer Mentoring - Connectivity for Kids and Seniors, and (3) FETCH (Friends of the Elderly Training Companions for Home). Intergenerational programs also include “adopting” a nursing home resident, children teaching elders to read and school system volunteers.


            The Forum was opened for questions, answers and discussion and included the following topics:

          Senior protective services and mental health investigations and the possibility of placing Children and Family Services in Lake County under the Sheriff’s Department;

          Seniors remaining in their homes versus moving to a nursing home or other facility;

          Assess living ratios and expansion of financial management services;

          Shortage of qualified home workers and the need for background checks;

          Additional homestead exemption for low income seniors in Lake County;

          Benefits checkup for seniors;

          The need to recruit health care providers who are licensed and certified in gerontology and programs at Florida State University’s College of Medicine;

          Effects of medications and alcohol on elders;

          Triad Program (which was developed in 1988 by the American Association of Retired Persons, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the National Sheriff’s Association) works to reduce the criminal victimization of the elderly and is very active in Lake County according to Sheriff George Knupp;

          Scam artists and master lists of seniors they prey on;

          Video which will educate bank tellers to recognize seniors who may be involved in a scam;

          Angel Flight, which is a group of volunteers who donate their time and planes providing free distant transportation to needy people who require medical care;

          With the help of Mid-Florida Community Services, Lake County senior meal sites are now available in Paisley and Umatilla;

          Through Lake County’s Affordable Housing Program (with funding from the Sate of Florida’s William Sadowski Affordable Housing Act and SHIP, State Housing Initiatives Partnership), a significant number of homes have been rehabilitated;

          Lake-Sumter EMS (Emergency Medical Services) Well Check Program, where paramedics check on elderly residents on a daily or weekly basis and offer medical assistance, is in effect in Lake County and parts of Sumter County according to Mr. Jim Judge, Executive Director.

          Sheriff Knupp commented that produce is grown year round by Lake County Jail inmates at an eleven-acre garden. Food is currently given to Green Isles Children’s Ranch, the Mid-Florida Community Services, Camp Boggy Creek, and the First Baptist Church in Leesburg, as well as other groups, and the Sheriff remarked that excess food is available to Lake County’s needy seniors by calling his office or the jail.

          Veterans’ health care needs and publicizing services that are available to veterans through the State of Florida Department of Elder Affairs.


            Mr. White introduced Mr. Ron Taylor, Florida Department of Elder Affairs, who heads the statewide community-based services, including the CARES (Comprehensive Assessment and Review for Long Term Care Services) unit, a team that assesses individuals to see if they might be served in their own home through the community-based CARES unit.

            Mr. Taylor stated that his unit administers and oversees a host of services, from wellness services (senior center activities, social and recreational) to the Nursing Home Diversion project. The Nursing Home Diversion initiative, which may be expanded into the Lake County area in the future, has received an additional $40 million and can now assist 1,800 additional elders throughout the state with such services as assisted living, nutrition, personal care or nursing home services.


            Ms. Martha Pratt, Florida Department of Elder Affairs, announced the availability of the Consumer Resource Guide, an information guide for elders, caregivers and community members who work with seniors. The Guide is available on line (http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us) or by calling the toll-free Elder Helpline, 1-800-96ELDER (1-800-963-5337).

            Ms. Pratt announced the Ambassadors for Aging Day on March 31, 2004, at the State Capitol in Tallahassee. These Ambassadors are advocates who increase public awareness for the contributions of elder Floridians. Ms. Pratt invited the audience to register for the Elder Update which is a bimonthly publication.

            She also announced that the U.S. Administration on Aging has introduced the 2004 Older Americans’ Month National Photography Contest. The purpose of the contest is to enhance the image of older persons to all generations through pictures. The contest is open to nonprofessional photographers, age 60 and older representing a senior center. (Entries must be postmarked no later than February 15, 2004.) Three winners will receive a trip to Washington, D.C., for the awards ceremony which will be held in May 2004.


            Mr. Taylor commented on another initiative, the Elder Farmer’s Market project. The purpose is twofold. It helps the agriculture industry and enhances the daily nutrition intake of seniors. The program will be expanding soon throughout a number of local counties. By partnering with AAA, fruits and vegetables will be available at an affordable price at senior farmers’ markets.


            Rep. Gibson remarked that issues he will focus on include keeping people in their homes and out of nursing homes, elder crime issues, dementia problems and education for caregivers. He expressed his appreciation to everyone for attending the Forum.

            Mr. White thanked the audience and remarked that additional questions can be directed to him through the State of Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

            Commr. Hanson thanked the audience and Rep. Gibson and his staff for coordinating the event.


            There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 7:55 p.m.