Nowadays, we're not only living longer in Erie County, but also living well. If you don't believe me, ask Sue Daugherty.
Daugherty was hired nearly 27 years ago by a group of senior citizen advocates and activists for Erie County to have one place to call if they need help with a question, problem, or concern in later life.
The volunteer board of directors, who hired her in 1996, gave her a basic road map of what they wanted her to accomplish, and she took it from there.
Thanks to her work as the Founding Executive Director, Serving Our Seniors is making it easier for Erie County’s 60+ population to age well as they continue to grow older.
Serving Our Seniors
is about providing essential services and support to older adults, who are residents of Erie County. The group believes in empowering those who are aged 60 and over to lead healthy, functionally independent lives while staying in the comfort of their own homes.
Sue Daugherty’s journey into gerontology began when she worked as a nursing assistant after her freshman year at Ohio University. This experience ignited a fire within her to find a better way to care for older adults.
After obtaining her nursing home administrator's license she practiced nursing home administration in Milan and Sandusky. Daugherty even owned and operated a small adult daycare service in Norwalk.
Sue Daugherty and Charles Lindecamp, 104, the Milan Rotary Club's longest serving member.
Through divine intervention, the two nursing homes she was operating were sold by her employer in 1996. She was out of a job at the same time that she learned that Judge Jane Lucal, Ray and Marian Koch, and their search committee were seeking to hire a director.
Together, they aim to ensure Erie County’s older adults, including those living in underserved rural areas, had access to top-notch care and support.
In the beginning, their focus was on assisting frail seniors. In 1997, they reported 3,512 rural home-delivered meals were funded by Serving Our Seniors and the center received 268 calls from older adults with questions, problems, or concerns.
As we flash to our present day, 2022 reports reveal 24,380 home-delivered meals were funded by Serving Our Seniors with problem-solving and advocacy calls reaching 3,223 individual residents, who asked the agency for help with 10,931 inquiries.
The need continued to spiral, as Daugherty reports 10,565 transportation visits within Erie County, and 352 out-of-town health appointment trips were provided when no other resource was available.
Now a new and startling challenge has arisen as the baby boomers enter their senior years. The realization that older adults suffering from untreated mental illness and substance abuse issues are calling Serving Our Seniors for help.
This matter is becoming more prevalent in our community and contributing to homelessness in later life. As a result, there is a growing population who are a danger to themselves. The problem may not be obvious to most, but the problem is real and growing larger.
These issues are unthinkable for some; however, Daugherty faces the challenge daily and wants to be a catalyst for change.
She has pinpointed three initiatives. Her goal is to begin a conversation to ensure all citizens have access to a specialist in geriatric medicine and are protected as they age well.
The first initiative spotlights small, modest-sized housing for the aging. This idea offers affordable housing options for senior citizens who can't afford the current, post-COVID market rate rent.
By providing smaller, more manageable living spaces, older adults can maintain their functional independence in their own homes without the burden of paying for more rental space, or the cost of maintaining their home. Many older adults still have a mortgage on the home they are living in.
The need is evident, currently Serving Our Seniors has 144 wheelchair ramps in circulation at the homes of older adults. Without the ramp, these residents may not be able to enter and exit their homes safely, putting their independence at risk.
With home ownership comes housekeeping and repairs. Daugherty’s team has funded 72 small home repairs and 960.5 hours of personal and housekeeping services.
Finding workers who want to help older adults in the home has been a problem since 2015.
“At one point, pre-COVID there were 30 people on a waiting list asking for help with personal care and or housekeeping,” Daugherty says. “We couldn't meet the need for these requests for services because the number of people interested in this line of work is diminishing. Now that there is a labor shortage the problem has gotten worse.”
A modestly sized house program would make managing the housekeeping and maintenance achievable for senior citizens to remain independent.
The second initiative is a collaboration with Cleveland Clinic geriatricians to host in-person successful aging visits. Geriatricians are medical doctors specializing in the care and treatment of older patients.
This vision is to have a geriatrician partner with a patient's primary care physician. Prioritizing medical conditions, addressing drug-to-drug interactions, a person's daily function, finances, driving and mobility, and end-of-life planning are just some of the ways a collaboration between healthcare professionals and Serving Our Seniors can positively impact the aging member’s quality of life.
The third initiative, which is only on the drawing board, involves establishing a Forensic Center for Elder Abuse. Elder abuse is a pressing concern encompassing physical, emotional, sexual, and financial exploitation, neglect, and abandonment.
When established, the Forensic Center will play a critical role in protecting the rights and well-being of individuals aged 60+. A Forensic Center of Elder Abuse offers comprehensive investigations unique to older victims, victim support, legal assistance, education, and collaborative partnerships to ensure a coordinated response by professionals educated in the care and treatment of older people.
The need in Erie County for a Forensic Center is staggering. In 2021, senior citizens in Erie County lost more than $2.4 million via scams and other forms of exploitation and theft, according to a report from Erie County Elder Abuse Investigator Dan McLaughlin.
“We must talk about these issues, and I want Serving Our Seniors to be a catalyst for change,” Daugherty says.
To learn more about Serving Our Seniors, follow them on their Facebook page
or visit their website