Op-Ed

Politics threatening our elders?

I am writing as a private citizen, not in my capacity as chair of Lexington’s Senior Services Commission or as a member of Kentucky’s Institute for Aging, but as the founder of ITNBluegrass (senior transportation) and i know expo (senior service exposition).

It is sad for our community when events like last week’s rift between the Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living and the state’s Department of Aging and Independent Living occur. After many years of serving our senior population in 17 counties, suffering budget cut after budget cut, aging services have been abruptly removed from the AAAIL and 40 loyal, dedicated, (many long-serving), senior-loving employees will soon be gone.

Evidently, the issue is that the AAAIL is housed, by state statute, under the Bluegrass Area Development District. The troubled Bluegrass ADD has worked on its past issues with new leadership and procedures, but not to the satisfaction of others. Taking down the Bluegrass ADD’s “unintended consequence” is the demise of the Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living.

There are promises of no service disruption to the 700-plus vulnerable seniors receiving care from 900-plus contract employees and experienced case managers employed by the AAAIL, but a dramatic, quick action like this will certainly have consequences.

As a person outside of government, I do not pretend to understand the relationships among all these agencies — federal, state, county, city, quasi-governmental — or how money moves. All I know is that our tax dollars (many millions) are funding all of it and that when feuds and power struggles occur, citizens suffer. In this instance, vulnerable elders are in the midst of the politics.

Politics plus power struggles equal people suffering.

Gale Reece of Lexington is founding director of ITNBluegrass, a nonprofit that organizes transportation for older adults.

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