Steuben County Council on Aging helps fill a crucial gap for many local seniors. Without the Council on Aging, some seniors would spend more time home alone, and their mental and physical health would deteriorate. Seniors might struggle to find a ride to medical appointments without STAR Transportation, the Council on Aging’s community transportation service that is available for seniors and fee-based for those under age 60. In addition to helping address the loneliness that some feel later in life, the Council on Aging helps seniors fulfill everyday tasks like getting a haircut or taking a trip to the grocery. “We all reach that stage when you can no longer drive or do things for yourself, and that’s where the Council on Aging comes in. It’s tough to give up independence, but we try to provide that in other ways,” said Donna Holcomb, Interim Executive Director of Steuben County Council on Aging.
Their current location makes it a challenge for the Council on Aging to fulfill its mission. Located in the basement of the former Angola high school, they struggle with accessibility for seniors who have mobility challenges. “Seeing some seniors come down the stairs with a walker breaks my heart,” said Wendy Kellett, Activities Coordinator. There is also limited Wi-Fi in the basement which makes some programming a challenge. Nevertheless, in 2018 the Council on Aging welcomed over 2,000 participants for their exercise classes and over 700 Euchre players. STAR Transportation drove 1,500 passengers a total of 130,000 miles. In order to accomplish those impressive statistics, the Council on Aging works in collaboration with a number of other nonprofit organizations including RISE and two local nursing facilities. Every other month, the Council on Aging also hosts a free senior lunch in collaboration with a local business or nonprofit.
Through exercise classes for seniors who are finishing a rehab program and hosting card games for seniors who need a common gathering place, the Council on Aging transforms the lives of seniors who participate in their activities. “We see people who this is their only social event,” said Wendy. The Council on Aging also serves some of the less physical needs for family members of senior citizens. “We want it to be a welcoming place to come,” said Donna. “Often we’re just listening and providing resources to families.” Their mission statement summarizes these activities well: The Steuben COA is a community leader in advocacy and services including transportation for older adults and others to empower independence and enhance well-being.
A recent grant from the Steuben County Community Foundation, combined with funding from the Indiana Department of Transportation, helped upgrade the STAR Transportation system’s software programs and purchased tablets for the drivers. The new software improves their ability to serve clients, shuffling schedules more efficiently and allowing for a greater number of passengers to take advantage of their services. In rural Steuben County, this service is vital for seniors and any other individuals with transportation needs. As the Council on Aging works with Steuben County residents through a wide variety of programs and activities, they offer support, entertainment, and sometimes most importantly, friendship for senior citizens in our community.