Ladies and gentlemen of the elder persuasion, allow us to introduce you to Ken Pendleton.
The new director of the Centre County Office of Aging has spent the better part of last month settling into his new role, but he seems willing — nay, eager — to continue on with the business of making life just a little bit easier for local seniors.
If you’re playing somewhere in the middle of life’s back nine, Pendleton is not a bad caddy to have on standby. The Office of Aging can operate as a source of information, a facilitator for the delivery of home meals or a matchmaker for seniors looking to remain active through service opportunities.
Below, Pendleton talks about taking the job and some of the biggest issues that affect seniors in the community.
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Q: When you were offered this job, what was the first thought that ran through your head?
A: I was excited by the opportunity to work with such a great team of professionals. Everyone here, from the commissioners to our staff, works toward meeting the needs of our community seniors. We are fortunate to have such a standout Office of Aging. I believe it is one of the best, if not the best offices, in central Pennsylvania.
Q: What were some of your goals coming into office?
A: I hope to build community awareness and support for seniors and the issues affecting their lives. It is sometimes easy to become complacent or simply fail to recognize just how great the need can truly be. Reaching out to show compassion for our fellow man can often cost nothing more than a kind word. Together, our community has been and will continue to strive to be a place we can be proud of.
Q: Were there any0 challenges that you foresaw?
A: Of course the challenge of meeting the needs of increasing numbers of seniors came to mind. Not only are we facing a local demographic shift, it is also a national and even worldwide phenomenon. The question we must all consider is how we do more with what we have. This has been a continuing challenge that has been met in the past. We should feel optimistic that together we can continue to meet the challenge.
Q: Is there anything that you’ve been pleasantly surprised by?
A: The welcome I have received has been amazing. I knew many here prior to accepting this position and knew them to be very friendly, but I didn’t expect this. I am very much looking forward to working with everyone.
Q: Why does there need to be an Office of Aging?
A: Your local Office of Aging understands your issues like no other distant office can. We understand those in our community and work to help seniors successfully plan and implement active living strategies. We begin by acting as a clearinghouse of information. In many cases we answer your questions by phone, email or even personal appointments depending on the circumstance. We also re-engage seniors to use their skills and experience through programs such as APPRISE, RSVP, VITA and active living/senior centers. Here they assist others to apply for home heating assistance, to prepare their taxes, to help understand Medicare choices, to plan for long-term care needs and to live fuller lives.
Our staff can further help seniors to investigate and qualify for home care and facility based care programs, arrange for the delivery of home meals, transportation services and confidential abuse concerns, and act as facility or home base services advocate/liaison.
Q: You’ve worked at a skilled nursing facility and in home health care administration. How has that experience affected your approach to this job or shaped your perspective?
A: When I began the most senior adults were born in the 1880s and came to Nebraska in covered wagons. Since that time I have witnessed a succession of generations utilize our long-term care system. Compassion, dedication and empathy have always been and will continue to be the characteristics that make all the difference. It has been my privilege to witness caregivers providing amazingly compassionate, greatly needed and appreciated care. This is truly a noble profession. I would like to recommend to anyone, who wants to know, in their hearts, that they have made a difference, to consider making this a professional or volunteer opportunity.
Q: What do you think is one of the most prevalent issues facing seniors in the community today?
A: Having available resources necessary to meet senior needs is both a local and national challenge. Due to the large numbers of vulnerable seniors, many are isolated and unable to engage friends in their communities. Others can no longer prepare meals and/or drive to appointments or grocery shopping. Still others simply cannot negotiate the complexities of our long-term health care delivery system. Available, qualified staff is often a limiting factor. Even with available staff, lack of awareness hampers seniors from accessing assistance. Having a range of appropriate community activities are sometimes in short supply. All of these and other concerns underscore the challenges all of us face when attempting to meet the need.
Q: Do you think that those issues can sometimes fly under the radar of the general public?
A: I believe we are fortunate to live in a society that is generous and caring. Senior issues can, however, suffer from unintentional oversight. This means the neighbor we have all known for years and who has always been able to accomplish tremendous things, is now, suddenly or over time, experiencing limiting conditions. Either way these changes can take us by surprise. I encourage everyone to make a conscious effort to be aware of changes in your family, friends’ and neighbors’ abilities. This awareness will allow all of us to reach out and offer simple yet extremely important acts of kindness/support. Please know that we are here to help and welcome your calls.
Q: What’s the best way to get in touch with the Office of Aging?
A: We welcome your calls at 355-6716 or feel free to email us at email@example.com.