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Commentary: With senior population on the rise Living at Home dedicated to mission

It is said it takes a village to raise a child. At Living at Home of the Park Rapids Area, we believe it also takes a village to help our elders maintain independence and dignity as they age.

In a recent report, put out by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, statewide our senior population is on the rise.

In 2015, there were 753,529 seniors over age 65. This represents 13.9 percent of Minnesota's total population. In Hubbard County, our population of those over 65 was 4,691 seniors, which represents 22.8 percent of our population, which is significantly higher than the state percentage of seniors.

It is estimated that by the year 2030 Hubbard County's senior population will be at 32 percent. These figures represent more than ever that we need to keep working our mission and reaching those seniors in need.

For more than 25 years, our dedicated staff and amazing volunteers have made it possible to carry out our mission of helping seniors to remain in the home of their choice for as long as it is safe to do so.

Located in the heart of lake country, we provide a number of services to residents of Hubbard County and eastern Becker and northern Wadena counties. Our care receivers and volunteers range from year-round residents to snowbirds that join us for the warmer parts of the year.

Qualifying for assistance is easy — you need to reside in our service area and you need to be at least 65 years of age.

For our respite program, the age range varies slightly, opening the door for care receivers 60-plus and up and caregivers of any age.

We work hard to maintain, add and adapt our repertoire of donation-based core services, including the following:

• Transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, or other errands

• Light housekeeping on an occasional basis

• Minor handyman service, including grab bar installation

• Friendly visits and phone calls

• Ramp building — we provide the labor, seniors cover the materials costs

• Respite care — giving caregivers a break up to once a week (supported in part by grant dollars from LDSAAA)

Additionally, we offer a Caregiver Support Program, led by our certified caregiver consultant, Laurel Hed. This piece of the puzzle includes a monthly caregiver discussion group that provides education and networking time as well as one-on-one sessions with "the coach," as needed, to help care for the caregiver.

While our office staff is very dedicated to our mission, it is our volunteers that are the heart of what we do. With more than 200 seniors in need of service each year in our area, volunteers are always needed. We are frequently looking for people who love to do handyman work or housekeeping, play cards, visit with seniors in their homes, or take someone to the grocery store or to a medical appointment. It takes very little effort to make a big difference in someone else's life. Many of our volunteers tell us they are the ones truly gaining reward from the experience!

If you know of someone in the Park Rapids Area that may benefit from our services or if you are interested in volunteering, please contact us by telephone at 218-732-3137 or e-mail info@parkrapidslivingathome.org. We would love to hear from you.

Living at Home is funded through local individual donations, cost shares and donations from businesses, churches, townships. We also receive grant funding for some of core programming. Grants are competitive with other non-profits applying for some of the same dollars and are not necessarily a sustainable source of funding.

We count on our community to help so that we can continue to serve those elders in need that live in Hubbard County, southern Wadena (Menahga area) and eastern Becker (Osage area). We are so lucky to live in a community where seniors are a priority. Without the very generous donations from so many wonderful people we could not continue to provide the services we do. So many times we get "thank yous" by phone or in the mail from the many clients that truly do not know how they would have been able to stay living at home without our help. It puts a smile on our face and a spring in our step knowing that Living at Home and our wonderful volunteers are making a difference in seniors' lives every day.

We also conduct yearly fundraisers, namely our semi-annual famous rib dinner. Mark your calendars with this year's dates of June 23 and Nov. 10.

We are also rolling out a brand new fundraiser called the "The Big Ticket." This is a raffle with a total prize package of $6,000. You can win one or more of 30 prizes. We are giving away three $1,000 prizes, one $400 prize and 26 $100 prizes. All names will be drawn on June 23. We will be announcing 10 winners on June 23 at our rib dinner, 10 winners on August 10 and 10 winners at our Nov. 10 rib dinner. If you would like to purchase a $20 raffle ticket and get in to win cash please call the office at 218-732-3137 and talk to Laurel or Connie. We are only selling 700 tickets and they are going fast.

If you would like to learn more about donating, volunteering or if you need any of our services and are 65 years or older please give us a call. We would love the opportunity to chat with you.

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