by JoAnne Spoto Decker
“Some things get better with age….like me,” so quoted Keith Richards, who at this writing is 78 years better. When you to stop to think about it, getting better with age, is what we all want but we have to remember, that Keith is a Rolling Stone unlike most of us, who have bloomed where we were planted! Either way, aging gracefully does occur, but not necessarily in the ways we used to think it would.
I’ll use myself as an example. I began my career with Onondaga County government more than three decades ago. I was five years shy of the BIG 4-0! My first job was at the Department of Social Services (DSS), where I worked with the Temporary Assistance Program. For the most part, those county residents I served were under the age of 60. About 4 years into my role with DSS, I transferred to Adult Protective Services. There, I worked with adults 18 years and older, but my recollection is that the majority were seniors. After that, I went to the Department of Aging and Youth where I worked for more than a decade. It was there that I began to realize the vast differences people experience with “aging gracefully.” It started to change my view of the term.
I recognized that the aging process was as unique as the individual and so were the consequences. I haven’t seen it all but I have seen a lot! Over the course of many years, what I know for sure is that aging is a privilege denied to many. And there is no “one way” to go about it. Given the thousands of people I have met over the past 30 plus years, I can tell you flat out that aging gracefully means being true to yourself, your beliefs and what you stand for. It no longer is about looking good for one’s age, but accepting what aging brings, and most importantly being willing to acknowledge when you need some assistance to live your life in a manner that is graceful to you.
My tenure with Onondaga County has led me to the role of Commissioner of the Department of Adult & Long Term Care Services. Each day I have the privilege of working with close to 50 of the most talented and committed individuals I have ever met. Our department consists of the Office for Aging, Adult Protective Services, NY Connects and the Long Term Care Resource Center.
The Office for Aging has a variety of programs that promote aging well, including nutrition services, personal care, transportation, caregiver services, health insurance counseling, and in-person information and assistance on available supports that benefit people 60 years and better.
We also partner with Upstate Oasis to bring evidence-based health programs to the community. These courses include Living Healthy with a Chronic Condition, Peer Support for Adults with Type-2 Diabetes, Tai Chi and more. The six-week programs are offered both in-person and on a zoom platform.
Adult Protective Services provides needed assistance with keeping vulnerable persons (age 18 years and older) safely residing in the community or in the least restrictive alternative. NY Connects provides comprehensive and unbiased information and linkages to people of any age seeking long term care services.
The Long Term Care Resource Center provides care management services to eligible persons participating in the Medicaid program, and provides assistance to any individual needing evaluation for long term care. We also have an extensive resource guide that provides you with up-to-date information on what programs and services are available in our county through other sources.
The Department of Adult & Long Term Care Services is here for you. You can visit our website at www.ongov.net/adult or contact us at 315-435-2362.
Each of us wants to age in a way that makes us feel happy, engaged and content with ourselves. Our goal is to assist you, in any way we can, to achieve that goal.
I want to leave you with another famous quote by Keith Richards, which fits so well into what aging gracefully can mean to each of us…
“I’m not getting older…I’m evolving!”
Editor’s note: JoAnne Spoto Decker is the commissioner of the Onondaga County Department of Adult & Long Term Care Services.