Senior citizens visited the Statehouse this week to raise concerns about transportation issues and the lack of medical services in their communities.
Various agencies on aging joined the seniors to bring awareness and visibility to the problems in rural and urban Kansas.
Paula Hladky, of Perry, pointed to the lack of services within the Jefferson County town. With no grocery store, pharmacy or doctor in town, many seniors must go to Topeka or Lawrence to run errands, Hladky said.
“And many of them no longer drive, so that is a big issue for them to have transportation,” Hladky said.
As a member of the Kansas Silver Haired Legislature, Hladky works to make legislators aware of concerns pertaining to senior citizens.
Hladky said she wants Medicaid expansion, as well as the expansion of such initiatives as the Older Kansans Employment Programs, which assists those who are 55 and older in getting jobs.
“Those are all really important issues that we’re working on and continue to work on,” Hladky said. “These are not new this year. These are ongoing issues that we have.”
As vice chairwoman of the House Committee on Children and Seniors, Rep. Susan Humphries, R-Wichita, said there needs to be a bigger emphasis and coordination for seniors in Kansas.
“As a committee, we are wanting to focus more on seniors,” Humphries said.
Southeast Kansas Area Agency on Aging director Cindy Lane said that with hospitals closing in Independence and Fort Scott, some seniors travel much farther just to attend a doctor appointment.
“If you’re on a fixed income, even the cost of driving 30 miles several days a week is a lot — if they’re even hopefully able to do that,” Lane said.
Another concern is the rapid growth of the aging population in Kansas, creating a demand for more services.
“We believe in community-based services,” said Dan Goodman, director of the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging. “We believe in helping someone keep their independence and dignity, and choose where they want to age in place, wherever possible we’d like to that. And that’s statewide, not just Johnson County.”
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, D-Overland Park, spoke to seniors at a gathering Wednesday for Older Kansans Day. After commending the seniors for their advocacy efforts, she said she hopes to hear more about issues facing senior citizens in other parts of the state.
“You are creating change in Kansas, and I am very grateful,” Clayton said.