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story.lead_photo.caption More than a dozen volunteers from California and Moniteau County Sheriff's Department assisted the California Nutrition Center May 14, 2020, with distributing more than 13,000 pounds of food (frozen chickens, potatoes, milk and watermelons) provided by the The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri for Aging Best senior nutrition programs. Photo by Submitted

Though its local presence is felt most prominently through the California Nutrition Center, Aging Best offers further resources through its community options and services branch.

Formerly known as the Area Agency on Aging, Aging Best serves senior citizens in 19 counties throughout Mid-Missouri, providing support for senior centers and advocacy resources to help seniors navigate common issues.

Patricia Luther, Community Options and Services Supervisor with Aging Best, explained her branch provides information and assistance in a number of areas. One of these resources, she said, is case management for seniors to help them stay in their homes independently for as long as possible. Luther explained this could include everything from helping them to find a phone they can navigate using — like a flip phone instead of a smartphone — or offering referrals to help blind seniors connect with rehab services.

Aging Best also provides farmers' market vouchers in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture, Luther said. Starting each year on June 1, Aging Best provides $50 in free vouchers for seniors to obtain fruits and vegetables from local farmers' markets. The vouchers may be claimed one time each year, and to be eligible, one must fall below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

Luther said another service provided by her branch is help with navigating Medicare, from new enrollments to navigating premiums and other eligibility guidelines.

"You have to know your insurance," Luther said. "People are more than welcome to call us up and we will go through whatever they want to know about Medicare."

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The community options and services branch also offers family caregiver programs, Luther said. Aging Best can provide four hours per week of respite care for seniors, either facilitated by a company or via reimbursements to a loved one.

There's also a supplemental program to help with reimbursements for certain supplies. Aging Best even provides financial legal assistance and will pay attorney fees to that end, Luther said.

It's evident, Luther said, that her branch casts a wide net.

"We do quite a bit," Luther said. "We help people out with energy assistance, property tax credits, all that stuff."

These services are provided to all 19 counties Aging Best serves, Luther said, and there are a number of specialists through the community options and services branch to help with each specific area of need.

As a nonprofit, Luther said getting the word out about these resources is important, since it's hard to advertise widely.

"This is something that we want to get out, because it would help so many people," Luther said. "It's not just helping the person that's over 60, it's helping the family as well."

Specialists host office hours at all 31 senior centers managed by Aging Best, during which people can come in to get assistance in person, Luther said.

Those who wish to learn more about the additional resources offered by Aging Best can contact the agency toll free at 1-800-369-5211 and ask for Client Care Specialist Steve Dopp or Shadaryl Bassett.

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