Blair Senior Services, Inc. Seeking Volunteers for Medicare Open Enrollment Period

Blair Senior Services, Inc. is searching for volunteers to assist them during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, which will be from October 15, 2019 to December 7, 2019. During this time, Medicare beneficiaries will be able to make changes to their Medicare coverage or enroll in Medicare for the first time. Blair Senior Services, Inc. offers the APPRISE Program, a free health insurance counseling program designed to assist Pennsylvanians with Medicare by bettering understanding their health insurance options.

This Open Enrollment period, however, has a new requirement: “Before consumers will be able to receive Medicare counseling through APPRISE, they will need to create a Medicare account,” said Melissa Hey, APPRISE Coordinator at Blair Senior Services, Inc. “It’s mandated that everyone who wants to receive Medicare counseling must have a Medicare account, and we are anticipating many consumers will not have one and will not feel comfortable making an account,” said Hey. “I’d like to recruit computer savvy individuals who have a basic knowledge of how to create a username and password, and who will be able to make the consumers feel comfortable through the whole process.”

To become a volunteer for the Medicare Open Enrollment Period, limited training will become available and will be able to be completed at home at the volunteer’s convenience. Once completed, Blair Senior Services, Inc. will be notified and interested parties can continue on the path of becoming a volunteer.

“Having volunteers help us with this process will save us a lot of time and will make the whole program run smoothly,” Hey said. “We’re expecting that this will take approximately 15 minutes per person to get the profile created, and this is before we can even start talking to the consumer about Medicare,” Hey said. “So having someone there to assist the consumers beforehand will be fantastic.”

To learn more information on becoming a volunteer for this Open Enrollment Period, please contact Melissa Hey, APPRISE Coordinator, at (814) 946-1235 Ext. 1016.

Celebrating 45 Years of Growing With You

Blair Senior Services, Inc. has been forging a path to becoming Blair County’s resource center for older adults and their families since 1974.

“As Blair Senior Services, Inc. celebrates its 45 years of service provision, it is a good opportunity to provide background information about the present and future,” President of Blair Senior Services, Inc., Steve Williamson said. “We are a non-profit social service agency that is primarily funded by the government to serve as a safety net for individuals we have been designated to serve. In terms of formal designations, we serve as the Area Agency on Aging, the local Shared Ride provider and the local MATP provider,” Williamson shared.

Offering 27 programs and services, older adults and their families no longer have to wonder where their loved ones will be getting their needed nutrition or how they are going to get the care they need… Blair Senior Services, Inc. is here to serve.

“We view the services as a continuum that starts when people least need us and can participate in a number of activities with no assistance beyond the Agency simply providing an opportunity to participate. The other end of the spectrum includes the provision of in-home services to assist with activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, grooming, etc.). Our goal is to have folks involved and/or familiar with our services prior to needing them or to use the services available on the front end of the spectrum to delay or avoid the need for more intensive services further along the services spectrum,” Williamson said.

Over the course of the past five years since the 40th Anniversary, Blair Senior Services, Inc. has had a makeover! It has received a new, more recognizable logo, as well as a new Facebook page and a new website where you can find information on any program or service that they offer. Seasons Magazine, published quarterly, was given a fresh new design layout to make it even easier to read all of the lifestyle and senior living news featured in every issue. These cosmetic changes are only the first layer to the great things happening at Blair Senior Services, Inc.!

Throughout Blair County, the most recognizable part of Blair Senior Services, Inc. may be their fleet of transportation vans. The vans run Monday through Friday to ensure older adults and residents of Blair County have a reliable form of transportation year-round. Since the beginning of Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s Transportation Program, they have expanded their fleet to nearly 40 vans, adding two vans most recently during 2018. At the Transportation Hub located in Hollidaysburg, approximately 500 to 600 dispatch calls are answered daily! During the 2018-2019 program year, 112,866 total trips were given to 2,716 consumers. Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s consumers can depend on the Transportation Program to safely transport them to doctor’s visits, run errands, visit family, and more!

Physical and emotional health are important to Blair Senior Services, Inc. The Agency provides multiple opportunities for older adults to have socialization, exercise, relaxation and feelings of achievement throughout several different programs. Through the four Senior Centers located throughout Blair County, older adults have daily opportunities to socialize with other adults, share in a congregate meal, participate in exercise classes and spend some time learning new things to better their quality of life. During the 2018-2019 program year, the four Senior Centers, Central Blair Senior Center (Altoona); Northern Blair Senior Center (Tyrone); Southern Blair Senior Center (East Freedom); and Williamsburg Senior Center (Williamsburg), welcomed 74,995 visits from older adults. The Senior Centers are proud to offer multiple exercise classes, with varying difficulty levels, to ensure every participant has the opportunity to join in and have some fun!

Older adults in Blair County have also taken advantage of the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Programs since their introduction in the 1980s. These volunteer programs offer a great opportunity for socialization and provide a rewarding experience for older adults in the area looking for “something more.” During the 2018-2019 program year, there were 56 volunteers in the Foster Grandparent Program that served 53,288 hours. In the Senior Companion Program, there were 66 volunteers that served 52,514 hours. Between both programs, volunteers served 105,802 volunteer hours assisting local seniors and children in need. These programs help to further enhance Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s positive impact in the community by offering Foster Grandparent volunteer services to assist children in schools and day cares as well as Senior Companion volunteer services to assist other area older adults with daily activities.

Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s main goal is to enrich the quality of life and ensure the safety of its consumers and older adults in Blair County, which is why programs such as Home Delivered Meals, APPRISE, and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) are offered. The Home Delivered Meals Program, also known as “Meals on Wheels,” provides hot, nutritious meals to older adults in the Blair County region. In the 2018-2019 program year, Meals on Wheels volunteers delivered 125,840 meals to 960 consumers. With this program, Blair County residents age 60 or older no longer have to worry about acquiring nutritious meals.

One of the biggest concerns for older adults is navigating Medicare and other health insurance options. Blair Senior Services, Inc. understands this need, which is why it offers free health insurance counseling through the APPRISE Program. Through the APPRISE Program, Medicare beneficiaries can make the best decision possible when it comes to their health insurance. During the 2018-2019 program year, 2,318 individuals received health insurance counseling through the APPRISE Program at Blair Senior Services, Inc. With this program, Blair Senior Services, Inc. can continue to be a great resource assisting older adults in the region with navigating health insurance options.

Along with assisting older adults with navigating health insurance options, Blair Senior Services, Inc. offers appointments each year to eligible older adults who need assistance with income tax preparation when income tax season rolls around. As adults age, they can receive multiple sources of income, like Social Security or pensions, which can make income taxes very difficult. Not only can older adults have multiple sources of income, they may also have plenty of deductible expenses that they are unaware of. The VITA Program offers income tax assistance, but it also offers a great rewarding volunteer experience for those who have experience in finance or tax preparation. Check out some of the great work the volunteers completed during the 2018-2019 program year in the chart on page 6!

For the past 45 years, Blair Senior Services, Inc. has been dedicated to assisting older individuals remain independent and healthy for as long as possible, but assistance doesn’t stop there. The Agency is always aiming to help those who are dependent on caregivers, receiving in-home care or those who are in a nursing facility. Whatever life throws at you, Blair Senior Services, Inc. is prepared to help you.

Through the Ombudsman Program, Ombudsmen visit over 40 long-term care facilities to check with residents to determine if their rights are being upheld, needs are being met, and if there are any unanswered concerns.
Residents of the facilities may volunteer to become advocates themselves. The Agency’s Ombudsman advocates for the rights of all residents in all long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, personal care homes, and more. In 2018, the Agency’s Ombudsman Program ended the year with 36 completed cases. They are on target to complete the same number of cases in 2019! The Ombudsman Program has reached an average of 247 facility residents per year with their Annual Resident’s Rights trainings, and an average of 54 facility staff members per year. As the Ombudsman Program continues to grow and gain awareness, residents can feel comfortable knowing that Blair Senior Services, Inc. continues to advocate for those who can’t, support those who can, and ensure all long-term care consumers live with dignity and respect.

“The vast majority of Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s funding comes from the government, with our largest source of funding being the Pennsylvania Lottery,” Williamson said. “The majority of our services are not funded with taxpayer dollars, with the Medical Assistance Programs being the exception,” he said. “This government funding has especially been flat for 10 years, while the number of older adults and the consumer price index have increased significantly,” he explained. “The reality is resources will not be enough to meet all of the identified needs. In that context, our obligation and imperative is to serve those with the greatest social and economic need.”

It is clear to see that Blair Senior Services, Inc. is dedicated to maintaining consumer’s dignity, empowering older adults to reach their potential, advocating for their health and safety and always giving older adults the respect they deserve. Blair Senior Services, Inc. has come a long way since its creation in 1974, and there will be many more dedicated years to the community and beyond.

“When compared to other states, Pennsylvania has a robust and reasonably well funded service system for older adults,” Williamson said. “Neither Blair Senior Services, Inc., nor the Aging System in Pennsylvania, can be everything for everyone, but we can be a safety net for those with the greatest need and fewest resources,” Williamson shared. “We can also offer opportunities for others to participate in preventative or wellness type activities for those that are forward thinking enough to put stereotypes aside and look to see if we have anything to offer for you.”

For more information about Blair Senior Services, Inc., its programs or services, please visit, call 814-946-1235 and Like and Follow Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s Facebook page for updates and information.