BY JACK LOWENSTEIN
Royal Palm Beach’s Senior Ad-Hoc Advisory Board met Thursday, Feb. 9 with representatives from Palm Beach County’s Division of Senior Services (DOSS) and PMG Associates to further its goals of improving senior services in the village.
The board, PMG Associates and DOSS all covered some aspect of accessibility regarding the availability of senior services in Royal Palm Beach.
Kathy Gonot of PMG Associates cited accessibility as being a potential issue for seniors in the area.
“We will be looking at the needs that the senior population puts out and says that they want, what they need and looking at the gaps, looking at what’s in the community and available and accessible to the senior population,” she said.
Senior Ad-Hoc Advisory Board Chair Iris Levin mentioned accessibility as an issue with the services DOSS offers to local seniors in need.
The county division has four locations in Palm Beach County — Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens and Belle Glade.
“Certainly, let us know, and we will be there for any activity that you have,” DOSS Quality Assurance Coordinator Maggie Longoria said.
Gonot recommended that the village have an office space available for agencies such as the Area Agency on Aging to come to once a week and to publicize it for seniors in need. This would give people in the community the ability to sit face-to-face with agencies, be listened to and be helped in any way possible to meet their individual needs.
“[This way], they know that they can go somewhere every Monday of the month or twice a month and speak to someone, and it’s right in their neighborhood,” she said.
Many services are offered in downtown areas that might not be easy to get to for Royal Palm Beach residents.
“Are there things that you all need that aren’t seen by what is being provided by the village or by the Young at Heart Club or agencies that are in Palm Beach County?” Gonot asked.
Levin believes that there is not enough advertisement or news about these programs in local publications.
“This is information that they should be getting, and I haven’t seen anything, I would say, really advertising these things in the last year in The Palm Beach Post or in our local paper, which is the Town-Crier,” Levin said. “This is something that our committee is going to be working on to see how we can improve services, and, certainly, this is a big advantage to many seniors.”
DOSS is a state-financed and federally financed program through the Department of Elder Affairs and the Older Americans Act, respectively. The funding provided to DOSS through grants is about $4 million, which is then matched by Palm Beach County, totaling around $8 million for budget spending toward senior needs in the county.
“I wanted to mention that we’re the lead agency in the north part of the county, but for a client to qualify for services, for example, for daycare or for in-home services, they have to call our gatekeeper, which is the [Area Agency on Aging],” Longoria said. “They do an assessment, which is a state assessment, and they prioritize the needs of the clients.”
Roughly 675 seniors are being provided in-homes services through DOSS, and about 28 of those seniors are residents of Royal Palm Beach, DOSS Volunteer Coordinator Jason Josephs said.
Then there is the number of people who DOSS serves on a weekly basis in its centers.
“We have meal-site lines and senior center clients; we have about, I would say, 4,000 or more people who come into the center, and they can go one day a week or [more],” Longoria said.
Phil Gonot of PMG Associates presented materials to the board that addressed the ability to reach the senior population in Royal Palm Beach, emphasizing communication among all parties who work to improve accessibility and education to meet the needs of seniors in the area.
There will be a focus group open to the public tentatively scheduled for some time in March. He urged the advisory board to get it scheduled as soon as possible. The study by PMG is to be finished by June 30.
“If we start sliding, we will never make this,” he said.
Communication was the theme of the presentation from PMG, and both Kathy and Phil Gonot targeted the idea as being the glue to succeeding in the improvement of services and quality for the senior population of the village.
“In my mind, if you don’t communicate, you’re not doing your job, and you’re not doing it correctly,” Kathy said. “And one of the things that I want to represent and give to the village at the end of the time is not only what the gap service needs assessment is, but how can these services be better communicated; how can they be better to serve your population here?”
Phil gave a call to action to the advisory board. “One of the things we want to hear from you is ways to get that participation up as high as possible,” he said.
Phil said one of his firm’s specialties is public opinion surveys, having completed more than 850 nationwide.
“We make sure that we understand how to talk to people and get the information out of them,” Phil said. “Sometimes they are personal questions; we understand that. But we do our best to make them sure or understand we’re there to try to help them and provide services to them that they need.”
Conducting a focus group can have obstacles when trying to get the message across.
“The problem we see with focus groups is you have to have an interest,” Phil said. “I would hope that the people in this population would have an interest. It affects their lives. This could affect their future.”
ABOVE: Phil and Kathy Gonot of PMG Associates address the board.