Three new organizations for the elderly are to be formed in Elkridge, Ellicott City and western Howard County. Jack Propf, the 65-year-old coordinator of the Project Care Program, said he hopes the groups will be formed by summer.
"Columbia has the only primary senior center in the area," said Mr. Propf, a part-time employee of the Office on Aging. "People who live in outlying areas can't always use the center."
The program is an offshoot of the National Eldercare Campaign.
Creating more coalitions will help identify the needs of seniors throughout the county and ease the organization of community-based support systems.
"The primary thrust is to provide information and services to seniors who aren't aware of what's out there and who are at risk," he said.
Since February, Mr. Propf said, he has been trying to get the word out about forming seniors coalitions in each of the three communities. He has talked to various civic organizations, senior groups, businesses and churches.
"The needs are rising and the [government] funds are decreasing," he said. "All of the agencies have been sapped. That's why we want to bring in some organizations that don't ordinarily address senior issues."
He cited businesses such as hardware and lumber companies as possible resources for supplying nails or lumber for seniors NTC whose houses need repair. Accounting or law firms could provide help with finances or legal documents. Small grocery stores might be able to deliver food to those who are home-bound. And teen groups could help seniors with lawn care.
"The sky's the limit," Mr. Propf said. "When we get a wonderful group of people together to brainstorm, we can find resources that were not there before. . . . The coalition should not be 12 or 24 people, but 20 people representing 20 organizations providing other resources."
Transportation is one of the biggest problems for seniors in the county, he said.
"Twenty-two percent of seniors [in the county] don't have their own auto, so they must rely on help," he said.
The lack of transportation can also contribute to other problems like depression and feelings of isolation, the inability to care for oneself and the lack of leisure activities. Mr. Propf said some of those needs can be met through solutions such as phone net works of people who keep in contact with seniors.
Other key problems for seniors, as revealed in a 1990 chart distributed by the Office on Aging, include selecting insurance and preparing insurance forms, getting medical care, managing home repairs and protecting against crime in addition to general economic difficulties. According to a 1990 Needs Assessment of the Office on Aging, one-third of the seniors in the county live alone, and 41 percent of them are widowed.
"Our goal for the coalitions is for them to be independent and free-standing. We will help them to form; we will support and coordinate and maybe, someday, they will say, 'We don't need you any more,' " Mr. Propf said. For more information, call Mr. Propf at 323-7210.