With all the difficulties many older Oklahomans face each day, getting needed state services shouldn’t be so hard. That’s according to State. Sen. Debbe Leftwich, who announced plans for legislation to create a “one stop shop” for Oklahoma seniors.
“The problem right now is that there are at least eight agencies older people have to deal with when it comes to aging services. It can be extremely frustrating and there may well be some individuals who simply don’t get the services they need because it is too difficult for them,” said Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City. “I’ve tried to help constituents work their way through this maze of agencies and I know how hard it can be.”
Leftwich has authored legislation to create a Department on Aging which will consolidate all the services and funding for aging programs. Leftwich discussed her bill with the Silver Haired Legislature which met at the State Capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Charles Campbell of Bethal Acres is the past president of the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature’s Alumni Association. He said his organization has been calling for a single aging agency for the past four years. Campbell said this is exactly what older Oklahomans need.
“Absolutely—this is the vehicle that needs to be in place so that the seniors can have their own department. Many other states already have this,” he said.
Campbell said it was especially frustrating when seniors call what they think is a hotline at a state agency only to find an automated answering system on the end. He said when they do finally speak to a live person, they’re often transferred several times and many give up in frustration.
Campbell said there are already 600 thousand Oklahomans over the age of 60 and that by the year 2010 it is estimated there will be over a million. He said that makes it even more critical to address the issue this coming session.
“We’re the ones who built this state—we’re the ones who made it what it is today. We need to make sure our seniors are taken care of,” Campbell said.