Area seniors are living on the edge. With a fixed income that's tighter than ever, many independent, elderly men and women have to give up what most of us consider basic essentials in order to make ends meet.
"With the financial crisis going on, we're seeing them having to make the choice: Do I buy the medication or the food?" said Marlene Peterson, executive director of Senior Support of the Tri-Valley. "They're asking us for paper napkins, toilet paper and denture cream."
Senior Support, a beneficiary of the Pleasanton Weekly's Holiday Fund, helps elderly people in Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin with moderate to low incomes enjoy life. Whether it's a friendly home visit, a ride to a doctor's appointment, connecting to legal counseling, the fall prevention program or putting together paperwork to qualify for medical and financial help, the staff and volunteers are there to alleviate burdens.
"We try to bring everything to the table that we have," said Toni Coplan, a Senior Support case manager. "I see [the economy particularly affects our seniors who are alone. Some are widowed and have no adult children to assist them."
Job layoffs and increased expenses are also plaguing the children who have helped their parents in the past.
When asked what would happen to the seniors without Senior Support, Coplan said they would likely be out on the street or end up in shelters and potentially die of malnurishment.
Prior to help from Coplan and Senior Support, a man in Livermore was on track to lose his apartment because he was overwhelmed in debt stemming from medical bills. Coplan helped the World War II veteran qualify for VA medical coverage, lower his credit card debt and several bills, link with dial-a-ride transportation and sign up for Meals on Wheels.
"Just by assisting him in navigating community resources he had no idea existed, we increased his quality of life," she said.
Senior Support has also recently faced cutbacks as they are mostly funded through federal, state and county grants, as well as private donations. With the help from the Holiday Fund, they can continue the programming and assist in emergencies.
"We have had them coming in for $20 to get them through the month," Peterson said. "That never really happened before. Without the support of our generous community, we wouldn't be able to do that."
The program began in 1981, serving people. This year, a crew of 100 volunteers helps 1,500 seniors, which is up from 1,000 seniors last year.
"We have an unbelievable group of volunteers and dedicated staff who are going to be there for the seniors no matter what," Peterson said. "And we're always looking for more."
A new program is especially in need of volunteers to drive seniors to and from doctor visits. Within the first several weeks, they have already given 44 rides.
Annette Mulder, a resident of Pleasanton, said she doesn't have enough words to describe how grateful she is for the help of Senior Support.
"I've lived a long time, through the second World War, and I have never been treated like this until I moved to Pleasanton," she said. "All the things they do, they help you in any way they can."
Having lived in another senior facility outside of the area, she said her questions were typically answered with "I don't know." Now, all her questions are answered.
"And I do ask a lot of questions," Mulder said with a laugh.
To learn more about Senior Support of the Tri-Valley or for anyone interested in volunteering, call Peterson at 931-5378.