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Giving Elders Good Counsel on Aging

August 10, 2000|LYNN O'DELL

"In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes."

--Benjamin Franklin

As Victoria McKemy sees it, Franklin didn't have it quite right when he penned the famous line. He forgot about aging.

"We are all either old or going to be old," said McKemy, president of the Council on Aging-Orange County and a Garden Grove resident. "We may not all get arthritis or heart disease, but we're all going to age."

That universal truth is the reason McKemy, 52, has served on the council's board for six years and is embarking on a second term as president of the largest nonprofit program in the county for senior citizens.

Statistics on the graying of Orange County back her up. The older-than-60 population--391,000 this year--is projected to jump to 733,000 by 2020, while the 30-to-39 age group decreases from the present 509,000 to 357,000, said James L. Doti, president of Chapman University and a professor of business and economics at the private school.

The demand for affordable home health-care aides and supportive services is expected to double as well, Doti has said.

McKemy has seen the council grow from a budget of $200,000 to $1 million and from one major program to four. More space and staff have been added to the Santa Ana office as well.

The organization, started in 1973, is known best for operating Long Term Care Ombudsman Services, a program that works to protect the rights of the 25,000 older adults living in nursing homes and board-and-care facilities, said Pamala McGovern, executive director.

In 1997, the council added the Financial Abuse Specialist Team, which investigates complaints of financial abuse of the elderly, and the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program in 1998. It offers educational counseling to beneficiaries of Medicare, supplemental health insurance and health-maintenance organizations.

The newest program, Linkages, helps seniors stay in their homes and out of nursing homes by connecting them with existing programs to solve problems such as transportation, meals and dressing.

In its first six months, Linkages handled 60 cases and is expected to deal with 100 more before the end of the year, McGovern said.

"Some people need to be in nursing homes, but most people don't want to be in them. They want to stay in their homes," McKemy said. "My in-laws in Buena Park and my parents in Las Vegas are in their late 70s and early 80s. We need to get the message out to people in their 50s on how to arrange things for parents."

McKemy is a health-care consultant with a background in accounting and a graduate degree in health care administration. She got involved with the council when a friend asked her to volunteer. Now she spends about 20 hours a month on council business. She travels extensively and admits that "squeezing it all in can be a big challenge."

Why does she do it?

"We all think about doing something special for seniors at holiday time," she said. "The council does this year-round. That's what works for me."

In the coming year, the council will focus on pending legislation that might affect seniors and make a push to educate the clergy about council services.

Other officers for 2000-01 are Vice President Judith Goffin of Yorba Linda, Secretary Nancy Whyte of Fullerton and Treasurer Harry Kipp of Newport Beach. New board members include the Rev. Donald Keopke of Anaheim, Linda Bradley of Irvine and Michele Klein of Newport Beach.

For more information, (714) 479-0107.

To be considered for this column, please send information on the person being honored along with a photograph to Lynn O'Dell, The Times' Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. (714) 283-5685.

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