Local community planners and governments can learn from each other. For example, both Iowa and Louisiana are recovering from natural disasters, but in different ways. For localities forced to rebuild due to unforeseen circumstances, knowing which grants, programs, and solutions others are deploying can help. The Louisiana Commission on Aging, in compliance with the Older Americans Act, prepared this four-year strategic plan to measure their recovery efforts ahead.
The state of Louisiana is still recovering from the effects of storms Katrina, Ike and Rita. These natural disasters not only decimated Louisiana housing and infrastructure, but also caused a significant portion of the population to move out of state. Older residents who did return found their social networks negatively impacted. Add to that reduced funding for the Louisiana Commission on Aging, as well as a large and growing population of older, poor, and ethnically diverse residents, and it is clear Louisiana faces significant rebuilding challenges. Though progress is slow, there are solutions being implemented worth considering elsewhere.
Plan highlights include:
- Long before most states, Louisiana established a Department on Aging in the 1950’s. This longevity means there is a significant local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) infrastructure, as well as 32 local “parish councils on aging”. One outcome is that strategies set forward by local AAAs are more dominant than state initiatives in planning efforts, and local participation is strong. Understanding the parish approach may help local governments and community planners increase the level of participation among their senior populations in strategy development.
- Louisiana has two programs unique and worth noting. The first is an online training program using Moodle. Moodle is an open-source distance learning software that allows for online interaction. Using free, open-source options to provide training to seniors as a resource is a smart move. Louisiana saves money, time, and provides a needed service. The second is the Senior Rx program, which “assists older adults with the application to pharmaceutical companies for medication needs not covered on their prescription program and …with the annual enrollment in the Medicare Part D” (page 23). This is a program not seen in many State Age plans, and may be worth further examination by local planners.
- One final highlight is the development of a partnership by the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs (GOEA) and the Louisiana Civil Justice Center to provide legal help for seniors. Current efforts include the development of a legal help line, a “website with downloadable forms” and more. The partnership is working and expansion plans are in place.
How to Use
Local governments and planners can use the Louisiana State Plan on Aging in discovering new ways to increase local participation, provide pharmaceutical help for seniors, disaster relief planning, distance education/training options, and legal help. Louisiana is recovering. How they are recovering may inspire solutions elsewhere.
View full report: Louisiana State Plan on Aging – 2011-2015 (PDF – 1.3 MB)