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By Kay Vanags, LifeLong Links (ADRC) Director

Aging Resources has for nearly 50 years been the “Experts on Aging” in Central Iowa, but as of 2014, we were charged by the Iowa Department on Aging with becoming a resource for adults with disabilities as well.  As one of the six Area Agencies on Aging in Iowa, we became the local coordination center for the statewide Aging and Resource Center (ADRC) program, LifeLong Links.  This was new territory for our agency, but we began to create a new system that included persons 18 years of age or older who have any type of physical, educational, developmental, or emotional disability.

Nationally, Aging and Disability Resource Centers are intended to be the “point of entry” for older adults, persons with disabilities, their caregivers, and Veterans in accessing long term services and supports (LTSS), however Aging Resources does not receive federal support for our ADRC.  Unfortunately, the allocations that we receive from the State of Iowa to assist disabled persons under 60 years of age are failing to adequately address the significant needs of these citizens.

Aging Resources, as the local ADRC, offers our callers/clients connection to answers. As people age or deal with disabilities, they may need services to live independently in their community.  They may not know the questions to ask or what services are available to maintain their desired living situation.  ADRCs are meant to educate consumers on different programs such as the Older Americans Act, Medicaid, Medicare, state, and local programs as well as services for Veterans. Based on their unique situations, wants, and needs, the Options Counselors at Aging Resources will discuss all possible solutions and, if needed, “walk beside “the person in arranging the requested services. Once the consumer has learned what they wanted to know and established the services that they requested, they can move forward in living their lives, saving their money and ultimately to live as they choose.

To enhance our services to these new customers, Aging Resources established a LifeLong Links (LLL) Advisory Board which consists of organizations that have for years served persons with different types of disabilities.  Bringing all these groups together has been a gratifying assignment.  Never have agencies that work with such diverse health issues had a forum to meet and discuss their programs.

As of 5-2020, Aging Resources’ LifeLong Links Advisory Board consists of the following members:

ALS Association Iowa Chapter – Krista Strait-Higgens

American Lung Association – Alyssa DePhillips

Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa- Annie Randolph

Central Iowa Center for Independent Living – Laura Gibson

Consumer Representative – Lloyd Hughes

Disability Rights Iowa – Jami Johns

EveryStep – Hannah Rivas

Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity – Lisa Wright

IA Association of Community Providers – Megan Hartwig

Iowa Department for the Blind – Kim Barber

Iowa Department of Human Services – Lauren Templeman

Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs – Bob Steben

Iowa Department on Aging – Pam Mollenhauer

Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services – Kelley Rice

Parkinson’s Association – Sydney Petersen

Senior Health Insurance Information Program – Becky Groff

United Way – 211 – Melissa McCoy

The sharing of information and the opportunity to discuss common concerns has been welcomed by all 18 members. As we have continued to add organizations that serve persons with disabilities, we have learned from each other and increased our working knowledge of where to refer clients. The creation of this partnership was the first step in Aging Resources becoming “Experts on Disabilities” too.