By Brittani Holsey

        As the temperature quickly sinks to the freezing range and the winds continue to pick up to welcome the winter season, the Kalamazoo elderly seek help in staying warm.

            In Kalamazoo county 19.2 percent of people live below the poverty line, which is the under national average, according to the 2012 U.S Census. Of that number, 10 percent are above 65 years old.

            “When you become a senior you are physically unable to work, you are on a fixed income,” said Judy Adlam, social worker for the Kalamazoo County Area Agency on Aging, about many senior citizens in Kalamazoo. “When you are on a fixed income the cost of living goes up and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it.”

            According to the Community Action Agency, many elderly need its services.  Kalamazoo County does offer programs and assistance for senior citizens whose residences are in need of weatherization.

            “We provide weatherization for income qualified individuals and families,” Amber Leverette of the Community Action Agency said. “That definitely does include the elderly.”

            But that is quickly changing. Due to a new protocol in Kalamazoo, resources are becoming more difficult to come by for the elderly. “The state energy relief program is a program people can also apply for to help weatherize their homes, which is offered through [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services],” Adlam said. The program used to be available year-round and now is only available November through May.

            Another reason that the elderly cannot afford the cost of heating their homes is the rising cost of healthcare. Seniors need a lot of health support and much of their spendable money on fixed-incomes goes to medication and other health-related expenses.  “The cost of insurance, medicine, and healthcare go up over time, but for [seniors] their income stays the same,” said Adlam.

            As the poverty in Kalamazoo increases, the need for support of these programs is also greatly growing. With the city budget in deficit and revenue streams dwindling, funds for these county departments are shrinking.

            “We have demonstrated need financially,” Adlam said. “I would love to see more attention placed on the aging population.”

Although the programs are in place to help the elderly, the large numbers in need mean wait lists for these programs, and the wait lists are growing.

            For more information on the weatherization programs offered or to find out more information contact the Kalamazoo County Area Agency on Aging at #269-373-5147.

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