The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 12, 2009

New group aims to help senior citizens

Agencies, firms invited to join network

By Wayne Laepple

MILTON -- About 170 regional agencies have been targeted to join a new organization that aims to become a clearinghouse of information for senior citizens.

Richard Smith, of Turbotville, is the brainchild of the River Valley Senior Providers Group, which held its second meeting Wednesday morning.

"Our purpose is to set up a network, to serve senior citizens better," said Smith, who participated in a similar organization in Maryland. "We want to help seniors in any way we can."

Smith has identified 169 regional agencies and companies that could be part of the new organization. Fifty-one have joined or expressed interest.

Smith and others spent three months developing a plan and setting up River Valley as a nonprofit organization. At its first official meeting in January, a board of directors and officers were elected.

In Anne Arundel County, Md., where Smith lived before moving to Northumberland County, a similar organization, Partners in Care, had more than 450 members, he said.

Smith hopes River Valley can achieve similar success in its region of Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties.

Representatives of the respective counties' Area Agency on Aging offices are supporting the effort, Smith said, along with others interested in elder issues, including attorneys, financial services providers and transportation agencies.

Linda West, of Elder Care Solutions, of Williamsport, and Roger Leight, a specialist in elder issues with financial services company Primeamerica, spoke about their services at Wednesday's meeting, held in Christ Wesleyan Church.

West works with regional agencies to provide guardianships, power of attorney and representative payee services for people who may have no one else to assist them. Elder Care Solutions also assists people with selling property or auctioning personal items, for example, and provides court-ordered guardianship if relatives or friends are unable to do so. It also makes arrangements to pay utility bills and rent for people unable to manage their funds.

Leight specializes in advising people on how to preserve and transfer assets to loved ones and helping them to have sufficient funds to live out their lives without becoming impoverished.

Only about 40 percent of Americans have a will, he said. If someone without a will dies, a substantial portion of his estate may end up going to the state rather than to heirs. Leight also emphasized the need for planning and saving well in advance to avoid bankruptcy late in life.

Smith said he has met many regional residents who do not have a will or someone to help them if they need financial or medical assistance or long-term care. He envisions River Valley as a source of information for these people.

Smith said the organization has set up a Web site, www.rvspg.org, and plans a quarterly electronic newsletter.

In addition, River Valley plans to publish a free directory of services available to seniors for distribution throughout the seven-county region. Work has started on the directory, Smith said, and it should be ready for publication by April or May.

n E-mail comments to wlaepple@dailyitem.com.