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Senior Spectrum Newspaper
Novembr 2017
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Golden Pages
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Senior Spectrum Publications

Elder Gap Services Program
by Donna Clontz
Chair, Reno Senior Citizen Advisory Committee
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Donna Clontz
Donna Clontz

Several years ago, I asked Joti Bhakta, the head social worker for seniors at the Washoe County Senior Center, how our Reno committee could use some of our funds to help more Reno seniors. She told me that there are times when government funds and grants do not cover the critical needs of an atrisk elder. There are sometimes gaps in service that can prevent these frail elders from remaining in good health and living here in our community. For example, if a person qualifies for home-delivered meals (Meals on Wheels) but does not have a microwave to heat the food, the county has no funds in that program to provide a microwave. If we could create a “gap fund” that could pay for low cost short-term needs like this, this would really make a difference in their lives.

The county did not have the ability to take a direct donation from our committee for this and did not have staff to manage this new program idea. I asked Dr. Larry Weiss at the nonprofit Center for Healthy Aging, if he would be willing to work with the county to receive referrals and manage the funds for this new project. He agreed, and the Elder Gap Services Program was born. Today, referrals are also received from other senior-serving organizations such as Northern Nevada HOPES and Home Instead Senior Care.

Basically, when agencies have an elderly Reno client in need of a short term, low cost “gap service”, the agency makes a referral in writing to the Center for Healthy Aging. Center staff interviews the client and involved agency workers, verifies the need for service and arranges to fill the need. Here are a few of the stories of seniors helped by the Elder Gap Program this year:


Rebecca, 66, lives on a limited income and could not pay for her medication and also fix her broken water heater, so had no hot water. Elder Gap paid to repair her heater.

Janice, 74, lives in a weekly motel and is applying for permanent, low income housing, but has a past due utility bill that will keep her from qualifying. Elder Gap paid the bill, so now her credit is clear.

Bill, 84 and disabled, has diabetes and needed diabetic shoes to prevent foot complications associated with his diabetes. Elder Gap bought him the special shoes.

Jennifer, 57 and disabled, was affected by this winter’s rains and flooding when her roof leaked and water dripped onto her electric heater causing a fire danger. She was without heat and afraid of losing her Section 8 housing. Elder Gap funds were used to repair the roof and the heater.

Robert, 69, was working with the Senior Law Project to avoid eviction. He was unable to pay rent for April and May, including utilities, due to loss of employment and predatory lenders. Senior Law lawyers assisted Robert with his legal issues, and Elder Gap funds were used to pay his landlord the past due rent so Robert could stay in his home.

There are so many other seniors in the community who need a little extra help. All these elders are so grateful for the help that allows them to remain living safely and securely in the community.

If you would like more information or would like to donate to the Elder Gap program please contact the Center for Healthy Aging at 775-376-3210, or Donna at 775-240-2745,