Keota Milestones closes doors

            October 30 was the final meal day served at the Keota Milestones Area Agency on Aging. This is due to actions taken to close eight senior meal centers, or reduce the number of meals served weekly. The closure of the low-participation sites is an attempt to become more cost effective while serving the most seniors possible, a media release stated recently.

            Chuck White, caretaker of the Keota site said, “This is coming from budget cuts all the way from Washington D.C. down the pike.”

            While residents of Keota are left without a meal site of their own, Pam Taylor, Services Director said that there is currently a contract with 10-15 transportation services, and senior citizens are urged to call and arrange transportation to the Sigourney location in order to continue to receive the benefits of nutrition from the meals offered.

            Among the other Keokuk County locations closing or being reduced is Delta, which will go to three days per week and What Cheer and Hedrick will no longer offer home delivery for residents.

            “Most of the sites closed in Iowa were in Scott County where there are many other options. We made sure that Keokuk County maintained one full-time facility in order to provide for our seniors. We looked into many options and cut budget in other areas including lowering the mileage reimbursement for our volunteer drivers,” Pam Taylor stated. “This is something that we may have to revisit in the future. If there are home-bound clients who have no other way of getting proper nutrition and meals, they are encouraged to let us know so we can look into other options.”

            Other options may include frozen meals that would be delivered weekly, but there have not been any definite plans of implementing this in the near future.

            “Younger seniors are not using the community sites, while older seniors often ask for only home delivery. This seems to be the new trend across the country whereby congregate meal centers are not being utilized as they had been when established in the 1970’s. Other Iowa area agencies on aging began reducing their number of meal centers in 2015. We are thankful that we are able to keep the remaining 48 centers and home-deliveries going, especially in the rural areas where possible,” Taylor said.

            The meal program operates with limited funds from federal and state money as well as donations and voluntary contributions. Changes in recent funding sources, recent reductions and low levels of contributions have had an effect on the overall program.

            According to Milestones, the closing of these sites has been a difficult task on many levels, focusing on keeping the needs of the seniors in mind while meeting budgetary direction and communicating the efforts to staff who are affected along with community churches and centers that this will also impact.

            “Closing a site is never a good option,” Taylor said. “Our focus is to keep one center per county open for five day a week deliveries.

            With the closings and changes of home-deliveries, Milestones will still continue to sponsor 48 senior meal centers serving nearly 2,700 seniors more than 35,000 monthly to anyone age 60 and over and their spouse. More than 473,590 meals were served in 2017.

            Keokuk County residents are encouraged to contact the Sigourney Milestones Area on Aging if they have any questions at 641-622-3266. The center is located at 214 S. Main Street.