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TAOA report touts better meal program & smart phones for seniors

TAOA sign
Timely reporting has resulted in eligibility for increased levels of funding

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Compliant with federal funding requirements, improvements in the the meal program and funding to purchase smart phones for senior citizens, are some of the achievements by the Territorial Administration on Aging (TAOA) in 2021 cited in the Governor’s State of the Territory Comprehensive Report distributed to lawmakers earlier this month.

According to the report, TAOA continues to improve its relationship and levels of trust with federal grantors through its efforts to remain totally compliant with federal funding requirements.

“Policies and procedures in collecting and timely reporting of program information and activities has resulted in TAOA's eligibility for increased levels of funding available not only to improve, but to develop additional programs,” the report said.

And this close working relationship has resulted in more varied and improved levels of service to the seniors of the Territory.

For the meal program, the report said TAOA initiated in January last year contract bidding for a “Congregate Home Delivery Meal” program which enabled seniors to be served in a restaurant setting rather than in rented church halls as was previously done.

And in May of last year, the local restaurants — Maliu Mai, Night Hawk, Shan J’s, Ai Love Boba, and Emelio’s —  successfully completed and initiated the Congregate Home Delivery Meal.

“The overwhelming success of the program's restaurant-based meal program has resulted in a significant increase in the number of seniors enrolling in TAOA's programs,” said TAOA in the report and notes that FY 2020 had 1,562 active participants, and FY 2021 saw an increase to 1,897 active participants.

Lawmakers and others in the community have long disagreed with having seniors go to church halls and other designated sites for their meals and would prefer the previous method of issuance of food coupons allowing seniors to purchase what they want. However, federal grantor regulations prohibited food coupons.

According to the report, TAOA was also able to secure free transportation to the restaurants for seniors. Two aiga bus companies contracted to transport seniors from the far eastern, far western and north shore villages to restaurant meal sites and to deliver to those who are not able to travel.

This service has enabled TAOA to ensure all seniors have regular and reliable access to their three hot meals on a weekly basis, the report points out.

Another achievement cited in the governor’s report for TAOA is funding for the “No Wrong Door” initiative. TAOA, in partnership with the University Centers for Excellence in Development Disabilities (UCEDD), applied for and received a grant of $300,000 aimed at providing individuals with connectivity during the pandemic. TAOA targeted $100,000 to address the specific needs of the senior citizens community.

“The No Wrong Door initiative empowers individuals to make informed decisions, to exercise control over their long-term care needs, and to achieve their personal goals and preferences,” said TAOA in the report.

And funding is being utilized to purchase seventy smart phones, including one year of internet service, to be provided to individuals who are identified as being wheelchair-bound.

Recipients of the phones will receive instruction on how to use the features of the phones and how to avoid becoming victims to online scams. Furthermore, 24-hour access to the internet will ensure seniors who have reduced mobility and access to the community will not become even more vulnerable to physical and mental health concerns through the lack of communication with family, friends and the medical community.

The report also said that a “major and recent accomplishment” of TAOA is the leasing of a wheelchair-accessible van, which will be used to transport the most vulnerable members of our island's population — the wheelchair bound.

The Wheels on Wheels' program provides wheelchair-bound senior citizens and their caregivers the opportunity to overcome obstacles heightened by the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic that have resulted in limited access to necessary health care facilities, nutritional programs, social interactions and local self-improvement programs, the overall goal being to limit possible exposure to COVID-19, and reduce the psychological impact of isolation, tendency toward self-neglect, and vulnerability to financial exploitation and/or other forms of abuse.

Another achievement for TAOA is the computer lab for senior citizens. In partnership with the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, TAOA recently built a computer lab, which will enable seniors the time and place to learn how to successfully navigate through technology in the world of a pandemic.

Areas of learning include but are not be limited to:

• How to apply for TALOFAPASS and Safe Travels Hawaii websites

• How to safely utilize social media

• How to avoid online scams

• Approved medical sites for information purposes

• Basic word processing

Another achievement for TAOA is the newly developed adult protective services program. In February last year, TAOA applied for and was awarded funding to fully develop an Adult Protective Services Program for American Samoa.

Since April of 2021, the program has hired a Program Manager to establish TAOA's Adult Protective Service program and to develop basic policies and procedures to guide the program in its initial stages.

TAOA plans to announce in the future, new developments on this program.