BRATTLEBORO -- Senior Solutions Executive Director Joyce Lemire knows it is not going to make her a popular person, but after facing three years of steep budget cuts, the organization has been forced to close its office in the Gibson Aiken Center.
The office will close on Aug. 8.
Senior Solutions, which was formally known as the Council on Aging for Southeastern Vermont, is one of five area agencies in Vermont that works with seniors to make sure they are receiving all of the services they need.
The office in the Gibson Aiken Center has been particularly productive, Lemire said, because it is close to the Brattleboro Senior Center and it gave case workers there access to seniors who may need help.
But after contending with cuts of up to 3 percent in each of the past few years, and additional federal and state cuts projected for next year, Lemire said the organization has been forced to make some hard decisions.
"It was really not my first choice, but something had to give," Lemire said. "We are struggling to do more with less money."
Senior Solutions is going to continue to staff its office in the Municipal Center, but Lemire knows it is going to be harder for some seniors to get over there.
The group wanted to consolidate its offices at the Gibson Aiken Center, since it made more sense to be near the seniors, but the town did not have space there, and the decision was made to move its two downtown offices
Over the past few years Senior Solutions has lost three staff members in Brattleboro.
Lemire is encouraging clients, and their families, to use the organization’s phone service, the Senior HelpLine, to access services.
Lemire said the budget cuts are especially challenging because Vermont has one of the fastest aging populations in the country, and over the past few years the number of people seeking services has increased while the funding levels have fallen.
Since 2010 Senior Solutions has reduced its budget by more than $183,000, while trying to maintain services such as the 25 meals programs.
A few years ago the group closed its office in Bellows Falls and Lemire said additional cuts are being spread out across their service area in Windham and Windsor counties.
Lemire said the challenges will continue next year when an additional $140,000 to $160,000 in budget reductions are anticipated.
"We know people are used to having face to face contact but we are being forced to change how we do business," Lemire said. " Our board is working very hard to come up with ways to be more efficient. We are committed to our mission which is to help elderly stay safe and healthy, and remain at home, but the trendline is not encouraging."
To talk about possible services, or to find out more information on Senior Solutions call 800-642-5119.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow on Twitter @HowardReformer.