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Seniors’ Economic Struggles Continue This Holiday; Santa Program Provides Assistance


Senior gift requests are expected to be up again this holiday season amid worries about the threat of declining benefits and the economy.

Be a Santa to a Senior®, the popular campaign that has delivered 1.5 million gifts to needy seniors throughout North America during the past seven years, is gearing up again this holiday, according to the Home Instead Senior Care® network, the world’s largest provider of non-medical, in-home care services for seniors.

The program relaunches during a time when already-nervous seniors faced the threat of Social Security payment delays as part of the debt-ceiling debate earlier this year. These older adults have lost nearly one-third (32 percent) of their buying power since 2000, according to the Annual Survey of Senior Costs from The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), a senior advocacy organization.

The area office of the Home Instead Senior Care network, the world’s largest provider of non-medical in-home care and companionship services for older adults, has partnered with the State of Alaska: Department of Public Advocacy, Alzheimer’s Resource Agency of Alaska, Alaska Community Services, Salvation Army: Serendipity Adult Day Services and Providence Extended Care Center, as well as Lake Otis Medical Plaza and Lake Otis Professional and Medical Center to provide gifts and companionship to seniors who otherwise might not receive either this holiday season.

In North America, the program has attracted upwards of 65,000 volunteers during the past seven years distributing gifts to deserving seniors. Since introducing the Be a Santa to a Senior program, the Home Instead Senior Care network has helped provide gifts to more than 750,000 seniors

“Older adults continue to struggle in a down economy, particularly those who live alone with no family nearby,” said Stacee Frost, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Anchorage. What’s more, seniors have lost almost one-third of their buying power since 2000, TSCL’s annual survey reported.

In most years, seniors receive a small increase in their Social Security checks, intended to help them keep up with the costs of inflation. But since 2000, the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) has increased just 31 percent, while typical senior expenses have jumped 73 percent, according to the survey.

In 2011, for the second consecutive year, seniors received no COLA. Before 2010, seniors had received a COLA every year since 1975, when the automatic COLA was introduced. What’s more, seniors can expect to receive only a very small COLA next year, TSCL reported.

Be a Santa to a Senior isn’t just about gifts, though. The program is designed to give back to those needy seniors as well as to help stimulate human contact and social interaction for older adults who are unlikely to have guests during the holidays.

Here’s how the program works: Before the holiday season, the participating local nonprofit organizations will identify needy and isolated seniors in the community and provide those names to the local Home Instead Senior Care office for this community service program. Christmas trees, which will go up in Lake Otis Medical Plaza, 4100 Lake Otis Pkwy and Lake Otis Professional & Medical Center, 4050 Lake Otis Pkwy, on November 14 through December 16, will feature ornaments with the first names only of the seniors and their gift requests.

Holiday shoppers can pick up an ornament, buy items on the list and return them unwrapped to the store, along with the ornament attached. The local Home Instead Senior Care office then enlists the volunteer help of its staff, senior-care business associates, nonprofit workers and others to collect, wrap and distribute the gifts. A community gift-wrapping event, when hundreds of the presents will be wrapped, will be held on December 17.

“Be a Santa to a Senior is a way to show our gratitude to those older adults who have contributed so much to our community,” Frost said. “We hope to reach out to many with this gesture of holiday cheer and goodwill. We know holiday shoppers will open their hearts to those seniors who have given so much to make our community a better place,” she added.

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering to help with the community gift-wrapping event, contact Hal Keisor at 907-277-4663. Businesses are encouraged to contact the local Home Instead Senior Care office about adopting groups of seniors. For tree locations, or for more information about the program, visit www.beasantatoasenior.com.

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Editor’s Note: For more information about Be a Santa to a Senior, or to arrange photos on gift-wrapping day, contact Julie Swartz at 888-296-2411, ext. 2.



Home Instead Senior Care® of Anchorage  is part of the Home Instead Senior Care network, the world's largest provider of non-medical in-home care services for seniors, with more than 900 independently owned and operated franchises throughout the country.  The Home Instead Senior Care network provides basic support services – activities of daily living (ADLs), personal care, medication reminders, meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands, incidental transportation and shopping – which enable seniors to live safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible. At Home Instead Senior Care, we provide superior quality service that enhances the lives of seniors in the  Anchorage area.


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