The CNMI’s Aging Center is often mistaken as a nursing home for the island’s elderly and it is about time that this misconception be corrected, according to Aging Center executive director Walter Manglona.
“They mistake this place as a nursing home but it’s not. Our Aging Center functions like a daycare center for our senior citizens. They come here and avail of the services and return home after each day’s programs and activities,” explained Manglona in a recent visit to his office. He said he wants to enlighten the public on what the department’s role and functions are all about.
According to him, the center accommodates over 80 senior citizens daily. These are active elderly who physically participate in the activities offered at the center. He expects the number to grow as more applications are pending for review.
“We encourage them to come in everyday. If some of them are unable to take care of themselves, they can bring in their caregiver—either a family member or contracted caregiver—to come and take care of them because we don’t have certified nurse here to take care of each and every one of them,” Manglona told Saipan Tribune.
Apart from the active clientele—also referred to as congregates—the Aging Center also serves close to 200 bedridden man’amko, those with disabilities, and elderly members who live in secluded areas and villages, making it difficult for them to travel to the center. Free meals are delivered each day to the homes of these beneficiaries, along with free food for their providers and caregivers. These beneficiaries fall under the agency’s homebound program.
Since last year, Manglona said, the center has been seeing a continued growth in the number of its clientele. He described this as a positive development for the department, whose core mission is to serve and care for the island’s elderly.
He said that regular monitoring of the senior citizens’ health is among their prime objectives.
“We’ve been told by doctors that anything in moderation is fine for our man’amko. So we allow them to eat a little pastries now and again, but just in moderation. Additionally, we always encourage our visitors and guests to offer healthy food for our senior citizens,” he said. By doing so, everyone plays a role in caring for the island’s seniors, he added.
The Aging Center is under the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs. Most of its funding for operation are sourced from federal grants that pay for the services it provides to the elderly.
Saipan Tribune learned that under the Title III-B (Support Services Program), the man’amko are offered physical, mental, and social services and programs, including computer literacy, music class, arts and crafts, dance classes, water therapy, and off-island trips, among others.
The agency also receives funds from the federal Title III-C program, which is for the Nutrition Services Program, while Title III-D provides preventive health services such as health risk assessments, routine health screening, and nutritional counseling.
Title III-E, or the National Family Caregiver Support Services, allows the agency to help family members who care for individuals who are 60 years of age and older, grandparents, and other family members caring for children with developmental disabilities.
Aging Center clients are also protected under Title VII, which is for the Elder Abuse Prevention Program and Ombudsman. CNMI Public Law 9-21 provides for the protection of the elderly from physical and mental cruelty. They are provided legal assistance services. Under the Ombudsman program, staff conducts regular visits to the homes of the elderly to ensure that their health and safety, welfare, and rights are protected at all times.
The center also benefita from Title V, or the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which providea community service and part-time work-based training to eventually place participants in unsubsidized employment.