The ongoing—and increasingly difficult—challenges related to COVID-19 continue to mount in Marion County and around the globe. On the home front, healthcare professionals and community leaders are waging a mighty battle to keep the population safe and help those who are struggling. One local couple has joined the campaign by making a financial gift especially targeted to help senior citizens.
Jennifer Martinez, executive director of Marion Senior Services Inc. (MSS), has announced that Stan and Martha Hanson recently made a donation of $50,000 to the agency.
MSS helps disabled and disadvantaged elderly residents maintain independent living by providing transportation, adult day care, in-home and in-facility respite, home-delivered meals, emergency alert response, personal care, homemaking, nutrition education, case management and emergency energy assistance. MSS is the county’s lead agency for the Department of Elder Affairs.
In announcing the donation, MSS noted that “in studying the numbers and trends of COVID-19, one thing is glaringly obvious and sounds an alarm to many: The virus has a predilection for the elderly population.”
According to MSS, based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Census Bureau and the WellFlorida Council Inc., the demographics of the county include the fact that, “Marion County is one of just four counties in the United States with more than a third of the population aged 60 or more, a population of at least 100,000, and very high CDC Social Vulnerability Index of .75 or more.”
Marion County’s population is 368,463, of which 38 percent are age 60 or older, according to MSS. Of those, 28 percent are age 65 or older and “more than half of this number, 15.5 percent, is comprised of people aged 65-74, compared to 10.5 percent for the state.”
The agency also notes that more county residents live in rural areas—38.9 percent—as compared to the statewide total of 10.7 percent. And, for the past decade, Marion County has generally been ranked in the lowest one-half to one-third of the 67 counties in Florida on health outcomes such as length of life and quality of life.
The MSS news release states that, “The age distribution is significant because healthcare needs of older adults tend to be more demanding and costly. Living in rural areas is also significant because access to immediate health needs is generally not as convenient or readily available. With hospitals and care centers packed from the current pandemic, basic non-emergency health needs for seniors are largely not considered a priority at the moment. Thus, the need for health care and essential services for the senior population is greater and, in some ways, harder to come by. Hence, the Hansons recognizing the help that can be adequately provided through such a large donation.”
“We have observed all that is being done for those who are unemployed, and the many efforts to help the children of our community,” the Hansons offered in the news release. “We felt a need to also extend a hand to our senior citizens who may not be getting the deserving attention they require in coping with the complications of the COVID-19 situation. And, importantly, to recognize the great work of Marion Senior Services.”
The Hansons also have given generously in many other areas of the community, such as recent donations to help the newly-formed Marion Ballet Collaborative bring The Nutcracker to the stage last year and the Humane Society of Marion County get its “Magic Bark Bus” reading initiative on the road. They also provide ongoing support through the Adam Hanson Communities Fund, in honor and memory of their son.
Martinez noted in the release that, “In times of strife, a community’s courage will be tested.”
“I’m proud to say that the greater Ocala community is one of compassion, fortitude, and generosity, and having wonderful advocates and philanthropists such as Martha and Stan Hanson stepping up and helping us is what having a heart is all about,” she added. “It is generous acts such as this that ensure our seniors will undoubtedly receive the care their very lives depend upon.”
For more information about Marion Senior Services, (352) 620-3501 or visit www.MarionSeniorServices.org.