By Julia DiGiacomo
Johnson County would like to better serve the growing population of older adults with a new position.
Aging Specialist Jeff Kellbach has been hired to coordinate resources for the fastest growing demographic in the county. In his role, he will work with older adults and caregivers in order to identify their needs and connect them with the appropriate services. He will also provide outreach and educational services.
“Navigating the various systems such as health care, housing, and other appropriate services can be really challenging and confusing. It gets quite complex for older residents, caregivers, family members, even providers to navigate the different systems,” Johnson County Social Services Director Lynette Jacoby said. “The idea is that this position will help reduce the barriers to accessing services.”
Kellbach said he will be available to help individuals and their families out with an assessment of their needs.
“I can be the first person that they really communicate with to try to figure out plans,” Kellbach said. “Because really, people are going to be in different levels of needs in terms of the different types of services and resources.”
Some of the services available could include in-home providers, medical care, homemaker services, adult day services, independent living for seniors, assisted living, nursing facilities, hospice services, and more.
“What’s helpful is we have so many tremendous services and resources in the community,” Kellbach said.
Jacoby said the plan is also to have Kellbach develop caregiver-support programs in the community.
“Being a caregiver is an extremely stressful job. It’s underappreciated, undervalued, and labor-intensive,” Jacoby said. “Identifying and offering some support services for caregivers is key. We’re really lacking that in our community.”
Jacoby said Kellbach will also provide educational outreach on older-adult issues in the community and maintain the extensive online directory of provider services on the Johnson County website.
The role of Aging Specialist is a response to the growing number of older adults in need of assistance.
Jacoby said the 65-and-older demographic is the fastest growing age cohort in the county. Over the last eight years, the group’s population has increased by 33 percent. In comparison, he said, the next fastest growing age group, 18- to 24-year-olds increased by 12 percent.
“It’s an astounding difference. Our aging population is growing much more quickly than any other age cohort for our area,” Jacoby said. “With that definitely comes a need for services, and Johnson County is responding to those growing needs.”
Kellbach has worked with older adults for nearly 20 years. His most recent role was executive director of Pathways Adult Day Health Care.
“Personally, I’ve worked with [Kellbach] through different boards and committees, and I know he’s going to be a great advocate for older adults in the communities,” Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center program specialist Michelle Buhman said. “There’s a growing need and a growing population of older adults in Johnson County, and I’m hoping by having that particular position, it will allow people to connect with the services that are located here a little bit easier.”