From left, Les Newson of Great Neck, Margaret Matthews of...

From left, Les Newson of Great Neck, Margaret Matthews of Garden City, and James Grant of Westbury, hold posters for the new Empowering Our Seniors initiative at the Long Island Alzheimer's Foundation in Port Washington. (October 24, 2011) Credit: Barry Sloan

A public awareness campaign on issues affecting seniors and the programs available to them was announced Monday by the Mental Health Association of Nassau County, citing the region's growing elderly population.

Noting the oldest of the "Baby Boom" generation, who were born in 1946, are 65 years old, John Javis said they are now part of the "elder boom." The elderly comprise 15.3 percent of Nassau's population, or about 204,600 people.

Islandwide, the number of those 65 and up grew by more than 10 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to census data, and experts expect the trend to continue.

"Are we prepared to meet their needs?" Javis, director of special projects at the nonprofit group, said at a news conference at the Long Island Alzheimer's Foundation in Port Washington.

"Despite the economic recession, this issue is not going away," Javis said. He called on government at all levels to provide "sufficient funding" for the elderly's needs.

With a $70,000 grant from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, located in Manhasset, the Mental Health Association teamed with the Nassau County Office of the Aging, the Alzheimer's Foundation and South Oaks Hospital-Broadlawn Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center to devise a public awareness campaign focused on five areas: depression and suicide, Alzheimer's and dementia, encouraging seniors to age in their own homes, the dangers of mixing prescription medications and alcohol, and the needs of caregivers.

Campaign posters, brochures and planned presentations to community groups are part of the association's plan to encourage Nassau's senior citizens and care givers to learn what's available.

"We're getting that message out there to the community that there's help," said Lisa Murphy, Nassau County Commissioner of Human Services. She urged seniors or their caregivers to call the county's Office of the Aging help line at 516-227-8900.

"There is still life worth living after an Alzheimer's diagnosis," said Alana Rosenstein, director of early stage programs at the Alzheimer's foundation.

Thane Matthews, 55, of Garden City, said his 98-year-old mother, Margaret, is more engaged after she has participated in an adult day care program at the Alzheimer's foundation. "It really cheers her up. She's more talkative."

Other help lines for information: the Alzheimer's Foundation, at 516-767-6856; and the Mental Health Association, 516-504-HELP. Community groups interested in presentations on aging can call the Mental Health Association at 516-489-2322, ext. 1111.

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