Unveiling a local gem: EBR Council on Aging provides not only meals but a lifeline to those who need it

Sponsored by East Baton Rouge Council on Aging

At the core of our community lies a cornerstone of support and compassion – the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging. While many know the Council on Aging for its Meals on Wheels program, a vast number of services and resources are just waiting to be discovered.

Established in 1973, the agency just celebrated its 50th anniversary. It operates as a nonprofit and quasi-governmental agency under the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs. Today, it encompasses a network of senior centers in every corner of East Baton Rouge Parish, affordable housing communities, commercial kitchens and a new administrative building. At the heart of its mission are two vital pillars: tackling senior hunger and eliminating social isolation for seniors.

Under CEO Tasha Clark-Amar’s leadership, EBRCOA has grown tremendously and is delivering on the objectives set forth following a 2016 property tax increase that significantly raised the agency’s budget. With funding streams of about $14 million annually, the agency provides events and activities available to nearly 100,000 seniors throughout the parish.

Along with frozen meals delivered weekly to its Meals on Wheels recipients, the EBRCOA serves daily hot meals at its centers for seniors to enjoy together. Lotus Food Pantry provides an opportunity to shop in a supermarket-structured food pantry at no cost.

Lotus Village Senior Community, consisting of 116 affordable housing units, addresses both soaring housing costs and accessibility issues. Lotus Rides Transportation Department operates buses equipped with wheelchair accessible options to bring seniors to and from centers, doctor appointments and agency events.

Its 23 senior activity centers – including the cutting-edge Lotus Center in downtown Baton Rouge, as well as three newly opened sites at Antioch and in Central and Zachary – are strategically situated throughout the parish, offering abundant opportunities for socialization, mental and emotional stimulation and physical fitness to support seniors in maintaining their cognitive and physical abilities and help prevent social isolation.

“We keep them active, and we give them activities to look forward to on a day-to-day basis,” says Angell Jackson Kennedy, the agency’s Chief Marketing and Information Officer.

In times of uncertainty, trained staff offer a lifeline to those navigating the complexities of aging, helping with Medicare and Medicaid questions, utility assistance and obtaining supplies like durable medical equipment. EBRCOA serves as the designated disaster agency for seniors of the parish with the charge to ensure their safety during disasters and weather emergencies. The staff serves as more than just administrators; they’re compassionate companions, providing support and reassurance when it’s needed most.

“Oftentimes, we have a conversation with a senior and realize that without us, they would not have anyone to lean on or to check in on them,” Kennedy says. “We are their family.”

EBRCOA plays a crucial role in enriching the lives of our elderly population while simultaneously serving as a wise investment for taxpayers. By investing in programs that promote healthy aging and independence, the agency effectively reduces healthcare costs associated with chronic conditions and hospitalizations. Preventative measures such as wellness programs and access to nutritious meals not only improve overall health outcomes but also alleviate the strain on our healthcare system.

Moreover, EBRCOA’s efforts extend beyond individual benefits to encompass the well-being of the entire community. By ensuring that our seniors receive the care and support they need to thrive, we create a ripple effect that positively impacts everyone.

“We have stood on our seniors’ shoulders to be where we are today,” Kennedy says. “I think it’s only fair and wise to give back to them. Our role here is to continue to make room for them and allow them to continue to feel vital, independent and valuable as they age.”

To learn more about any of the EBRCOA services, call 225.923.8000 or visit online at ebrcoa.org/services-application/ to apply for services.