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Senior needs such as proper nutrition, transportation to medical appointments and home health assistance are especially challenging and urgent to address among populations with lower incomes and in more rural areas, and the Houston-Galveston Area Council's regional Area Agencies on Aging is available to help fill some of those gaps, H-GAC Manager Mallory Freitag-Hejja said.

While Harris County has its own Area Agency on Aging, for 12 surrounding counties—including Montgomery County—the H-GAC serves as the Area Agency on Aging to provide a number of services free of charge.

The agencies exist not just in Texas—which has 28 such agencies—but across the country. Within Texas, the agencies contract with Texas Health and Human Services, but collaboration with local community organizations is also crucial to providing services, Freitag-Hejja said.

"Montgomery County is one that we're really prioritizing on re-establishing some [community partnerships]," she said. "We used to have ... more of a partnership with Lone Star College and, you know, there are a few other entities that we really worked quite often with, and we have some strong partnerships that ... we're trying to build up a little bit."

The context

Freitag-Hejja said the agency contracts with Meals on Wheels Montgomery County and with senior centers for congregate meals, home-delivered meals, transportation and other services. The regional center serving Montgomery County is located in Conroe.

The agency provides services to adults age 60 and over through collaborations with local community organizations as well as volunteers. According to the AAA, the agencies prioritize those who:

  • Are members of low-income and underrepresented groups
  • Have limited communication and/or speaking abilities
  • Reside in rural areas
  • Are disabled
  • Live with dementia
  • Are informal caregivers

All of the programs are free of cost for the person receiving service, with no requirements tied to income or resources for eligibility. The recipient only needs to be at least 60 years old.

Programs available through the agency include:
  • Health education classes
  • Nutrition services, such as home-delivered meals and congregate meals
  • Transportation services
  • Referrals to community-based resources
  • An ombudsman program to advocate for nursing home and assisted-living residents
  • Help with Medicare, benefits counseling and legal assistance
What else?

Some of the other services the agency can assist with are providing support and relief to caregivers. For example, Freitag-Hejja said the agency can help pay for nutritional supplements, such as Boost and Ensure, which are recommended for many seniors and can be costly for a family caregiver. Adult incontinence supplies are another costly necessity. Short-term help with home care services and respite for family caregivers is another resource seniors can access.

"For about three months, one of our contracted providers can come out in the home and provide care to give that caregiver a little break but even if there's not a caregiver and someone needs help with bathing, dressing, grooming," she said.

Home modification for elements such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars and other accessibility devices can also be obtained through the agency.

About the program

The Conroe office is a satellite office serving Austin, Chambers, Liberty, Montgomery, Walker and Waller counties.
  • There are 32 full-time employees on staff with the Houston-Galveston Area Agency on Aging.
  • The AAA is funded through the Older Americans Act, enacted in 1965 to help vulnerable older adults live in the community safely for as long as possible.
  • The Houston-Galveston AAA served 7,605 Montgomery County residents in fiscal year 2022-23, not including clients served through information and referral, and benefits counseling.
Before you go

During the COVID-19 pandemic, needs became more complex, Freitag-Hejja said. For Montgomery County alone, the agency received more than $222,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds for meals, for example. But other needs emerged arising from that crisis, she said.

"There were a lot of people who were just very lonely," she said. "We saw definitely the importance of maintaining social connections."

Housing needs also escalated during that period, in part because many older adults moved in with loved ones, and the pressures of cohabitating resulted in individuals looking for different housing arrangements.

This year is the last year in which enhanced funding from the COVID-19 pandemic has been used to boost training in areas such as public health, Freitag-Hejja said.

"It's allowed our staff to cross train a little bit, but a lot of it has just been able to really supplement what we already do and allow us to help more people, which means shorter wait lists ... and more people getting help," she said.