Agency reports older Americans not asking for financial assistance

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – One Region 8 organization reported more Americans need help due to the economic climate, but many of them don't want to ask for assistance. According to Walter Stewart, a representative at the East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging, he's noticed a spike in the number of older residents who need financial assistance on utility bills and other necessities.

"The cost of living has gone through the ceiling. Gas prices, obviously everyone is having to deal with that, but everything. Every food item has either reduced the size of the container or gone up in price," said Stewart. "Your cable bill, your electric bill, everything is going up at a higher rate than income increases."

Stewart, who has worked at the agency for 27 years, said he helps older individuals file claims to assist in utility payments and a variety of other things. Click here to visit the agency's web-site.

"Even if you're getting some assistance, 800-900 dollars doesn't go very far. At best, it can at least maybe pay your vital expenses, but you don't have any money left over to get a new shirt or clothes," said Stewart. "You've never asked for anything. If you need help on occasion, there's nothing wrong with asking for help."

One person who didn't want to take the help was Dorothy Jones. Jones lives in northeast Jonesboro and has worked many different jobs. She was hesitant to accept outside support.

"It's been about a year when I had to quit work (for health reasons), and when I had to quit, that's when things started going down," said Jones. "It was almost impossible. I thought it was impossible, but God showed me that it's not impossible because you're fixing to go through it."

Jones, now 67 years old, said her phone was shut off, along with her gas. She said she couldn't afford to put food on the table.

"I knew I couldn't work anymore and I didn't know how I was going to do it," said Jones. "I knew other people were getting it (assistance), but I didn't want to ask for it."

Stewart helped Jones get a free cell phone, purchase food and is currently in the process of getting the gas turned back on.

"It's a handout, plain and simple, and I didn't want that. I never had it all my life. I've worked for what I had, and I didn't want a handout. I wanted to work for it and could not," said Jones.

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