Discussing The Needs Of Older Adults In Our Community

This past summer and fall, the OFAS staff and I visited many senior and disabled housing units to talk about the needs of older adults in our community. We learned a lot but one thing that some people mentioned was a lack of access to local attractions and events like the National Comedy Center. While we were discussing this, I learned about a program I had never heard of before called “Museums for All.”

“Museums for All” allows those receiving SNAP benefits to get free or reduced admission to more than 1,200 museums throughout the United States by simply presenting their SNAP EBT (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefit Transfer) card. Local participating museums include the Audubon, Roger Tory Peterson Institute, the Lucy Desi Museum and the National Comedy Center. Museums for All is a national program to encourage individuals of all backgrounds to visit museums and participate in their activities and events. Any type of museum can participate including art, history, natural history/anthropology, and general museums, children’s museums, science centers, planetariums, nature centers, historic houses/sites, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and arboretums.

The cost of museum admission is often a barrier for many low-income individuals and families. Through the “Museums for All” program, participating museums provide reduced admission, ranging from free to $3 when visitors present their EBT card. This reduced rate is available during all normal operating hours for up to four individuals per EBT card. Since its launch in 2015, “Museums for All” has served more than 8 million visitors nationwide at more than 1,200 museums in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Museums for All” is the only nationally coordinated financial accessibility program that museums of all types can participate in.

In addition to the 4 museums locally, there are others close by that participate in the Museums for all program. These include ExpERIEnce Children’s Museum in Erie, Erie Art Museum, Hagan History Center in Erie, Frank Lloyd Wrights’ Graycliff in Derby, the Buffalo Museum of Science, Niagara Falls Aquarium and more. To explore a full listing of participating museums in WNY and across the country visit https://museums4all.org.

There are many people in our county who are eligible for SNAP benefits but do not enroll in the program. Remember your taxes paid for these programs, just like it pays for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Office for Aging Services and other government funded programs. It is an open-ended program which means everyone who is eligible gets it. Your application does not take this away from someone else. The money comes directly from the federal government, is used at local grocery stores which means more federal support in our local economy. You can also donate your SNAP benefit to the Office for Aging Dining Out Restaurant program or Dining In Home delivered meals. When you enroll in SNAP you are automatically enrolled in HEAP, the home energy assistance program, another federal program that helps with annual heating bills and can repair or replace your furnace. To enroll in SNAP online go to https://mybenefits.ny.gov/mybenefits/begin or contact our NY Connects Helpline (716) 753-4582 for more information or to be connected to the local SNAP enroller who can meet with you in person to complete an application.

In December, many of our local museums are having special events to celebrate the season. Roger Tory Peterson Institute is having Holidays at the Lodge on December 9th and 16th with all day activities. $5 admission on these dates allows you to enjoy the activities as well as access to all their usual exhibits. With your SNAP card this fee may be waived. Visit their website at www.rtpi.org/programs/ for details. You can also take part in the Audubon Nature Center, Christmas bird count December 16th and 17th as well as enjoy their nature trails and center. Happy Holidays and hope you do something special for yourself this holiday season by enjoying some of our local attractions. For more information on Museums for All or any local program or service, contact NY Connects at (716)753-4582. Happy Holidays from the Office for Aging Services!

Mary Ann Spanos is Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services director.


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