Sadly, last week our community lost

a tremendous advocate for older adults and animals.

Attorney Jim Zipay passed away before retirement. He had been a part of the Legal Services Program at the Area Agency on Aging for well over 30 years.

I was only privileged to work with Jim for a short period of time, but he was a legend at the Area Agency on Aging. His passion for protecting the rights of older adults and serving them with dignity and respect has set the bar for legal services very high in our county.

Jim also ingrained in us our responsibility to ensure the welfare of the pets of some of our older adults who cannot care for them any more. The lessons learned working alongside Jim has cemented his legacy forever in the older adult services community. He will be missed.

Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging has offered legal services as outlined under the Older Americans Act for many years. The first, and most important service offered, is part of our Older Adult Protective Services branch of the agency.

Lackawanna County guarantees representation for all older adults involved in Protective Services. When the unfortunate situation arises and an older adult’s decision-making ability and capacity becomes a concern, they are immediately assigned an attorney to make sure their rights, dignity and voices are heard. Attorney Bruce Zero has taken up this mantle and has diligently worked to do just that and more since he began working with our team.

Recently, the Administration for Community Living made some changes to how we can offer legally services. Traditionally we helped with wills, minor estate planning, living wills and advance directives. Based on the changes, this cannot be our primary focus.

Lackawanna Pro Bono has provided these services to our community for the Area Agency on Aging through their Elder Law Help Desk. Attorney Pam Janus coordinates volunteers, conducts community trainings and handles case as part of this partnership. She also represents Pro Bono as a standing member to the Elder Justice Multi-Disciplinary Team.

The advantage our community has being connected directly with a legal services provider is you do not just get a single service. The Pro Bono volunteers do a full legal consultation and guide you to other service you may need in addition to the assistance you are asking for.

Change is challenging. We no longer can have the Elder Law Help Desk but plan on hosting multiple events yearly to offer these same services to you. Our community is fortunate to have some terrific and well-respected firms who have volunteered to partner on these events so we may continue the programing without disruption.

For their part, Lackawanna Pro Bono will still be providing valuable services to you for the Area Agency on Aging.

To meet our ACL requirements, we have identified an area of concern the agency’s legal services will concentrate on. Our goal is to review this annually and adjust our programming to meet the community’s needs. This year, we are focusing on housing and housing-related issues. If you are having issues with you landlord, taxes, insurance or any other housing related matters, these services will benefit you tremendously.

In monitoring calls coming into the agency, we know there is a growing need in our community for legal assistance in this scope of work. Older adults are facing evictions, absentee landlord issues and sometimes fraud by unscrupulous contractors. While Pro Bono can’t be the solution to every person’s case, they certainly will help you get connected to reputable counsel versed in the scope of law you need through their connections at the Lackawanna County Bar Association.

If you are experiencing any of these issues and you feel you need a consultation without any pressure or commitment, call the Area Agency on Aging or Lackawanna County Pro Bono. We will guide you to the assistance you need safely.

Jason Kavulich is the director of Lackawanna County’s Area Agency on Aging. For more information on services available call 570-963-6740.