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Some Tri-Counties seniors struggling to cope with the double whammy of the pandemic, and inflation

Harli Marten

Santa Barbara event helps some find resources.

First, there was the pandemic. Then, the price of everything from food, to gas skyrocketed. All of us were affected, but it’s hit one group especially hard.

"For a lot of seniors right now, life sucks," said LeAnn Johnson, who is a senior. The Santa Barbara woman said she planned for the future before retirement, but never expected anything like this.

"Everything has gone up, or things are being taken away," said the 69-year-old retiree. "If you're on a budget, everything has gone up. It's not just the gasoline for the's the utilities, and the food...everything."

How to get by was a big topic this week at the Senior Expo of Santa Barbara, which returned this week after three years off due to the pandemic.

"Both the pandemic, and inflation have been really, really difficult," said Lisa Brabo, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Santa Barbara County’s Family Service Agency, which organized the Expo.

She said with all that’s happened, seniors are hungry for information, and many are looking for help. More than a thousand seniors are at the Expo.

"The idea is to provide resource information for seniors, and caregivers, because we know as we get older our needs change. There are lots of resources in the community that people can access to help keep life stable, and smooth."

Pat Lieberknecht is one of the seniors at the expo. The 90-year-old Carpinteria woman admits she never expected things to be as expensive as they are today.

"It's getting worse instead of getting better. I'm on a fixed income," said Lieberknecht. "I'm having to to help some of my children out more than I used to, they're running short, so I try to help them out."

 Those involved with providing senior services saying they are seeing more people in crisis that ever before.

"Their income is not increasing. Everything around them is going up," said Megan Young, who is a therapist, and a case manager for the Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara County. "Medications, services, food, transportation, everything. It's struggle for a lot of seniors."

Young said they’ve started a new program to try to break down the issues each senior is facing, and then helping to find ways to tackle them.

"What we're really finding is that there's a huge need, but seniors aren't sure how to connect, they're not sure what resources are out there," said Young. "A lot of times it's leaving a message, playing phone tag. A lot of services and agencies are having online service here...that can be a challenge for a lot of our seniors.

Those involved with events like this senior expo in Santa Barbara said they’re pleased they reached a lot of people with everything from advice, to vaccinations.

But, seniors at the event were the proactive ones who made the effort to come get help. The providers are worried about the seniors who are at home, who need assistance, but don’t know who to contact, or how to reach out to get it.

Click here to find help for seniors in Santa Barbara County through the Family Service Agency.

Click here to find help for seniors in Ventura County through the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging.

Click here to find help for seniors in San Luis Obispo County through the Central Coast Commission for Senior Citizens.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.