MERRILLVILLE | Lois Johnson, 80, of Gary, lives independently and wants it to stay that way.
Johnson exercises, eats hot meals and visits with other seniors at the YMCA and fears state budget cuts would eliminate those services.
"I like to get in the pool, have my meals and the friends are wonderful," Johnson said. "I'd miss them terribly if the funds weren't there."
Johnson was one of about 100 local seniors and senior advocates who boarded two buses at the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville before dawn Tuesday to head to the Statehouse for a noon rally in support of funding for home- and community-based care coordinated by the AARP Indiana and the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging.
Anna Schoon, director of planning and business development for Northwest Indiana Community Action, said it is a critical issue for local residents and their families.
"Eighty nine percent of seniors prefer to age in their homes," Schoon said. "It makes economic sense to provide services in their homes versus in a residential facility as well."
Ted Perez, 75, of Dyer, said affordability is key.
"With limited incomes, you have to look at these resources to be able to afford care," Perez said. "If you can't afford the care, you have to burden the kids. I think everyone would rather be independent if possible."
Charlene Mahone, president of the East Chicago branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said home care eases the minds of seniors during difficult and often confusing last years of their lives.
"You're better with family and familiar surroundings," Mahone said. "If we're going to spend tax dollars, I prefer we spend them on something with such a clear benefit."
Mahone said allowing seniors to remain in their homes with extended families is of cultural significance in the African-American community.
"We have a tendency and tradition of extended family which benefits all generations," she said.
Tuesday's rally marks the second by AARP and the Indiana Association of Area Agencies on Aging in support of full funding for home- and community-based services.