September is Healthy Aging Month. To help raise awareness we are featuring a two part series that focuses on the unique challenges aging adults in the US face and initiatives that support them in living healthy, active lives.
One in three Americans is 50 years old or older; by 2030 one in five Americans will be 65 or older. America’s look is changing and so should our communities.
In an effort to help older adults “age in place”, the Community Innovations for Aging in Place Initiative (CIAIP) was authorized by Congress in 2006. CIAIP began funding community projects that sought to identify barriers for older adults in their communities and find ways to sustain their independence at home and in the community.
As we emphasized in our previous post about aging in America, creating livable communities for all citizens, especially senior citizens, requires mobilization at the local level.
Here are some initiatives that are helping older adults live healthy, active lives.
ARC’s Lifelong Communities initiative focuses on providing a high quality of life for residents of all ages and abilities. They focus on three areas:
- Housing and transportation options
- Encouraging healthy lifestyles
- Expanding information and access to services
In 2014 part of the Old 4th Ward in Atlanta was turned into a model of what a Lifelong Community looks like. It’s an example of how any community can become a Lifelong Community.
Located in Philadelphia, PA, SOWN (Supportive Older Women’s Network) supports adults 50+, mostly women, to lead healthy lives in their homes and in the community. They specifically work to reduce isolation through five programs:
- GrandFamily Resource Center
- Philly Families Eat Smart
- Counseling for Homebound Adults: Telephone Support Groups
- Parkinson’s Care Partners Support Groups
- Healthy Lives: Community Support Groups & Workshops
They reach more than 800 older adults annually in the Philadelphia area through in-person and teleconferencing services and are the only Pennsylvania provider who provides teleconferencing mental health services for older adults.
New York City Department for the Aging’s Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC) Health Plus program is part of the Neighborhood Health Plan (NHP) in four New York City NORCs in Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. Their goal is to empower older residents so they can self-manage their physical and mental health needs. Through partnerships with health associations, colleges, and organizations focused on helping older adults, they have made great improvements in NORCs residents’ access to mental health services. Here are some of the following highlights:
- Increase clients screened for depression
- Partner with the Community Resource Exchange (CRE) to help participant NORCs develop management skills
- Partner with the Mental Health Association of New York City (MHA-NYC) and Dr. Patrick Raue of Weill Cornell Medical College to provide training and on-site support to NORCs to enable them to apply Behavioral Activation (BA) therapy to their clients
- Provide funding for NORCs to hire part-time community outreach organizers through ReServe (an organization that matches older adults who wish to continue working with community non-profits)
These are great starts to caring for aging adults in our communities and more will be needed as our population gets older over the coming decades. With rising costs of living it’s becoming all the more important to focus on initiatives that can ease the burden at the local level and create healthy, active places where children and older adults can age with ease.
CIAIP’s website has resources and tools communities can use to implement programs that help older adults sustain their independence.