Here’s the presentation I made at the Michigan Association of Senior Centers conference in Mt. Pleasant on November 6, 2015. The presentation discusses social, political, and economic trends and how they represent opportunities for senior centers to reinvent themselves by responding to these trends and offering relevant programming to address them.
This is the year for the decennial White House Conference on Aging. However, the Older Americans Act, which traditionally has outlined the Conference process, has not been reauthorized and the President’s budget has not been approved. As a result, there are very little structure and no additional funds for the 2015 Conference.
Ms. Nora Super is the Executive Director of the Conference. Her background includes more than twenty years experience in aging policy and community outreach. The four themes that have emerged from community input, so far, are Retirement Security, Healthy Aging, Long-Term Services and Supports, and Elder Justice. There is a blog for the Conference at http://www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov/blog/ A number of regional forums are also scheduled. The closest one to SE Michigan is the conference in Cleveland, OH on April 27th.
The Administration is using social and electronic media as much as possible to receive grass roots input and conduct informational meetings. Everyone can participate by going to the web site and signing up to receive notices of events, such as webinars, and opportunities to participate. You can also provide your thoughts and/or a story about your experience with aging or aging services, such as Medicare, Social Security, or in-home services, by submitting them through the following link: http://www.whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov/submissions/register.aspx
Here’s the contact information if you have specific questions:
Aging touches everyone. I encourage you to participate in this opportunity for civic engagement at a time when our society includes the greatest proportion of older adults in history.
Sue Sweeney, Chair, Department of Aging Studies, Madonna University
In the January 13th issue of the National Council on Aging‘s NCOA Week e-publication, they announced grant proposals for $25,000 or $50,000 to increase enrollment of older adults who are eligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The details of the RFP will be available next week. As stated in the e-publication, “NCOA soon will be seeking proposals from community-based organizations for Senior SNAP Enrollment Initiative grants in two competitive categories ($25,000 and $50,000). The Request for Proposals will be released on or around Jan. 20. Optional Letters of Intent are due Feb. 13, and applications are due March 6.”
A 2012 presentation by Lura Barber of the National Center for Benefits Outreach and Enrollment of NCOA is available online. Called SNAP and Older Adults, the presentation points out that only one out of three eligible older adults are enrolled in SNAP, and provides basic information about SNAP organizational structure, eligibility, application process, and techniques to reach out to older adults who qualify.
I was interviewed recently by Wisconsin Public Radio on the topic of older drivers. There is a bill in the Wisconsin state legislature to require drivers over age 75 to renew their license more often than younger drivers. Families so often struggle with discussing driving with older relatives because it’s such an important ability to quality of life and because public transportation is so limited, especially in rural areas. Here’s the description of the piece: http://www.wpr.org/challenges-elderly-driving You can download the audio or listen online from that same link.
Driving is an important issue for older adults and their families for many reasons. Older adults more often suffer severe injury and death when involved in vehicle accidents, because of age-related physical changes and chronic illness. Accident prevention is therefore an urgent goal. There are a number of helpful Web pages on driving in later life. AARP has a driver safety page on their site, which highlights their driver safety course for senior drivers, offered both online and face to face. The course costs between $16 and $20 depending on whether the person is an AARP member. I have my students take the We Need to Talk online seminar on the same AARP page, which discusses when to stop driving and how to discuss driving cessation with older drivers. It helps them to have a more empathic view of driving and understand what driving means to people, beyond just getting from point A to point B.
CarFit is an organization that provides events in which older drivers bring their vehicle, and trained volunteers assess how to better fit the car to the needs and limitations of the driver. While not every area of the U.S. is covered by these events, the Web site has a number of videos that illustrate proper alignment or fit of the driver to the car, such as the optimal distance between the steering wheel and the driver’s chest to prevent or minimize injury from an airbag, mirror adjustment for effective view of the side and rear, or the minimum distance needed of the line-of-sight above the steering wheel for a safe view of the road.
The Hartford Insurance Company has a very useful Web site on Family Conversations With Older Drivers. The site offers conversation starters, conversation planners, a Warning Signs Worksheet, information on driving evaluation, a worksheet to evaluate transportation alternatives, and other helpful information. The company also provides quite a few free guidebooks with information on a number of aspects of driving, in both electronic and paper form.
The American Medical Association has resources for physicians on older drivers, including a Web-based educational course called “Medical Fitness to Drive: Is Your Patient at Risk?” and a “Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers – 2010 Edition”, developed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Guide can be downloaded and has information useful to professionals and consumers.
Finally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has an Older Drivers Education Web page with electronic brochures on adapting vehicles, conversations with older drivers, safe driving, and driving transition.
With the Baby Boom generation aging, there will be more and more older drivers on the road. We need to be both sensitive and sensible so that the safety of everyone on the highway is optimized while the rights and quality of life of the older drivers are preserved as long as possible. It’s gratifying that there are so many resources available to help us address the issue in informed and compassionate ways. Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University
The National Council on Aging has an excellent resource for older adults in need of assistance. BenefitsCheckUp is a Web site that screens the user for eligibility for a number of benefits at the federal or state level. The site claims that the service has helped 3,678,107 people find over $13.5 billion worth of benefits. The tool asks a number of questions about the user’s needs, interests, marital status, veteran status, income, assets, home ownership, expenses, and other questions that build from the answers that the user supplies to earlier questions. You can use the tool for another person, as long as you answer as if you were that person.
At the end, a printable report is produced with a description of possible benefits, contact information for the user’s area, how to apply, and documentation that will be required when applying. I submitted a fictitious test case of a middle-income 85 year old widow of a World War II veteran, who pays on a mortgage and property taxes, and who has two chronic illnesses. The report I received included information on locating alternative housing, how to get a property tax exemption in the case of financial hardship, how to obtain advice on Medicare program selection, how to access the nutrition programs for older adults, information about chronic disease self-management programs, and how to get a senior discount for federal parks and national forests. The programs recommended will, of course, depend on the information submitted.
It’s a resource that’s easy to use, provides detailed relevant information, and can be used by an advocate or representative to find the range of resources to assist with the hardship the elder is encountering. That’s a huge advantage, because, as an example, the ability to save money on utilities or to use a reverse mortgage to access equity on a home may be the answer to the inability to pay the coinsurance on an expensive prescription. We need to be holistic in our view of the person, their strengths, resources, and needs. Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University