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.
I was fortunate to be interviewed by Sharon Dargay at the Observer-Eccentric, Hometown Life publication. Her article appeared last weekend. I tried to make the point that we need to look aging squarely in the eye, so that we can prepare for that period of our lives and make the most of its opportunities. The media can help us change perceptions of aging that are outmoded and inaccurate. Older adults aren’t old ladies in house dresses knitting in their rocking chairs or old men puttering around in the garage. Today’s older adult is engaged and active. We’re involved in our communities; we’re staffing the polls; we’re helping our children and grandchildren; we’re mentoring younger people; we’re volunteering; we’re working out; we’re caring for ill family members; we’re engaging in creative pursuits; and we’re starting encore careers. We also command significant assets and income. I truly appreciated the opportunity to promote positive aging and to emphasize the need to transform our attitudes and perceptions of later life!
Sue Sweeney, Chair, Department of Aging Studies, Madonna University
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 recently read an article about an exceptional nursing home that excels in care of persons with dementia. One of the staff was quoted as say, “when I get dementia, I want….” Maybe she thinks in terms of the inevitability of cognitive impairment because of working in memory care or maybe she thinks that way to reduce emotional distance from the residents with dementia. However, I got mentally stuck when I read that quotation. I realized that I don’t want to believe that cognitive impairment is inevitable. I’d rather aim for clear thinking and functional memory for as long as I live. That’s why I cherish the models of very old people who continue to grow intellectually and challenge themselves.
Agnes Zhelesnik is a case in point. At 100 years of age, she’s teaching home economics full time at Sundance Elementary School in New Jersey. She got bored with playing bridge, so she found her present job at age 81. She hasn’t even called in sick in the last two years. I believe that a deep sense of purpose and meaningful pursuits help us to remain healthier, live more happily, and ultimately live longer. I want to be like Agnes! Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get the flu shot. This 2013-14 season a particularly nasty version of influenza, pH1N1, is showing up around the country, with reports of hospitalizations. In a note to clinicians, issued just before Christmas, the CDC observes that this strain of the flu virus tends to affect young and middle-aged adults more than older adults. I would guess that older adults may have been exposed to this strain earlier in their lives. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to get inoculated, especially if you have any respiratory ailment such as asthma. Venues in my area of southeastern Michigan seem to have vaccine still available. The vaccinehealthmap can help you locate a place to get the injection that is near you.
The shot is most effective if you are healthy when you receive it, and it takes about two weeks for the body to respond with full immunity. The CDC publishes a weekly flu map, showing the states in which influenza is showing up locally, regionally, or state-wide. They also publish online an informative flyer on the flu shot called “No More Excuses”, which can help dispel worries about getting inoculated.
Vaccination to prevent illness is an important aspect of primary disease prevention. Older adults are wise to avoid the risk of complications that can accompany such illnesses as influenza. We also have a responsibility to those we care about to help keep them healthy and to minimize the extent that they need to take care of us. Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University
The National Council on Aging has some online tools to promote chronic disease self-management. One is a web site entitled “Re-Imagine Your Life“, which explains chronic disease self-management programs (CDSMP), provides a video on how the training works, guides the viewer to find in-person or online workshops, offers several testimonials from people who are using what they learned from the workshops, and an FAQ about chronic disease self-management. The online version of the training is called, “Better Choices, Better Health”, and is currently available free thanks to a gift from sanofi-aventis to the NCOA. The font used on the web site is large and very readable, and the graphics are soft. The whole web site is very friendly.
The other online tool is a web site for alumni of the classes which they call the Healthier Living Alumni Community. It’s intended to provide a vehicle for support and reinforcement for implementation of the beneficial decisions that the participants initiated at the CDSMP. We need lots of tools like this to help people manage chronic illnesses, stabilize their conditions, improve function, and prevent further disability. It takes considerable effort to change a person’s lifestyle, but the benefits in quality of life, increased productivity, fewer days of work lost, diminished need for medication, decreased burden on families, and lower health care costs, taken together, are immeasurable. Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University