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.
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.
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
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
Illness prevention is an important aspect of positive aging. One of the easier ways to prevent illness is through timely innoculations, such as the flu shot, and early fall is the time to get the shot for optimum protection against influenza. The National Council on Aging , NCOA, has a very robust toolkit for organizations and groups to use to educate older adults about the benefits of getting the flu shot. The campaign is called Flu + You, and the toolkit includes a guide, a brochure, a PowerPoint presentation, handouts, and posters, with materials in Spanish, as well as English. There is also a widget, with HTML coding, that you can place on your Web site which provides updated information on the flu season. If you don’t want to download the materials, you can order most of them, for free, from the National Council on Aging. Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University