Old People Aren't Old

We've been doing focus groups with the 65+ crowd in Darien, CT, to see how the community could provide resources to help them stay in their homes as they age. The most interesting finding is that most older people don't think of themselves as old. They don't want to be perceived as "needy." They don't even begin to think of themselves as old until they reach 80. The term "senior" connotes someone who is frail and elderly. They are not "seniors".

But even the ones who are 80 want to be out doing things for others. These are the most amazing people. They are so giving. So altruistic. So independent. Is it because they are American and are embued with American independent spirit?

So our new idea is to discover ways to tap this supply of volunteer labor to help others who do need help. More later...


In our research with older people in our town, we're discovering how very independent they are. They don't want help. They want to be the helpers. This is a really interesting and significant discovery. Maybe we can tap into this desire to contribute to the community. I wonder what makes older Americans so generous of spirit?

I'd love to hear from others about this point.

Visiting Nurse

A person moving to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, wanted information on Visiting Nurse in her new area. I contacted the national visiting nurse association and got the following info:

Medical Center Home Health
534 Roland StreetJackson, TN 38301 731-422-1100
Medical Center Home Health & Hospice of (branch)
650 Nuckholls RoadBolivar, TN 38008 (no telephone)
Medical Center Home Health of Trenton (branch)
200 Hospital Drive, Suite 302Trenton, TN 38382 (no telephone)
Morristown-Hamblen Home Care
908 W 4th North StreetMorristown, TN 37814 423-623-4100

She can call and find out if anything is close enough to her.

I encourage readers to contact this blog, if you need information. We will try to help.

Aging In Place Focus Groups

We held another focus group today. This one was with residents of senior housing. We got similar results to the other two groups we've held. Folks want to stay in their current homes. They want to stay in Darien. But they need help. They need access to information about transportation, health, and ways to be engaged in the community.

I'll post more later.

More Research

We've done more research with older residents of Darien, CT. It's amazing to me to meet these people who've lived in our town for 30 - 40 or more years. To a person, they all want to stay in their homes. They will do anything they have to do to stay in their homes as they age. To move to assisted living or a nursing home would be "downgrading". (And I suspect -- degrading)

They are hungry for information and for help. But they don't want to ask for help and feel guilty accepting it. How do we overcome this connundrum? I think the easy answer is that we need to make paid services available. We need to aggregate information about the services and make it readily available in many forms and forums.

Further qualitative and quantitative research will help. More to come next week.

Doing Research & Starting a Handyman Corps

I'm now on a town-wide committee to investigate how to help people who want to stay in their homes to do just that. So I'm wearing two hats -- one for our church's faith-based initiative and one for our secular, nonprofit community effort.

In the community effort, we're going to do some local research to see what the 65+ town populuation wants and needs. We'll start with qualitative research and then quanitfy our findings. I feel we should do something similar at church.

In the mean time, I've gathered a group of men who are willing to do handyman type chores at older church members' homes -- changing a light bulb, taking down screens and putting up storm windows, tightening a doorknob or setting up email. We set up our handyman corps because we kept hearing that doing simple things like changing light bulbs gets harder with age. Now, we just need to get the older people to ask for the help they need.

This is a slow process. But we will make progress.

Ideas for Action

We just had a meeting of our committee. Here's a summary.

We had a good, productive meeting yesterday, which (thanks to Bobbie E.) gave us all real insight into perceptions around giving and receiving care in any form. It reinforced what we've all been taught since childhood -- It's better to give than to receive.

The idea that came out of this discussion was that any work that could be done for someone to help them stay in their home or to just cope with life should come under the guise of a fundraiser for the Youth Group (or something else in the church). One of us will talk to Wendy and her Youth Group board. They can do chores or handyman work, or drive people to the grocery store or to the doctor (or do babysitting or friendly visiting or teaching how to hook up and work electronic equipment or computers (I just thought of these.)) as a means to raising money and doing community service. This way, the person receiving the service feels that they are contributing -- not just helplessly receiving care. We'd also encourage the older people to invite the kids for tea afterward so they could have a conversation & get to know one another. This activity does not need to be just aimed at the older members of the congregation. It's a free flow of service to/from all. That way we don't put older people on the spot.

We also discussed ideas for how to mix the generations of our church. Mentoring? Dinners? Storytelling? Other? We brainstormed and discussed a lot of ways to do this.

Marnie and I told the group about one of the things we learned at the Aging in Place conference we attended in Madison -- transportation needs. Basically, you only realize how important it is when you suddenly don't have it -- as in not being able to drive any more. We found that there are grants available to help communities start independent transportation networks.

We also learned that Gallivant (a local van service for seniors) does not have a way to lift wheelchairs in and out of its van. We could team up with other churches or the Obie Harrington-Howes Foundation to raise money to buy a hydraulic lift for the Gallivant van.

As we discussed all this, we talked about youth and others in church volunteering to drive people to the grocery store. Jean pointed out that this would come under Caring Committee (CC), and we don't want to duplicate efforts. She said that maybe CC and AIP and their roles should be thought through. Maybe things need to be revamped. Maybe all this sort of work needs a new name. We discussed using the name "Faith in Action". There is a Faith in Action Group in Rocky Hill. (I'll send info. about it, if I find it.) http://faithinactionct.org/index.htm

Jean suggested that now that we have so much information and so many ideas that we should go back and all write down what we think we really want to accomplish. What's our true mission? What are the goals? What are the top few things we should focus on to accomplish our goals? Doing this will give us new focus. We will reflect carefully and prayerfully, and we'll meet in a couple of weeks to share our results.

Anyone out there in the blogosphere who would like to post comments, please do so.

Visiting Nurse Helps People Age in Place

I'm goint to start writing about all the services in Southwestern Connecticut that help people age in place -- age at home. I met someone from the Visiting Nurse Service in our area (Southwestern Connecticut). What she told me was most enlightening. They provide nursing and homecare services that help people age at home. Visiting Nurse home care works in partnership with Mid-Fairfield Hospice. they provide home care with home health aides who are certified by Medicare. Visiting Nurse also provides Assisted Living at Home.

They provide respite care for care-givers, nursing, home health aides, physical, occupational and speech therapists, live-in hlep, homemakers, companions, shoppers and friendly visitors, medical social workers, care managers, dieticians and volunteer peer counselors. They also provide wellness programs and LifeCare management programs.

You can e-mail them for more information:
or call: 1-800-898-HOME.

Aging In Place Week

Aging In Place Week is October 8 - 14th, 2006. It's sponsored by the National Aging In Place Council -- http://www.naipc.org/


more on aging in place conference

Yesterday, I posted information about the Aging In Place conference on September 26 in Madison, CT. It's being run by the Connecticut Interfaith Network on Aging. 8:30 am - 4 pm.
Afternoon tea afterward.

Here's a sampling of workshops included in the program:

10:45 - 11:45
Fitness and the Older Adult
An Integrated Approach to Senior Transportation
Home Modification Made Easy
Aging at Home/Sharing a Home
Remininsence: A key to Spiritual Well Being

1:15 - 2:15
The Many Faces of Faith in Action
Living Well with Illness
Fostering Independence through Safe Housing
Money Management Services for Seniors
Growing Old: the last great adventure

The conference is for caregivers, social workers, families, friends, parish visitors, aides, chaplians, nurses, clergy, therapists, advocates and volunteers and elders who wish insights into their own aging.

Registration is $45.

There's also a retreat on Monday eve, Sept. 25. for an extra $10 on The Spirituality of Receiving Care. But food and lodging are separate. To learn more about the cost of dinner and lodging, call: Kathie Fleischauer at the Mercy Center at 203.245.0401 and tell her that you're going to the CINA conference.

The site for the conference, The Mercy Center, in Madison, CT, looks great! http://www.mercyctrmadison.com/

Make checks payable to CINA-IVC and mail to: CINA-Interfaith Volunteer Care Givers, 30 Gillies Road, Hamden, CT 06517
Include your name, organization, address & phone. Tell them if you're going to the Monday retreat, too.
Call Barbara Barlock at 203.230.8994 with questions.

Aging In Place Conference

The Connecticut Interfaith Network on Aging (CINA) is holding its annual caregiving conference on Aging In Place on Tuesday, September 26, 2006, from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm. At the Mercy Center in Madison, CT. Call 203.230.8994 and speak to Barbara Barlock, if you want more info.

I'm amazed that the conference and the CINA don't have web sites. They should.

In the spirit of giving them some web time, the conference's opening speaker is the Honorable Edith Prague, a CT State Senator. She is Co-Chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee and Vice Chair, Select Committee on Aging. She speaks at 9:30 am.

She will speak on Aging in Connecticut: Where have we been? Where are we going?

Also speaking are: The Rev. Barbara Barlock, chairperson of the Connecticut Interfaith Network on Aging. She is a minister of the United Church of Christ and Director of Interfaith Volunteer Care Givers of Greater New Haven.

Imam Abdul-Majid Karim Hasan, Resident Imam of the Muhammad Islamic Cneter, Hamden.

The Rev. Louise B. Higginbotham, Pastor Emerita of the United Church on the Green, UCC.

Rabbi Gloria Rubin, Spiritual Director of Temple B'Nai Abraham, Meriden.

Cornelia Leavitt-Scudder, B'Hai Faith.

Darien Senior Center

We met with Nancy Zengo, head of the Darien Senior Center, last month. Nancy said that her seniors are a lively bunch who want exercise classes and to have fun. They do art and join in lots of activities. She agrees that they mostly want to stay in their homes, but expense and frustrations with maintenance cause many to move. She cited the same thing as the NY Times article. People need help changing difficult lightbulbs or changing screens and storm windows. But few ask for help.

Also, Darien is an expensive place to live. Property taxes and costs of health care are the top expenses, and although seniors could take advantage of reverse mortgages to free up their cash flow, they tend not to do it.
Herein lies our problem. How can we get people to do what they need to do to stay put and age with grace?
Here's a link to the Darien Senior Center Web site:

Aging In Place with Grace

Lots of people are telling us about the NY Times article about Aging in Place. Some of the ideas in it are ones we've already had -- helping people change light bulbs, for instance. Helping people with the simple stuff seems to be the best and most practical thing we can do. Come fall, we'll launch an initiative to get people to sign up to help seniors with simple tasks like that. The challenge is, getting the seniors to ask for help. Ideas?

I'm asking for help, now. I'm finding a lot of links I'd like to link to, but I don't know how to set up the links or the Atom or RSS feeds. Can anyone help me?


Aging at Home in CT section of NY Times

Today's Connecticut Section of The New York Times has an article on aging at home. "When it Feels Right at Home" focuses on the desire to stay at home as a growing trend and the challenges surrounding that desire. Read the article. Post comments. If you don't get the Times, here is a link to the article online.

You may have to register to read it.

If you have a library card, your public library may have free NY Times (including archives) online. The Darien Library has that service for card holders. Simply login and look for databases and webs. Find the NY Times and Wall Street Journal archives and look for any article you want.

aging in place - resources for planning

As part of our exploration into how to help people in our community age at home, we've reached out to community organizations to learn what's available. We had a wonderful session with
Kiki Karpen, who is Executive Director of Darien United Way (now Community Fund of Darien). She told us about the incredible array of services available from the nonprofit and for-profit arenas.

Probably the most important thing we learned about was Infoline -- 211. Anyone can dial 211 for information about all the services in our community. If you need help, this is the number to call. It's free, confidential and available 24/7. Trained professionals will help you. Learn more at:

Kiki just sent us information about a professional organization that helps with caring of the elderly, The Caregiver Resource Center. Visit their Web site:
http://www.caregiverresourcecenter.com/index.htm. This is a for-profit company, and we do not endorse it in any way, nor do we know anything about its quality of service. This is purely information we're passing on.

More to come. Please post comments. Please stay tuned.

Aging in Place -- Research

As we continue to research the resources available to help people age at home, we've discovered the following:

Choices for Independence White Paper
On a new act for helping seniors with independent living. Update on Aging Americans Act. Lots of fed. Funds available.

White paper on community support for aging in place, including grants, foundations, faith-based organizations and initiatives and resources:

It's always amazing to me to discover how much information exisits on any one topic, once I start to look for it. Obviously, there are many ways to help people stay in their homes as they age. The big question is how to harness all the information and energy. What model do we follow?

Once again, we're just volunteers pursuing an idea. This is not an official church mission. At least, not yet.

Aging In Place - Aging at Home - SW Connecticut

Our group has discovered that there is an amazing array of services available which help people remain in their homes as they age. One of the big problems is helping people find that info. Older folks tend not to use the Internet. And their adult children may not think of looking for such information until it's too late. Or they may just assume that moving out is the only solution.

My first foray onto the Web to find out about support for aging at home turned up the following for Connecticut and Southwestern Connecticut, which is where our church is located:

Area Agency on Aging – umbrella

Southwestern area agency on aging

Administration on Aging (fed gov.)

Please post any information you have or challenges you're facing with this topic.

Going Further - aging at home

We've pretty much decided that we must take Aging with Grace one step at a time. Trying to emulate the Beacon Hill Village model (mentioned in the last post) would be overwhelming at this time. So we're starting out by looking at what our church, other churches (& synagogues and mosques) in our community, governments and nonprofits offer to help people age in place; i.e., stay in their homes.

We're doing a survey -- via phone, in-person and web-based to see what exists and where the gaps are. I'll post our discoveries. Stay tuned.

We're also collecting ideas. So post your suggestions.

Just Beginning

A group at The First Congregational Church of Darien has started a committee to see how we can help people in our church and our community age in place, or as I like to say, age with grace. Studies show that 80% of people do not want to leave their homes as they grow older. They don't want to abandon familiar surroundings and friends that they love in order to move to assisted living or other retirement or institutional settings.

How can the faith community help people who want to stay at home longer? How much should we help? A group in Boston, Beacon Hill Village, is a nonprofit that is dedicated to helping people stay at home as they age. They offer a full range of services (http://www.beaconhillvillage.org/). You can read more about them on the AARP Web site at: http://www.aarp.org/bulletin/longterm/declaration_of_independents_build.html

As our group explores how to help people best, we'll post our progress here.

Post your ideas or comments. We'd love your input.