The Senior Services Coalition is making headway on its 10-year Community Action Plan on Aging, and members are now working on reaching out to the community through various programs and projects.
At a quarterly meeting Thursday, new SSC Chairwoman Sharron Cornelius said the organization is excited to have recently received a $75,000 grant from the Williamsburg Community Health Foundation. “With this, we can launch into our next phase,” she said. “But it will take real work.”
Real work is just what the various committee members have been doing so far, Cornelius said. Volunteers are working to implement the goals of the Community Action Plan on Aging (CAPOA), a guide to helping the local senior population age comfortably through 2020. Committee representatives had a chance Thursday to share their successes and what they’re working on for the immediate future.
Some plans include getting seniors to use a new aging resource network; various classes and education outreach programs; and gathering more volunteers to help with the various SSC committees.
“We need to pull on the resources of the community so this coalition can continue to work on these issues,” Cornelius said.
SSC member Dave Murray discussed the work of his committee, which is handling awareness and access to resources issues.
This group aims to help seniors and caregivers navigate local resources, promote the new aging resource network and the use of electronic health records and to explore and support senior service providers and community network projects.
The recent launch of the Peninsula Aging and Disability Resource Network (PADRN.org) is one of his committee’s successes so far, Murray said. The Client Assistance Referral Exchange System (CARES) is a web tool developed by PADRN and it has offered 89 referrals in the first six months, with 31 peer-reviewed providers available so far.
Christy Jensen shared an update on the committee working on the topic of vulnerable seniors. Her committee’s goals are to connect low-income seniors with resources, to enhance support services for the vulnerable, and to address senior substance abuse issues.
Between 16 and 20 percent of seniors are misusing substances, she said.
The committee plans to work on on outreach efforts with the faith community and to help informal caregivers (such as family members).
To that end, Jensen said Thomas Nelson Community College has agreed to offer family caregiver training classes for a nominal fee, possibly starting this fall. TNCC will provide lab space, and a registered nurse will help people learn important care giving skills such as moving disabled folks properly, preventing falls, and bathing, skincare and foot care.
Barb Watson offered an overview of what her committee is doing to promote housing and neighborhood support.
The group’s goals are to provide a variety of affordable and quality housing for seniors and to support neighborhoods when it comes to establishing a network for seniors.
Watson said the committee is working on increasing awareness of the Neighbor to Neighbor model for senior support, and the SSC has been offering workshops and neighborhood meetings on the topic. So far, 24 neighborhoods have asked for information on the model.
The group has also created a partnership with the Housing Partnership to assist low income seniors, and they’ve been working on a housing research project this summer to identify the current senior housing units in the area, the future housing needs, and to complete an analysis of what types of homes and home features seniors are looking for right now.
The committee working on using seniors as a resource aims to grow opportunities for get seniors active in the community, to promote work opportunities and increase employer awareness of the senior workforce.
Member Ed Gootzait said the SSC worked with various community partners on a recent job fair that 255 job seekers attended.
The group plans to start two support groups for senior job hunters and for those looking to network.
Cornelius said the SSC will aim “to promote a stronger community awareness” of issues facing the increasing senior population in the area. Over 30 percent of the community is made up of seniors today, she said.
“I’m worried,” Cornelius told members. “We have lots of vulnerable citizens out there, and there’s much to do.”
Membership in the SSC is open to volunteers, either individuals or agencies and organizations that want to help promote a safer and healthier community for seniors. Visit the SSC website for more information.