May is Older Americans Month—a time to honor and celebrate the contributions and achievements of older adults and to raise awareness of important aging issues facing communities across the country. Led by the U.S. Administration for Community Living (ACL), this year’s theme—Aging Unbound—inspires us all to explore a wide range of experiences and promote the importance of enjoying independence and fulfillment by paving our own paths as we age.
Read on to explore ways that Community Care Corps grantees tailor support to meet the needs of their diverse communities while challenging the traditional assumptions surrounding what it means to age well:
Conducting community assessments to respond to unique needs rather than “prescribing” solutions.
Because Community Care Corps grantees serve a wide demographic including rural communities, historically marginalized and underserved communities and individuals living and aging with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, it is all the more important that they obtain the importance of diverse community perspectives informing their approach to service delivery. Before implementing their innovative models of support, Community Care Corps grantees conduct community assessments to identify gaps and unmet needs among the populations they serve. Rather than make assumptions about the level of need and appropriate forms of assistance, grantees engage individuals and trusted organizations in the assessment process. This often involves surveying community members and hosting focus groups to gather information directly from the individuals they serve.
Engaging older adults, adults with disabilities and family caregivers in models of mutual support.
In recognition of the rewards of growing older, Community Care Corps grantees amplify the voices of older adults, adults with disabilities and family caregivers
by offering engagement opportunities where they can share stories, wisdom and knowledge. Whether it be through peer support groups where individuals discuss shared experiences and offer encouragement, or through group call circles where participants can discuss interesting topics and lead activities, Community Care Corps grantees provide experiences that reflect an appreciation of the need for connection, learning and growth. Additionally, many grantees engage college volunteers in intergenerational models of support that contribute to their education and perspectives on aging in place, living with chronic illness and navigating health care, all while fostering deep social connections among participants.
Introducing new mediums for social connection and fostering community.
To help older adults, adults with disabilities and family caregivers create new connections and deepen their established relationships in our ever-increasingly virtual world, a number of grantees have introduced participants to new ways to
communicate and socially engage. Many older adults and adults with disabilities have received technology training and access to new devices and platforms, including tablets, videoconferencing software and virtual reality interventions. Family caregivers often participate alongside their loved ones and engage their peers in virtual symposiums or gain new information and insight via podcasts. While new technology can often be intimidating, these grantee efforts have been embraced by participants.
Inclusion and engagement of older adults, adults with disabilities and family caregivers in communities is a benefit to everyone. Please join us in promoting the importance of strengthening our communities and making them places where we can live, age and thrive together. If you are developing or implementing an innovative volunteer model to creatively meet local needs, apply to be a Community Care Corps grantee today!