Friday, October 31, 2008

Some Friendships Last a Lifetime

“Some friendships last a lifetime. We just seem to be living a hell of a long time.”

This is the explanation offered by Helen, an 82-year-old grandmother who shares a blog with her best friend Margaret. Helen and Margaret met 60 years ago when they were in college, and they have kept in touch through marriages, children, grandchildren, and cross-country moves. Reading through the archives of posts and comments, a few things strike me:

1. Are you real? Many readers and commentors ask if the blog is really written by women in their 80s, somehow believing that this would not be possible. One of the reasons I love this blog is precisely because it is possible: Seniors are living independent lives of dignity and independence, and older adults do share a stake in important issues like the upcoming elections. The blog’s front page shows a picture of the two friends in their electric wheelchairs, touring a public space.

2. You remind me of my own grandmother! It seems plenty of readers miss the sassy wit of their own elder family members, and are all the more excited that Helen and Margaret’s stories and opinions will be recorded for the future. Not only have these two women witnessed great changes in the world, but they have been the ones to create change. They can teach us more than any history book ever could.

3. Keep on fighting. Helen and Margaret aren’t afraid to take a stand on issues that are important to them, while reminding readers that we vote not only for ourselves, but for our children and their children. In one recent post, Helen tells her readers this (and I couldn’t agree more):

“Folks, I’m tired and I don’t have another fight in me. It’s now or never. So to all of you I say this: Give your money. Give your time. Give your voice. Get up. Get out and do something. Anything. … Get out there and vote!”

-- by Jaclyn Barbarow
Grants and Database Administrator

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two Collaborations You Need to Know About

Now more than ever we at Senior Citizen Services are being called to combine resources with fellow organizations to better serve our seniors in need. It is fitting that “collaboration” was one of the values that we as an organization highlighted in our Strategic Plan.

One of the exciting collaborations with which we have been engaged is between SCS’ Vivian T. Minor Adult Day Care Center and Marcus Jewish Community Center’s Weinstein Adult Day Care (Buckhead location). Both programs are operating under one roof with combined staff and streamlined operations. Our facility is alive with a greater number of seniors, with a wider range of needs represented, and best of all, a broader set of skills to meet the needs of our seniors. Though still in its early stages, this collaboration is already gleaning positive results for our seniors and their caregivers.

A different kind of collaboration has been taking shape with our Neighborhood Senior Centers. An innovative health and wellness collaborative has reshaped the way that seniors manage their health and chronic diseases (diabetes, heart-disease, depression). SCS and a team of collaborative agencies have been able to provide an evidence-based chronic disease self management program developed by Stanford University to participants of the Centers.

Under the leadership of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Aging Division, SCS and its partners, The Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression at Emory University, Visiting Nurse Health System, Atlanta Technical College, Project Open Hand, Piedmont Hospital Sixty Plus, and The Arthritis Foundation, have been able to combine resources to provide practical tools and peer support for the behavior change necessary to manage such diseases. Though also in its early stages, participants have claimed a greater sense of control of their disease, increased support in making decisions around exercise and diet, and decreased doctor visits.

These are just two examples of how Senior Citizen Services continues to chart a new course for providing services for seniors. You can be confident that each dollar donated and each hour volunteered now goes further thanks to such collaborations in every program. We will continue to seek such partners to be able to continue to meet the needs of the growing senior population.

by Jeffrey Smythe
Executive Director

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Advocating for Seniors

Fulton County government recently held open-to-the-public budget hearing meetings in order to obtain feedback from the community. The meetings were held throughout the county to ensure citizen involvement. I attended one of the meetings and invited a CareShare client to join me. It took just a bit of her time, and mine, but our voices were heard. We advocated for the need for continued services for seniors throughout the county as well as asking for increased funding and services due to the growing senior population – the boomers have arrived!

We all can advocate for the senior cause even when we are not at a formal meeting. I encourage everyone to always be talking about the need of our seniors – seniors whom have built our communities and now find themselves in need of supportive services. Advocating can even be talking to a friend, prodding them to support SCS and our seniors through monetary donations or giving of their valuable time serving as a volunteer.

I challenge everyone to speak up for the senior cause in your own unique way. Take action on this advocacy by getting involved and seeing firsthand what the seniors in our shared community so desperately need. The best way to do this is to volunteer to deliver meals through our Meals On Wheels Atlanta program. SCS has a large volunteer base; however, it has shrunk in the past year. Each volunteer hour equates to $18.05 per hour, which is a valuable cost saving expense for the program. We thank each and every individual who helps us through this program and others.

Volunteers also attended all of the seven Fulton County budget meetings. These volunteers, some are clients and others are interested stakeholders of our programs, were amazing. They told their stories of the value that they receive from the programs and that there is a greater need out in our community.

Interestingly enough, it is much less expensive to provide in-home services to seniors rather than to place them into institutional care, such as nursing homes. Seniors in nursing homes represent 3% of the total population receiving federal support yet this group accounts for half the dollars expended. The other 97% are seniors who are living in their own homes. This shows the importance of services provided by SCS and our volunteers – helping seniors to remain independent in their own homes. Remember, too, that these funds are generated through all of our taxes; we must continue to advocate for in-home services for the senior cause in order to get the biggest “bang” for our buck.

We invite you to join us in the senior cause… how will you help?

- by Patrick O'Kane
Director of Operations

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Seniors in Other Parts of the World

Recently through a raffle drawing, I was honor with two airfares to Europe. Having never experienced Europe, my eyes were wide open and my mind very observant. The trip began in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where people transport themselves in a multitude of ways – trains, trams, buses, bicycles, small cars, and walking of course.

One of my first observations was that older adults – in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s – were walking about and to my amazement confidently hopping on and off bicycles. During my four years of serving seniors in Atlanta, I would have to say I’m not sure our older adults would be so confident hopping on and off a bicycle or walking the distances I witnessed of our Amsterdam older adult neighbors.

America is an amazing place, spread out across this vast land. However, we need to remember too that exercising our bodies and minds is an important component of our long-term well being. I’m curious now to find studies that compare or show the health statistics for older adults in Amsterdam – due to their physical activities – comparing to American older adults. I was also amazed by the fact that I didn’t see any “obese” people of Amsterdam (you could point out the Americans who had that “bulge”). I relate the fitness of the people to their low stress levels and capabilities of walking to the stores or enjoying a beautiful walk in one of the many parks, or simply biking to the store. And to the older lady I spoke with, she was 72 and hopped right off a bicycle in front of me, she stated she knew no other way to live and she hopes that she can forever be able to ride her bicycle.

We have a lot to learn from our European neighbors – physical fitness, energy conservation (energy powering windmills everywhere), and even driving habits. The livable communities that have begun to sprout up have a direct link with “walk-able” communities and seem to be promoting the same type of European lifestyle. But can this European lifestyle be copied? I’m not so sure. But one thing can be accomplished; we can all get on a bike, walk around the block, or do what physical activity our bodies allow us to do and enjoy a healthy life.

by Patrick O'Kane

Director of Operations

Monday, October 6, 2008

Savenger Hunt!

Remember how much fun it was to have a neighborhood scavenger hunt when you were a child? Or, maybe you have enjoyed them in your adult years, as I have! The Senior Citizen Services web site on which you are reading this blog is packed with wonderful information to aid you, no matter if you are a client, donor, corporate sponsor, foundation member, volunteer, student, newsperson, or any of our other many stakeholders.

A fun scavenger hunt awaits you! Grab your mouse to help hunt down answers to these questions –

How does my company sponsor an event?
How may I donate the most amount of money while saving the most amount of taxes?
Whom do I call to volunteer at SCS?
What’s the phone number of the Fulton County Senior Services Referral Hotline?

Let us know how you did, and how we may be able to serve you further. Thank you.

Brad Catherman
Vice President, Gift Planning
Senior Citizen Services