In the scope of human history, the past 85 years were but a blip in time; however, when experienced over the span of an individual’s lifetime, they were witness to some of the most significant social changes the world has seen. This time was marked by conflict and peace, division and unity, social and civic revolutions, and unprecedented shifts in technology at a pace so rapid it seems impossible.
The generation that lived this reality is the catalyst for yet another shift, this time altering the nation’s census in unprecedented ways. As the median age of the population and life expectancy increases, the fastest growing group of individuals, both nationally and locally, is seniors.
As this trend takes hold, care systems must adapt to meet the unique needs of an aging population. In 2015, The Community Foundation set out to better understand the needs of seniors in Herkimer and Oneida counties.
The Community Foundation embarked on a new initiative with support from the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York—the Community Assessment of Senior Needs for Herkimer and Oneida Counties—to engage stakeholders from the two counties in a process of information-gathering and consensus building called “concept mapping.”
Nearly 250 seniors, service providers and community members participated in focus groups and surveys. Their feedback helped to determine what steps The Community Foundation and its partners might take to help the aging population to remain living independently.
Through the assessment, seniors identified medical needs, financial assistance, help at home and service accessibility as essential to independent living, but not fully addressed through existing services.
In response, The Community Foundation solicited applications for programs and projects that promote independent senior living in the two-county region. Applicants were asked to propose a solution or an enhancement to an existing program that advances seniors’ self-determination and relates to a need identified in the assessment study.
“Identifying programs and services that allow our aging population to remain living independently is essential to becoming an age-friendly community,” said Jan Squadrito, senior community investment manager at The Community Foundation. “Guided by data, The Community Foundation is better able to direct its investments to programs that best serve the needs of seniors.”
Since 2015, The Community Foundation has invested more than $723,000 in grants to organizations that promote independent senior living. Here’s a look at some of the projects supported through the initiative.
Valley Health Services
Valley Health Services’ 12,000-square-foot expansion to the Valley Residential Services assisted living facility will increase housing options for seniors in Herkimer County. Valley Residential Services provides assistance with daily needs in a community-based environment that encourages seniors to lead active and engaged lifestyles.
Livable Communities Of Oneida County
Livable Communities of Oneida County is part of AARP’s network of age-friendly communities that is active in more than 1,000 communities throughout the world. The program, implemented by the Parkway Center in partnership with Oneida County, helps local communities become more age-friendly as the number of seniors continues to increase. Initiatives focus on areas such as housing, care giving, community engagement, volunteering, social inclusion and combating isolation among older adults.
CREATING CENTERS OF SUPPORT
Northern Herkimer County Community Center
The Town of Webb Health Center Fund conducted a feasibility study that successfully demonstrated the need for a community center that could provide educational, recreational, cultural and wellness opportunities for seniors and community residents. The study assessed the community’s interest, desired services and potential locations. The Town of Webb seeks to offer services and amenities for seniors and families, helping to maintain the vibrancy of this rural community.
Southern Herkimer County Community Center
Herkimer County HealthNet conducted a community needs assessment and is now working with a planning group to establish an intergenerational community center. The center will serve residents of communities along the Mohawk Valley corridor, including Herkimer, Ilion, Little Falls, Frankfort, Mohawk and Dolgeville. Plans for the center will incorporate opportunities for recreation and an integrated system of accessible health and social services to support individuals and families.
GETTING FROM PLACE TO PLACE
Herkimer County Office For The Aging
The Herkimer County Office for the Aging created a program offering transportation for Poland, Ohio, Newport and Middleville residents two times per month for shopping trips and errands.
Community Transportation Services
Founded in response to the lack of public transportation in the Central Adirondack region, Community Transportation Services assists the elderly, disabled and economically disadvantaged in Old Forge and surrounding areas by providing transportation, without cost, for medical, health and other necessary services.
Catholic Charities of Herkimer County
HOPE Ministries is a volunteer program of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Catholic Charities of Herkimer County. Designed to help seniors remain independent in their communities, services include shopping for and with a client, laundry, light housekeeping, friendly visiting, nonmedical transportation, meal preparation and respite. Catholic Charities of Herkimer County also provides medical transportation for seniors through the Retired Individuals Driving Elderly (RIDE) program.
The Parkway Center
The Parkway Center’s Way2Go transportation program uses volunteer drivers who are retired and 55 years of age or older to provide rides to medical appointments for seniors in Oneida County. As the demand for rides increased, so did the need for drivers. A grant from The Community Foundation allowed the Parkway Center to purchase a vehicle for volunteers to use instead of having to drive their personal vehicles, increasing driver participation and number of rides provided.