People & Places: Part 2 (of 4)

CEDAM’s national partner NACEDA, along with several other organizations, hosted the People & Places Conference in Washington D.C. March 4-6 bringing together community-based organizations from every corner of the country to showcase the effectiveness, resolve and passion of those working daily to improve lives in America’s most challenged neighborhoods. This was an opportunity to share what’s working in your community, inspire one another and raise your voice on behalf of the community that you serve. Thanks to NACEDA, we were able to provide scholarship assistance to four CEDAM members to attend. Over the next few weeks, we will hear from each of those members about their experiences at the conference in this blog series.

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The second in the four part series is by Denise Paquette who works with the Allen Neighborhood Center in Lansing.

People & Places

by Denise Paquette

On March 6, I attended the People & Places Conference in Washington D.C. There, I participated in the Thriving People Sessions, focusing on healthy and age-friendly communities.

Healthy Communities

The Healthy Communities Kickoff began the day featuring panelists from the Mission Economic Development Agency, Community Catalyst and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Discussions touched on the social determinants of health and healthy communities, as well as the effect of the Affordable Care Act on funding and the role that nonprofit hospitals can play in the improvement of a community’s health. There was also a discussion about how the health people in abutting zip codes can be vastly different. An example was that in California the average age of death can vary by as much as 10 years! There is a public campaign to let residents know about this inequality, with the goal of effecting policy.

The panelists shared sources for data regarding the social and economic determinants of health. These sources include Community Connect (which maps data), Federal Reserve’s “Policy Maps,” Community Catalyst, Green Living Institute, Lincoln Land Institute, Hilltop Institute and the Wilder Foundation.

Age-Friendly Communities

The second session was Age-Friendly Communities with panelists from East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), AARP Foundation and National Center for Creative Aging.

Creative aging, or flourishing across the spectrum of aging was an interesting point of discussion. To put it in perspective, we did an exercise to consider aging to look like. A presentation followed about people who are aging in community, participating in artistic and cultural activities and are active members of their communities. This visualization tool helped us all understand that reality is far different from perception, and that aging doesn’t necessarily take form in an isolated retirement community or by living alone.

There is a trend of communities, nonprofits and faith-based communities taking over the traditional family role in caring for the aging. Health and human service agencies are addressing long-term care and the economics of the poor aging. With 10,000 people turning 65 every day, there is a need to foster age friendly lifestyles, for both human and economic reasons. There is evidence that creative aging increases health and reduces health issues as well as depression.

An important concern relates to housing and cost of housing for aging, a discussion led by the AARP Foundation described. 50% of those over 50 years old are paying more than 30% of their income for housing. The majority (90%) of this aging population wants to remain in their homes, or in age in place as it’s described. However, in order to do so, they must be in compliance with the aging in place criteria, with only 1% of housing nationwide accomplishing this. Fortunately, the AARP’s Housing Solution Center offers a variety of programs, and assistance in foreclosure prevention is one example that can help seniors be in a better position.

The NCRC discussed finance issues that affect elders. Specifically, 29% of older adult households are at economic risk, and 78% are financially vulnerable. $2.9 billion in elder financial abuse annually – this number is suspected to be lower than actual, due to the large number of unreported cases where friends and family are the perpetrators. Additionally, one-third of older adults say that they could not come up with $2,000 if there was an emergency, a scary statistic.

Age-friendly banking principals include training bank personnel in fraud prevention, customizing financial products and series such as view only accounts (so that another person can look at the account, but not access it) and no penalty accounts. Increasing accessibility by branches, hours and simple technology. Age-friendly banking is also beneficial to aging in place – examples include CAPABLE, a program in Baltimore that combines home repair with occupational and pain management, and ESOP Senior Property Tax Loan Program, which leverages private funds to loan seniors up to $5,000 for property tax payment assistance (so homes are not lost due to property tax arrearages).

Finally, the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation discussed the agency’s strategic plan based on the social determinants of health. As mentioned earlier, place has an effect on health. The agency focused on a 1 ½ mile corridor, with a goal of making it an age-friendly corridor. At either end of the corridor, the neighborhoods had gentrified. The agency conducted a community assessment, developed leadership, trained and engaged residents in civic advocacy and offered mini-grants to residents. In a two year time frame 43 leaders were trained, 225 individuals received services, and $7,000 was awarded to mini-grant recipients.

Lessons learned included:

  • Value of being present in senior housing center – even if people don’t participate in a class that is being held in a common area, as they are in the common area and are hearing what is being discussed.
  • Program barriers are usually also age friendly barriers (location of services, times of day, etc)
  • Intergenerational and integrated programs offer more to the seniors

Additional thoughts from the session:

  • Banking is a BIG deal
  • Intergenerational development includes housing, libraries, banks, etc
  • Neighbors as caregivers – this can be a way for neighbors to be employed, and provide services to those aging in community.
  • PACE – (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) is a Medicare and Medicaid program that helps people meet their health care needs in the community instead of going to a nursing home or other care facility.

Overall, this session was inspiring and gave me ideas to share with a group of senior women who feel that they cannot age in place in their current homes, but do want to age in the neighborhood. I am going to share the information that I learned at the session, to help them as they start to make decisions on how they want to proceed.