By Margaret Waage
A diverse group of community-based providers, state and local agencies, clergy, foundations and residents alike, brought their insights and questions to The Symposium on Ageing held recently at The Orchards.
The purpose of symposium is aimed at finding or creating the best possible solutions for the Southington’s older population, and the town in general.
Sponsored by the not-for-profits Central Connecticut Senior Health Services, United Way of Southington and The Orchards, attendees were treated to readings, “From i-Grandma To Medicare Essays on Ageing” by Central Connecticut State University students who interviewed Southington seniors for the collaboration. The works are very personal, each telling their story, remembrances of early years and former selves, and life, as they know it no
Mary Collins, associate professor at CCSU and a former journalist, assigned each students a senior for a two-tiered purpose: first, to foster an intergenerational interaction that would exercise their literacy skills and secondly, to look at the narrative collectively. “Students were nervous initially, but during the interviews their interest grew.”
The interviews are written entirely from the subject’s voice and some students wrote personal essays after being inspired by the process.
Taryne Leahey interviewed Walter Hushak, who is a volunteer in the Southington school system. Leahey’s essay titled “Stuff” is named for what Hushak says students call history. Hushak keeps returning to speak about aviation and Southington history for “these moments of doing this where the light goes on and you think you’ve accomplished something.”
Leahey also read “Home Alone” a story about her own grandmother living alone in a house full of her husba’s memories and her surroundings originally meant for two.
Every situation is different, attendees were told. For some individuals transitioning to an assisted living or nursing facility is difficult. Leaving home is an emotional and financial consideration. “We have to look at the growth rate baby boomers,” said Deborah Migneault of the Connecticut Commission on Ageing.
“We need to balance the person’s right to live where they want.” This means bolstering up community support systems so choices are even possible, she said. Migneault referenced “Ageing in Place”, a public act that would create a “livable community” initiative.
“Currently Bill No. 6396, just passed in the Senate and wouldn’t just benefit older adults. What is good for one will be good for all. The mother with a stroller would have a curb, an elderly pedestrian will have a bench for sitting,” said Migneault.
Sue Smayda, Southington executive library director, along with others, said information about available programs is unknown, such as the Money Follows The Person program.
“Health providers such as CNA’s often are the most important person in caring for the elderly and yet they’re paid the least,” Smayda said.
Dave Harrington, CHOICES counselor of Southington Community Services, emphasized the need for a way of disseminating more information. Harrington said, “Some aren’t aware of eligibility for alternative choices when it comes to Medicare.”
Bob Verderame of Southington Calendar House distributed their new Active Lifestyles newsletter he hoped seniors would be used for Calendar listings on health events and social networking.
Rev. Victoria Triano, president of United Way of Southington, asked participants to brainstorm over which issues were most important to older populations. The results were compiled to form a working “action plan” that organizers say can be starting point in creating a “Naturally Occurring Retirement Community” in Southington that would not only benefit the ageing population in town, but would provide a benefit to all residents.
With so many resources at the symposium the additional issues of chronic disease management, nutrition and exercise counseling, health literacy, volunteer networks, homelessness, affordable housing, etc were all mentioned as being part of the conversation.
Julie Norko, director of Development and Philanthropy at Central Connecticut Senior Health Services summed up the results, “It looks like most people wanted the dissemination of information about resources available to seniors, the sharing of providers of current best practices and options for seniors, social engagement and intergenerational programming.”
The brainstorm session worked well to aid as a beginning check list of what’s important to people.
To find resources on ageing go Connecticut Center for Health Aging at http://www.cthealthyaging.org/ or by phone at (860) 276-5293. For more information about a livable community for all ages contact Julie Norko at (860) 378-1284.