Aging-in-Place: Staying Healthy

   This is the first in a series of four articles on the findings and recommendations of the Aging-in-Place Task Force. The author is Linton Stables, a member of the task force. This week he reviews the overall work of the task force, and address Staying Healthy: Physical and mental wellness recommendations.

By Linton Stables

Many longtime residents are leaving the borough as they reach retirement age, or as their ability to live on their own starts to diminish. Having contributed over many years to making Swarthmore a wonderful place to live, seniors may feel that our community is failing them. Borough council established the nine-member Aging in Place task force to study the issues, beginning work in early 2015. Building on the work done by citizens in the 1990s, which established institutions such as the Swarthmore Senior Citizens Association, the task force presented its report to borough council in December.

“Aging in Place” means the ability to remain in and be a part of the Swarthmore community. Most people want to keep their friends and make new ones … to participate in civic discussion and political debates … to volunteer to help others. The task force recommended that the borough coordinate existing community resources to promote intergenerational social interaction, encouraging interactive and accessible recreational activities, meals, classes, and cultural programs to reduce isolation and loneliness.

Involving WSSD and the College

At least a portion of the programming at existing community recreational resources should be older-adult friendly. Recommendations were also made to involve the school district and Swarthmore College in intergenerational activities. Welcoming newcomers to the community becomes important, too, for retirees who move to Swarthmore to be closer to family. By giving residents an opportunity to connect, learn about the community, and learn about available resources, the whole town is strengthened.

Education is at the heart of Swarthmore, and continuing education is dear to most residents. It was recommended that educational organizations expand daytime programming for older adults and encourage providers such as the Schoolhouse Center to bring activities and programs to the borough.

Cooperation Between Organizations

Participating in volunteer activities keeps us all involved, and the task force included a recommendation to expand opportunities for older adults to serve, and be served by, the community. Creating such an infrastructure is a repeated theme in the report, and may become one of the more rewarding aspects of its implementation. Many organizations already serve the senior community and they should be encouraged to continue. The report promotes cooperation among local organizations serving older adults by coordinating information, services, and programming.

Coordinating Health Care Services

Staying safe and healthy is increasingly challenging as we age. Nearly 25% of people age 65 will spend at least some time in a nursing home, and the odds increase with age. The task force recommends coordinating the efforts of health care providers to bring services to homes, checking in on frail elders who are living alone, and providing volunteer services so that the regular chores of housekeeping and maintenance do not become a barrier to staying in Swarthmore.

EMS and Police Vital

We will need to maintain our excellent Emergency Medical Services unit and the careful attention of our police department, essential to seniors feeling safe and secure. The task force recommended that the police department create a database of those prone to wandering, and a program to help residents provide secure health information to emergency personnel.

In real estate it might be “location, location, location,” but in planning and living a safe, healthy, and active life, it’s all about “information, information, information.” To make the right choices, we need the best and most up-to-date information. The task force recommends a web site, a phone number, a contact person, a directory, a kiosk — all means of providing such information.

A copy of the AIP task force presentation to borough council is at http://www.swarthmorepa.org/DocumentCenter/View/390 and the full report is at http://www.swarthmorepa.org/DocumentCenter/View/391.
Next time: Getting Around: Transportation and mobility recommendations of the task force.

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