I’ve been talking a lot recently about Senior Solutions’ role in helping to plan and coordinate a comprehensive system of services and supports for older adults and family caregivers. This role is highlighted in the recent update to our area plan as submitted to the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living and in our new strategic plan in which I reference collaborating with community partners such as local senior centers, meal sites, state agencies such as the Agency of Human Services, first responder services, local hospitals, local food shelves, and others.
This month I want to highlight some examples of how we have been able to do this recently.
On August 5, Senior Solutions partnered with the Black River Good Neighbors Food Shelf to host the first annual Age Successfully Health and Benefits Fair in Ludlow. The fair included health screenings by North Star Health, application assistance for food and nutrition programs such as 3SquaresVT, Meals on Wheels, and seasonal heating assistance. TRIO Community Meals provided a free barbeque. Arts programming, a Tai Chi demonstration, a Bone Builder demonstration, and anti-scam information from the sheriff’s department were all on site.
Other organizations present were the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), the Black River Senior Center, AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network, the Springfield Art Gym, Visiting Nurse and Hospice for VT & NH, Willow Farm Pet Service, and Better Life Partners, a medication-assisted therapy organization for substance use disorders.
Beth Stern, from Senator Bernie Sanders’ office, and State Senator Alice Nitka made the rounds as did at least one of the members of the Black River Good Neighbors Food Shelf board, who was quite effusive in his praise for our efforts in bringing this together. Throughout the day, 3SquaresVT Outreach Specialist Thom Simmons assisted seven households, comprised of ten people, with nine different applications. We estimate that about 200 visitors stopped by and that 78 meals were served.
Much credit goes to Suzanne Burge, one of our 3SquaresVT outreach specialists, for the tremendous effort she put into conceiving of and putting together this event with the folks at the Black River Good Neighbors Food Shelf. Suzanne put in most of the legwork on this event with help from Thom and Nutrition Director Wendi Germain. This is precisely the kind of planning and coordinating of a comprehensive system of services and supports for older adults and family caregivers that the Older Americans Act directs us to engage in.
Similarly, through her involvement with the Windsor Community Health Improvement Project, Operations Director Lori Linter was invited to participate in the Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center Community Health and Wellness Fair on August 20. Along with representatives from a dozen other community health organizations, Lori, HR Consultant Bev Widget and I spent the afternoon providing information about our services to visitors and vendors alike, as well as engaging in valuable networking with community partners.
And thanks to the efforts of our Board President Geri Kogut and Thom Simmons, we now have regular use of office space in the old Wilmington Fire House for making our application assistance services available to older Vermonters in the Deerfield Valley region. Read more here, for office hours. Geri and Thom worked with the Wilmington town manager to highlight the need for a convenient location where residents could access services. Geri advocated for Senior Solutions to be considered and Thom followed up with his 3SquaresVT road show to close the deal.
We are fortunate to have strong advocates such as Suzanne, Thom, Wendi, Lori, and Geri who are continually developing our relationships with our community partners. It is this grass roots networking that strengthens and expands the planning and coordinating of a comprehensive system of services and supports for older adults and family caregivers.