By Mark Boutwell, Executive Director
On August 1, as required by the federal Older Americans Act, we submitted our updated agency area plan to the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL). Developed every three years, the plan is a compilation of input from our community partners and focus groups, distilled into key areas of need. We then establish goals, performance measures, and strategies for achieving specific outcomes. Copies of the plans for all five area agencies on aging in Vermont can be found on the state Adult Services Division website.
Within the category of community planning and systems development, we set a goal to strengthen the community infrastructure that supports the wellbeing and dignity of older Vermonters by leveraging relationships with our community partners and expanding our outreach. The three Successful Aging health fairs we have organized this summer are great examples of outcomes related to this goal. We established regular outreach hours in Wilmington through a partnership with the town for the use of their decommissioned firehouse, and over the past year mounted successful campaigns throughout several towns in our service area to inform all residents about benefits such as 3SquaresVT food stamps and LIHEAP heating assistance.
Last winter we conducted a survey of over 50 community partners with results showing that 75 percent of respondents indicated they are satisfied with the responsiveness of our staff. And 50 percent indicated the maximum level of overall satisfaction with staff responsiveness.
Within the category of health promotion and disease prevention, we set a goal of promoting participation in evidence-based wellness programs by offering a variety of programs that appeal to different interests and preferences. This summer, Nutrition and Wellness Director, Thom Simmons has led three community groups participating in Walk With Ease walking programs, an evidence-based activity endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation.
Within the category of prevention of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation, we work closely with Vermont Legal Aid and the Vermont Department of Adult Protective Services, and we continually coordinate with local emergency and social services. We also provide education to our many community partners so they know how to identify risks and where to report their concerns.
Our area plan also contains a results-based accountability report card with goals related to our case management, nutrition, and caregiver services. Our survey data related to these goals consistently show strong positive outcomes from our work in these areas.
I am deeply grateful for our staff who work, day after day, in communities throughout our service area to ensure that the older Vermonters who reach out to us for assistance receive the services they need. Their success is reflected in the strong responses we receive from our regular surveys and from the daily feedback we receive directly from clients. I am tremendously proud to work with talented people who are dedicated to helping others. They strive for a standard of service across all our programs that includes humor, grace, outstanding knowledge, and reliability. They regularly go above and beyond to assist, support, coordinate, and advocate, and to develop innovative and engaging programs that enable older Vermonters to age with dignity in the places of their choice, with the support they need, and the opportunity for meaningful relationships and active engagement in their community.