Dignity in Aging Initiative Addresses Senior Needs
When she lost her husband Harry to cancer after more than 50 years of marriage, 73-year-old Barbara was alone and scared for the first time in her adult life. While her overall health was not a concern, Barbara had some vision problems and didn’t drive, so she found herself feeling more and more isolated. It didn’t help that her children and grandchildren lived far away.
Seniors like Barbara are the reason why United Way of Broward County, together with other local funders, developed the Dignity in Aging initiative.
In 2019, a funding collaborative was developed between United Way and these funders to assess needs and find gaps in services for seniors in Broward County. What they discovered were four dominant themes: Community Perception (ageism, defining persons by limitations and the importance of cross-generational engagement); Systemic Issues (limited access, limited awareness and information, and difficulty in navigating the system); Economics and Affordability (fixed incomes, limited housing options, and expenses); and Wellbeing and Wellness Promotion (loneliness/isolation, limited prevention and intervention, and caregiver burden).
The Dignity in Aging initiative leverages each organization’s resource to fund best/promising practice programs specifically targeting social isolation among Broward seniors age 65+. The following are the unique programs that comprise the Dignity in Aging initiative:
Canine Assisted Therapies/Improving Lives of Isolated Seniors Utilizing Pet Therapy Program - Provides pet therapy for isolated seniors living at assisted living facilities or participating in center-based day programs throughout Broward County.
Daniel D. Cantor Senior Center/Connect to Friends and Activities – Provides socialization, stimulation, motivation and safety to seniors living in northwestern Broward County. Components of the program include outreach, enhanced programming to stimulate and motivate seniors, and case management. A dedicated staff member provides outreach to the community, solves transportation issues and provides informal case management to seniors. In addition, the Center offers music and art therapy, field trips and other stimulating activities.
Easterseals South Florida, Inc /Expanded and Enhanced Adult Day Care – Serves seniors age 65 and older who have memory and/or cognitive impairments, and ensures they receive more intense case management services by a social worker by providing more targeted case management. Person-centered activities in English, Spanish and Creole include activities of socially interactive nature, including Integrative Memory Enhancement, holistic exercise programs, community outings and supervised volunteering.
Goodman Jewish Family Services/Active@Home - This technology-based pilot program helps seniors who are unable to leave home to connect with friends and loved ones. Seniors use their television set and the Internet to interact with family and friends and actively participate in live-streamed programming that includes exercise, trivia games, current events and curated content designed to keep them active. This decreases symptoms of loneliness, isolation and depression. A Case Manager is responsible for the tracking utilization of the technology and the results for each senior.
Memorial Foundation/ALLIES - Addresses the social isolation needs of seniors age 80 and older through wrap-around case management services. This includes in-home visits and environmental safety scans, connection to services, social and educational activities, referrals, transportation, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Late Life isolation and depression as well as pet therapy.
Mount Olive Development Corporation/Senior Connection – Serves seniors age 80 and older. Three times a week, seniors are provided transportation and healthy breakfast and lunch at the Mount Nebo Church. Seniors participate in holistic wellness activities that include nutrition education, exercise, social engagement and connection to local services and resources. A staff member visits the seniors, conducting in-home assessments to ensure their living environment is safe and basic needs are met.
Museum of Discovery & Science (MODS)/Movies, Music & More @ MODS – Provides seniors with monthly virtual or in-person programming that includes interaction with Museum educators, stage shows, and/or animal meet and greet. Participants receive transportation to MODS, lunch and theater concessions.
Slow Burn Theatre Company/Elder Arts at Broward College – Provides field trips for isolated seniors to enjoy musicals, meet and greet with actors, and other learning activities that stimulate interaction and senses. A program coordinator works with partner organizations to provide outreach to assisted living facilities within targeted cities.
South Florida Institute on Aging/Caregiver Assistance Program – Recruits volunteers to provide in-home and virtual support to new caregivers and seniors. The program also delivers enhanced trainings for caregivers, employers and respite volunteers, and makes referrals to the SoFIACare Collaborative, which are home health agencies that will temporarily meet the needs of those in most economic need until a volunteer is placed.
For Barbara, isolation and loneliness were her key issues. That’s why she was a perfect candidate for the newest Dignity in Aging program, United for Seniors. A partnership between United Way of Broward County, the Area Agency on Aging of Broward County and Broward College, United for Seniors was launched in November 2021 to bring companionship and assistance to seniors who face isolation by pairing them with Broward College students. Some of the students are working toward degrees in helping professions – such as social work, nursing and therapy -- and gain valuable paid experience working with seniors. Each commits to working with a senior for the entire academic year. The students serve as gatekeepers and connectors for their assigned older adults by identifying risks, safety needs, health concerns, and care requirements and alerting project staff for follow-up.
Since being a part of United for Seniors, Barbara has felt more confident and independent. She’s grateful for the companionship of her student, and is facing the future with a renewed positive outlook. That is one of the reasons why these programs exist, and just another example of how United Way of Broward County fights for the well-being of EVERY person in Broward County.