Centralina Area Agency on Aging (AAA) recently held its annual holiday event at the Speedway Club to celebrate the work of service providers, volunteers and those serving on advisory councils in 2022. The theme “Innovations in Aging” highlighted best practices across the region and featured successes that often stemmed from challenging situations.
Centralina Executive Director Geraldine Gardner kicked off the event with a few remarks about unlocking your creativity. The key to innovation she said is to take the baggage out of the word and the pressure off yourself. “Innovation” simply means trying something new. Geraldine called on attendees to “innovate for purpose by adding value and making others’ lives better.” The group also did a show of hands exercise that demonstrated we’re less likely to call ourselves innovators than we are other people.
After lunch, participants broke into small groups to discuss topics, challenges and possible solutions around innovation in the aging community. Some of the conversation points included:
- Tiny homes
- Transportation challenges and how to serve those in rural areas
- Addressing social isolation
- How to reach the Latino population and people that are hard of hearing
- Technology challenges for older adults and reaching those that don’t use the internet
- Offering grocery delivery if congregate meals are not an option
- Recognizing volunteers and growing volunteer programs
- Making best use of existing spaces including nearby parks
Centralina AAA staff briefly reviewed some of its innovative programming and initiatives including:
- PEARLS – An evidence-based health program to combat social isolation
- Healthy Homes Falls Prevention – Education and home modification program to help prevent in-home falls
- Family Caregiver Support Program – Awarding vouchers for 1. Educational resources 2. Caregiver assistance and emergency planning 3. Training and support 4. Supplies 5. Respite
- Hero Awards – Recognizing the work of long-term care Ombudsman through resident, staff and family nominations
- Transportation Assistance – Transportation Guide for Older Adults and People with Disabilities and a transportation toolkit for community service organizations
Some of the other speakers and topics included:
- Kristine Arnau, Age Friendly Mecklenburg – Eight domains of livability: 1. Transportation 2. Housing 3. Communication/information 4. Community support & health services 5. Outdoor services & buildings 6. Respect & social inclusion 7. Social participation 8. Civic participation & employment
- Andrew Friend, Council on Aging in Union County – Leveraging volunteer base to do minor home repairs including building wheelchair ramps and installing grab bars
- Ian Sweeney and Teresa Kiser, Cabarrus County Senior Center – How to take advantage of outdoor space to extend living areas
- Nan Buehrer, Rufty-Holmes Senior Center – Latino lunch club to engage the growing Hispanic population and adjusting the messaging, location, event type and food selection to best fit the target audience
In addition to innovation, there were several other themes that carried through the event including how to leverage your volunteer base, make best of use of existing and/or limited resources and diversity considerations to engage different population groups.