This year our region lost a tremendous volunteer who served as a dedicated volunteer with Centralina Area Agency on Aging for more than 11 years. Shirley Wiggins was the recipient of the Centralina Region of Excellence Aging in Action award for her dedicated advocacy work for seniors living in the Gaston County area.
The annual Centralina Area Agency on Aging (AAA) Conference has been a popular and successful event for more than 20 years. The 2021 Aging Conference was no exception even though it transitioned to a virtual format. Centralina AAA Director Linda Miller explains, “We had to cancel our 2020 Conference due to COVID and we wanted to ensure we wouldn’t have to cancel this year, so we decided to offer the 2021 conference virtually.” Despite this change, the conference boasted more than 300 attendees on Friday, Oct. 1, with people joining the online event from as far away as Maryland, Denver and even Nevada.
Article five in the CONNECT Our Future series focuses on topics associated with community health, namely on the relationship between community health and city and regional planning. It highlights several priorities from CONNECT Our Future and their foundational support for independent work completed by health care officials, non-profit organizations, businesses, government officials, philanthropists and community members to improve individual well-being and community health throughout the region.
Today’s senior centers are delivering vital connections to help older adults age well. Senior centers offer a vibrant, action-packed combination of social activities, fitness and health and wellness classes, volunteering opportunities and community events. Senior centers also provide local formal and informal support systems for the older and disabled adults, which can help them stay as active as possible in their community. During the pandemic, senior centers pivoted to provide virtual services such as online fitness, fun activities, support groups and occasionally grab-and-go meals.
Every 11 seconds an older adult visits an emergency department due to a fall-related injury, but many of the falls could have been prevented. Falls remain a leading cause of injury for people aged 65 and older. These falls threaten older adults’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs. However, through practical lifestyle adjustments, evidence-based falls prevention programs and clinical-community partnerships, the number of falls among older adults can be substantially reduced.
By the year 2030, one in five North Carolinians will be 65 and older, and the proportion of older adults 85 and over will increase as the baby boomer population moves into this age group. As North Carolina demographics skew towards the older population, learning more about how to serve their needs becomes more important. Getting a head start with Aging and Disability Awareness Training is essential to ensure good customer service for all organizations that work with this population now and in the years to come.
On March 29, President Biden announced that the administration was taking further action to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines. One action included in this expansion is that, through a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Administration for Community Living (ACL), ACL would provide nearly $100 million to help increase vaccinations among older adults and people with disabilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected older adults and individuals with disabilities, especially more disproportionately than other demographic groups. As a result, many agencies and organizations that provide support reduced or curtailed their services in order to protect employees and volunteers from possible exposure to COVID-19 and to prevent the spread of the illness to individuals they served.
Part of Centralina’s mission is to support older adults and those with disabilities, including dementia. One way we fulfill this mission is by leading an initiative called Dementia Friendly Charlotte Mecklenburg (DFCM) that seeks to increase awareness and enhance the lives of people living with dementia and those who care for them.
Through our dementia education sessions, Centralina has created over 500 Dementia Friends in the last two years. Dementia Friends are ambassadors that pledge to teach their communities about this illness, how to interact/communicate with those individuals and how to be a good community partner. In addition to education, we can also certify communities and businesses as “dementia friendly” and are currently in the pilot stages of certifying our first business. For more information on becoming a dementia friendly community or a Dementia Friend, contact the Centralina Area Agency on Aging.
Abuse and neglect of older persons is grossly under-reported and under-recognized. Estimates reveal that only one out of every twenty-three cases of mistreatment is reported to be investigated. Public education campaigns are vital for informing communities about elder abuse, which is why the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse promotes the 7th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).