When a group of Darien residents surveyed seniors in town, they found they wanted four things: transportation, a way to find vetted service providers, help with chores around the house, and more connection with the community.
Out of that grew a town-wide program, At Home in Darien, that aims to connect those over 60 with the community. Volunteers provide ride to people who need them – to doctors’ appointments, barber shops or lunch with friends. The organization maintains a list of vetted service providers for those looking for, say, a locksmith. There are volunteers who do grocery shopping, leaf raking, change smoke detector batteries or other household chores for seniors in town.
And the group has worked to better connect seniors to the community, whether that means getting books and videos from the library delivered to those who can’t get there in person or having the local schools invite seniors to dress rehearsals of plays. Several years ago, the captains of Blue Wave Football, the Darien High School team, came to At Home In Darien and said they wanted to create a senior cheering section at the games, since many were already attending to see their grandchildren play or to watch a team they once played for years ago. So they did.
Connecticut – a state with one of the oldest populations in the country – has been in the midst of a major shift in how it handles long-term care, aiming to ensure that people can receive services at home or in their communities, rather than in nursing homes, if they choose. Those involved in the effort say it means addressing transportation, housing, health care and workforce issues.
But achieving it also means focusing on more informal supports that make it possible for people to really participate in their communities, not just physically be there.
This CT Mirror Google Hangout focused on both the formal and informal ways to ensure that state residents can age in place. Peter Gioia, vice president and economist with the Connecticut Business & Industry Association; Maureen McIntyre, executive director of the North Central Area Agency on Aging; and Peter Eder, a retired marketing and public relations executive who serves on the board of At Home In Darien, participated in the conversation, which was moderated by Mirror Health Care Reporter Arielle Levin Becker. It was sponsored by AARP Connecticut.