Aging in a new light

A recent article in USA Today: “5 must-do’s as age wave bears down on the USA” described the five most important issues facing the aging generation. Based on a survey of 1,007 adults 60 and older by the National Council on Aging, United Health Care and the newspaper, it sought data on how well American communities are prepared for the future needs of a growing senior population.

There were mixed results. What was clear were the five areas affecting older adults that directly influence their lives:

• The need for suitable transportation;

• More available, affordable health care;

• Senior-friendly housing.

These were the most urgent needs, along with ways to keep seniors engaged and productive and the inevitable need for more caregivers.

Theresa Santoro, president and CEO of the Ridgefield Visiting Nurses Association observed, “RVNA’s mission is centered on answering these challenges for 19 communities in southwestern Connecticut (including Wilton). We have been providing available, affordable health care from birth to the end of life. For many older adults, our visiting nurses do much more than manage their physical well-being. They listen, make suggestions and provide friendly, continuing concern for their patients, which helps make it possible to avoid nursing homes and emergency rooms.”

Eloise Barron, director of community health and wellness, heads an RVNA program called Quality Living at Home. As a certified aging-in-place specialist, she connects people to various services in order to improve home safety and accessibility, such as building ramps. Quality Living at Home is a free, 24/7 call center, a trusted source of information with a comprehensive resource directory. RVNA supports a Friendly Driver program, helping people get to their medical appointments.

All this helps seniors to be more productive, stay more connected and see aging in a new light. RVNA caregiver training sessions help eliminate the tension and anxiety caregivers often feel. Almost half of U.S. adult family members will support a parent or family member at some point. The projected increase of the elderly population is staggering. RVNA has been growing along with this population, to create a designation of “Grown-Uppers” who can transform the stereotype of “little old ladies” with cheerful, healthy people who are welcome additions to communities.