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County’s Conference on Aging Emphasizes Resources, Collaboration

by Kathie Sizemore , Communications Officer, Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult Services
Nearly 200 senior care professionals turned out for Cuyahoga County’s 24th Annual Conference on Aging last month. The conference, presented by the Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult Services (DSAS) in conjunction with The MetroHealth people sitting at tables listening to a speakerSystem, provides an opportunity to study the issues impacting older adults, share resources and increase collaboration among service providers.

The keynote discussion centered around the idea of the “New Majority,” a term that underscores the fact that seniors will be the largest segment of the County’s population by the year 2030.

“Today, baby boomers total 77 million nationwide,” said panelist Will Tarter of the Center for Community Solutions. “The baby boomer generation will be retiring at the rate of 10,000 retirees per day for the next 19 years. We need to determine now how we can best serve them.”

Mark McDermott of Enterprise Community Partners noted that close to 50 million dollars is allocated annually to the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, which goes to repair homes owned by older persons to make them more navigable.

“Nationwide, only one percent of existing housing is suitable for seniors. We must be more efficient in our planning to meet the future housing need,” stated McDermott.

Conference attendees had an opportunity to learn about area resources including housing, medical devices, consumer affairs, home health services and other providers. They also gained insight into an “elder orphan” support network, mental health awareness for older adults, and wellness initiatives for the County’s LGBT older population.

“I think the answer is creativity,” said Ann Conn, Chief Operating Officer for The McGregor Foundation. “How do we leverage some of the strengths we have now? We are working with the Cleveland Housing Partnership to provide affordable assisted living on our campus, and our PACE program participants to leverage service provision. We need to make sure we are working across network to provide the best care, at the right place, at the right time.”

A panel on faith-based initiatives was led by Dr. Tony Minor, manager of MetroHealth’s faith community outreach. The panel consisted of three local pastors who recently conducted a focus group among their congregations. They found that 64 percent of their members were seniors, and many were lacking transportation, food, and knowledge about services available to them.

“We are not living in a senior-centered society,” said Pastor Lorenzo Norris, of Concord Baptist Church. “There needs to be a commitment to the spiritual, group of smiling peoplemental and physical well-being of our seniors. It’s the right thing to do.”

The panelists noted that entrepreneurial programming, transitional housing, home repair assistance, and emergency funding for food and medicine are key needs identified through the focus groups. They also indicated that rebuilding connections between seniors and youth with intergenerational programming is a central focus.

The conference also celebrated community advocates who have made an impact on senior well-being. Beverly R. Charles, a former aide to Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, was recognized with the Candace L. Carmichael Award. Charles has been actively advocating for senior issues for over two decades.

“I believe you can give with a smile and truly mean it,” Charles said. “One of my most valued treasures is the bountiful smile I received from someone I have helped.”

group of smiling peopleThe Greater Cleveland Food Bank was the recipient of this year’s Barbara S. Galloway Award in recognition of their work in providing nutritional assistance to seniors in need. “The Greater Cleveland Food Bank has been an incredible partner with our Emergency Food Pantry Program,” said DSAS Interim Administrator Marlene Statler-Robinson. “Our case workers are now able to provide immediate nutrition assistance when they encounter a client with a food emergency.”

To learn more about the Conference on Aging, visit www.dsas.cuyahogacounty.us or call 216-698-2202.