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July 1, 2009 > Pathways to Positive Aging: Seniors hold community dialogue

Pathways to Positive Aging: Seniors hold community dialogue

By Ritu Jha
Photos By Ritu Jha

The Fukaya room at Fremont main library was buzzing over bagels and coffee when Tri-City seniors gathered to discuss and plan for future activities.

The three hour discussion was full of excitement and about 60 attendees, mainly seniors, discussed topics such as access to information, internet at home, affordable healthcare, legal and financial planning, transportation and services for limited English speakers.

"We have gathered to discuss and seek input from seniors," said Mary Anderson, Chairman of the Tri-City Elder Coalition, speaking to the audience at the library.

The meeting was organized by the Tri-City Elder Coalition and the City of Fremont's Pathways to Positive Aging Project of the Human Services Department. Established in 2005, this program has been transforming long-term care in Fremont, Newark and Union City.

To receive valuable input, members of the organizations were divided into seven groups and were asked, "What do Tri-City seniors and their families need to support positive aging in place?"

"This is a bottom-up approach," said Mary Anne Mendall, former administrator of the City of Fremont Human Services Department. She said that the meeting is a good way to express ideas. "Seniors need to stay active," said Mendall, who added that there are about 49,250 seniors in the Tri-City area. "The summary of the discussion will lead to further discussions and implementation."

Of the several topics discussed, the top three priorities were: better access to information and services, health and safety and social networking.

"Health and safety is a concern of all cultures," said Mendall. She said seniors want an overall healthcare that is affordable, an understanding of medications and how to stay healthy. Forty one seniors felt a need for information assistance to better access services and stay connected. Another 29 people were interested in social networking that includes strong family and neighborhood support.

People also talked about affordable housing and services where people can get assistance in home modification and yard maintenance. "These needs are very similar to what we found four years ago," said Mendall. "We are already working on all these issues." She said the good thing is the program has been developing and progressing with these needs.

The committee also proposed three programs and plans on having a team of experts that would help seniors to connect to services. "It's about different agencies working with the seniors and family," said Mendall.

Karen Grimsich, administrator at the city of Fremont, Aging and Family Services, said all seniors talked about wanting to be part of the community. "Seniors want to support and be there for other seniors. It is really a good thing to hear," said Grimsich.

One of the top proposals was how to help seniors when they are discharged from hospitals and how to obtain support at home. Seniors also want to find help where they live, in an apartment or a condominium.

There was much discussion about how to find seniors who need help, but who wouldn't ask for assistance. However, the members were also concerned about the funding that will be required for the program. "There is no funding for the next year, so we are trying to figure out what we are going to do next," said Grimsich She said, "We have funding until June 2010."

Until now Pathways to Positive Aging has been funded by various organizations from around the area and has received grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a national grant program and some funding by Kaiser Permanente, Cargill Salt Company and San Francisco Foundation.

Mendall who retired last year from the Fremont Human Service Department, said she is hopeful to receive some federal funding as well as funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"Our program has credibility," said Mendall, who was happy with the outcome of the meeting, and said she received really good input. "They really gave us lot of good ideas on how to plan the next phase."

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