Part 2: Aging Independently, Challenges That Seniors Face Today
Newtown's senior population is rapidly growing, with many choosing to remain in their homes or local independent housing facilities. Without family members, nurses, or aides living with them, a number of challenges can arise for seniors, making daily activities difficult.
Various organizations in town affiliated with senior citizens shared with The Newtown Bee the struggles that they see seniors living alone face each day, and what those organizations can do to help.
Where To Turn
Many times, seniors who are facing difficulties living alone do not know who to reach out to for assistance or where to begin to find resources. Others are even hesitant to seek help at all, because they do not want to be seen as a burden.
The goal of Social Services in Newtown is to enhance the quality of life for people in need of social and financial services.
Social Services Director Ann LoBosco says she does not want seniors to be intimidated by the words "social services."
"[Our] mission is to basically keep people afloat in hard times, whether it is a temporary or long-term situation that they are dealing with," Ms LoBosco said.
"We refer people out to different agencies, and if they do not have the funds - because everything is private pay - then we would help them with the application for state homecare, which that is asset and income based. They do a test and an application, and they can possibly get help that way," she added.
Social Services can also help seniors on budgets with matters like energy assistance, renter's rebate, tax office needs, Medicare decisions, prescriptions, and for emergency situations that result in a high medical bill.
Families of seniors who do not live locally can also benefit, because Newtown Social Services can make visits to help check on seniors at home.
Ms LoBosco said, "I would certainly recommend [seniors] take the time to talk with us to find out more about what we do. A lot of what we do is for lower income, but not necessarily. When it comes to seniors, it's on a broader scale."
For more information on Social Services and the resources they offer, call 203-270-4330 or visit newtown-ct.gov/social-services. Local resources for seniors can also be found at agewellconnecticut.org.
Community Engagement Opportunities
Social Services is just one of the many resources in Newtown that the aging population living alone can benefit from. The department also works closely with the Newtown Senior Center to ensure seniors receive the help that they need to thrive.
Marilyn Place has been the Newtown Senior Center's director of senior services for 27 years. She works to create opportunities for older generations to enjoy socialization, emotional/physical wellness, and educational programs.
People can join the senior center if they are 60 years of age or older, or if they are 55 years old and disabled.
For those who are no longer working and living alone, it may become increasingly challenging to find ways to interact and meet new people, said Ms Place. Senior centers can help people create new friendships while attending programs that interest them.
The Newtown Senior Center has a wide variety of weekday programs that include everything from fitness classes to crafts to dancing to games.
There are also day trips, intergenerational programs with students from the Children's Adventure Center, flu shot clinics, free income tax assistance, the AARP Driver Safety Program, and informational seminars.
"It's a fun place," Ms Place said. "It's one way for them to interact with their peers. Once they do that then they start doing it again and again, like an exercise program, and they don't want to sit at home and watch TV anymore."
Socialization can help bring seniors out of depression, which is unfortunately a common occurrence among the aging community.
When Ms Place sees those that may be struggling, she taps into town resources to get that person the help they need.
The Newtown Senior Center can be a place where those in the aging community find a purpose, Ms Place says, which makes them live longer. It also is a resource for those to come to and know that they are not alone facing life issues.
Some may just come for classes and leave, she says, but there are those who stay all day because they don't want to go home and be by themselves.
"There's a lot of [seniors facing challenges] out there, but we don't know until they contact us," Ms Place said. "We are here to help."
To learn more about how join the Newtown Senior Center, call 203-270-4310, visit newtown-ct.gov/senior-center, or stop by 14 Riverside Road in Sandy Hook, Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 4:30 pm.
For seniors living alone who can no longer travel, but are looking for ways to socialize, the Newtown nonprofit organization Golden Opportunities works to enhance the quality of life for individuals by providing outreach services of comfort, compassion, and support.
Golden Opportunities CEO Knettie Archard co-founded the group with her husband, Flip Archard, ten years ago. She was inspired to find a way to help seniors in need after having seen her own parents struggle as they aged.
Her parents lived into their 90s, and she explained that "the last few years they couldn't get out as much. They had both been very vibrant and physically active all the time, and their bodies were just slowing down."
She recalls her father saying to her one day, "Why are we still living if we can't do anything but watch TV?"
The conversation motivated her to fix their situation and go on to establish Golden Opportunities, where she now helps countless others.
"We work primarily with elder care facilities: nursing homes, retirement centers, assisted living," Ms Archard explained.
However, because there are many seniors in town outside of those facilities in need, they also offer special resources for those living alone.
Ms Archard said, "Some don't have any family or any visitors and that takes a toll on their well-being... We try to dissolve some of that loneliness."
A popular program they offer is called the Warm Line, where someone from Golden Opportunities makes a weekly phone call to a senior who is referred to them by a social worker or family member.
The call is not medicinal or clinical based, but instead serves as a friendly reminder that someone out there cares and wants to know about their day.
"Friendships have formed and many phone calls have morphed into visitation and going out to lunch periodically," Ms Archard said.
Golden Opportunities also grants special wishes for seniors, ranging from hearing aids and laptops to modest requests of pineapple juice and Fig Newtons.
"It brings back memories of childhood or a happier time in their life. It makes them feel less stressed, more comfortable, cared about, and valued," Ms Archard said. "Sometimes we forget how special and meaningful the little things are, the everyday things."
Golden Opportunities even provide gifts for seniors on their birthdays and major holidays to let the aging community know they are being thought of and are not truly alone.
Seniors interested in finding out more about Golden Opportunities or those looking to become a volunteer can call 203-426-3301 or visit goldenopps.org.
For more information about local resources for aging independently, read this article's first installment that was in the Friday, August 18, print edition.
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