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Senior Moments from H.O.M.E.

Seniors are often overlooked. You can be a part of the solution.

Posted by Amber Martin on Jan 8, 2018 10:30:00 AM

Let’s start here because this needs to be said: seniors are valuable.

joan2.jpgAs someone who works for an organization that is committed to helping older adults, you may think I’m biased. It’s true; my work securing funding for H.O.M.E. has taught me just how much seniors have to offer.

Beyond the wisdom and experience for which we often give them credit, seniors provide tangible value to our communities.

Older adults outpace other generations in volunteering; provide vital childcare for working parents; and are consumers and investors and donors. And yes, just like Joan, they’re still working.

My work has also shown me how overlooked older adults are.

Seniors tend to be an invisible population. Do a little googling and you’ll see that there are far more foundations and nonprofits that focus on children rather than seniors.

In fact, less than 2 percent of foundations give to senior causes.

We at H.O.M.E. have lost three foundations this year who have been faithful funders because we no longer fit their new funding priorities.

IMG_1545.jpgThat’s why when I read the blog post “Kids are the future? So are older adults!,” I was so thrilled. It’s not a topic people outside of the aging field commonly discuss.

And I get it, youth organizations are underfunded too; resources are scarce. But less than 2 percent is shockingly low, especially given the realities of an aging population.

Furthermore, only 6 percent of nonprofits serve seniors.

There’s certainly room for growth in the philanthropic and nonprofit world.

One foundation leader described the concern well:

“As funders, we like to talk about addressing problems “upstream.” We like to help youth and we recognize their potential, with good reason.  But someone who is 55 may have 50 more years of life - years of potential that our culture wastes.  Upstream is much longer than we think.”

It’s a bleak landscape.

In our open office space, it breaks my heart to hear how often our Operations Coordinator tells a senior that there just isn’t a lot of help out there for seniors like them and we don’t offer the service they are seeking.

Too frequently, we don’t have a place to refer them to.

Someone recently asked me, “Who cares about seniors? Who are your donors?”

Thanks_Donors.jpgI responded genuinely, “Our donors are extraordinary people. They’re a rare breed.”

And it’s true. Most of our donors have had a parent or grandparent who they are particularly close to.

Often, our donors have a healthcare background—they’ve worked with seniors and understand their needs go beyond just healthcare.

Some of our donors are seniors themselves and tell us they are grateful that they can give to others who need help meeting their housing needs. They know it’s hard, even when you have the means. Our society doesn’t make it easy, but they know it’s important to invest in seniors.

Our donors understand the value of older adults. We depend on these amazing people to provide essential services to seniors in Chicago.

As this Fast Company article says, we need to re-think aging – see the value in it – and re-think how we are structuring cities and services for seniors, too.

Intergenerational_Definition.pngH.O.M.E. has been doing this for a while.

That same Fast Company article talks about Pat Crowley House, which we opened in 1983 to provide intergenerational living in Chicago. It was an innovative idea then, and it remains so today.

While intergenerational programming has been accepted as a best practice for some time, it’s been slow to gain speed, but it is beginning to. Thanks to Generations United, we know a lot about the benefits of intergenerational programs and experiences.

Connecting generations is good for everybody.

And we’re not just innovating on that front.

Our programs offer simple solutions that help seniors remain independent and a vital part of their community.

When Velma and Ernest 2.jpghome repairs are out of reach; when your home is too far away from a grocery store; or when you need to move to a safer environment as you age, your quality of life and health may suffer.

Our programs fill those gaps.

H.O.M.E. brings together a unique combination of services in a supportive, senior-centered environment that lessens the burden of social isolation that many seniors face.  We believe that the human element is essential to our model.

We know that sharing a bus ride, saying hello, sharing a joke and a story with others can make a difference too. Serving seniors with warmth, connection, and joy is our particular expertise. Since 1982, we have helped thousands of seniors to maintain their independence and remain a part of their community.

Will you join us as we continue to re-think aging?

There are lots of ways to get involved. From volunteering to leadership opportunities to becoming one of those amazing donors I talked about, you can be a part of the solution.

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Topics: intergenerational housing, senior independence, philanthropy, aging in community, ageism