Monday, April 14, 2008

Driving Transformation in the Field of Aging

On March 26-29, 6000 people gathered in Washington, DC to attend the annual American Society on Aging and National Council on Aging (NCOA) joint conference. We “boomers and beyond” have become a hot topic. ReServe focuses on the talents, skills and experience of those 50+ and how we can help to solve a range of issues in the social, environmental, educational, justice, housing, arts, and health arenas. As the Executive Director of ReServe, it was great for me to have an opportunity to share with attendees some of our collective accomplishments, which include the following.

ReServe was featured in two workshop sessions: one on our Health Navigator Project and the other on how ReServe has built key collaborative relationships with the City of NY, City University of NY, AARP, and Libraries for the Future to extend the reach of ReServists into new areas. The Health Navigator Project workshop attracted about 20 health care professionals who are grappling with the high costs and care needs of many older adults which they face after discharge from a hospital stay. Our Health Navigators, working in collaboration with Beth Israel and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospitals here in NYC, have completed a training course developed by ReServe and augmented by training in benefits entitlement with a NCOA web-based tool – Benefits Check-Up. The goal of our Health Navigators is to serve as the go-between the hospital and home care services, as well as other community based services, such as transportation, money management, and home delivered meals.

ReServe’s Health Navigators come from a wide range of backgrounds; they need not be social workers. Rather, they need to have an interest in the target population and in problem-solving. The rewards are many: seeing an elderly gentleman with diabetes being more independent because our Health Navigators helped him enroll in the NYS EPIC program to obtain his insulin; a low income Hispanic woman whose Spanish speaking Health Navigator is able to negotiate problems with creditors greatly reducing her stress. The program is in its pilot phase with funding from the MetLife Foundation, the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation, the Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, and Continuum Health Partners. The conference attendees who heard about ReServe’s small pilot were very interested in possible replication in their hospitals – given that this is often a missing service that many believe could begin to save the health care system significant dollars and improve the quality of life for frail elderly adults.

At the second workshop entitled “Civic Engagement Using Stipended Professional Volunteers” – I described ReServe’s operating model and how ReServe has developed collaborations for public sector positions with the City of New York – through the City’s Department for the Aging – and with the City University of New York – through the Chancellor’s Office. Both efforts are groundbreaking and have gotten off to solid starts this year. The City project is now involving about 20 City agencies which have identified 88 positions for ReServists – lawyers, social workers, organizational management and human resources experts, finance and information technology professionals, marketers and writers. The agencies tell us that the ReServists are getting jobs done that would have sat on the backburner for a long time or are new consultative roles to help an agency solve a particular problem.

At CUNY, 15 campuses have requested 48 ReServists to assist with mentoring, writing, development, human resources, and engineering work. ReServists are enjoying being engaged with students in these college settings, and the CUNY supervisors report that ReServists bring maturity and skills that are very helpful to students and to faculty members and administrators.

The AARP collaborations with ReServe are several. The first is in the AARP Money Management Program in which ReServists are the Captains of AARP volunteers who assist on a 1 to 1 basis frail, lower income elderly persons in billpaying and money management. This program now about a year old has proven to be a great fit with ReServists’ skills often from the finance and corporate sectors and volunteers who want a direct service experience.

The second collaboration with AARP is with their relatively new WorkSearch Program – a web based program to assess the interests and skills of job seekers over 40 and to match them with local opportunities. ReServists are serving as Employment Navigators to launch the WorkSearch Program at the Queens Library – working with Libraries for the Future – and with AARP’s office in Denver, Colorado. ReServe Board Member and NYS AARP Director Lois Aronstein has been instrumental in forging these mutually productive collaborations.

No comments: