The Future of Aging
As demographics shift, nonprofits offer vital support to Minnesota’s graying population — and you can too
By Susan Perry
American demographics are undergoing a seismic shift, including in Minnesota. Both the country’s and the state’s populations are rapidly aging. In 2030, some 1.3 million Minnesotans will be aged 65 or older, more than double the number in that age group in 2000. Indeed, people aged 85 and older are the fastest growing demographic in Minnesota — not surprising, perhaps, given that the state has one of the highest life expectancies in the country (81.1 years).
Such a dramatic graying of Minnesota’s population presents significant challenges. Communities must find more effective, efficient — and caring — ways of supporting the needs of older people so they can live healthy, independent lives. Those needs include easy and affordable access to a wide range of services, including transporta-tion, nutritious meals, age-appropriate exercise programs, counseling and long-term care.
Minnesota has many nonprofits dedicated to addressing those needs. Recently, Minnesota Philanthropy Partners teamed with philanthropic-research company Philanthropedia to ask local experts which nonprofits are effectively supporting this growing population. Whether you’re looking to give time or money, here are some nonprofits to consider.
If You Want to Support … People with Alzheimer's
Consider: ACT on Alzheimer's
A statewide collaborative that grew out of the 2009 legislative session, ACT on Alzheimer’s includes more than 60 nonprofit, government and private organizations. Its goal is to prepare Minnesota for the personal, social and budgetary impacts of Alzheimer’s and related dementias, which currently affect more than 88,000 Minnesotans aged 65 or older. “One of our biggest accomplishments has been fostering the creation of dementia-friendly communities throughout the state,” says Executive Lead Olivia Mastry. At the start of this year, some 33 Minnesota communities were working toward becoming more supportive for people with dementia and their families.
New & Noteworthy: This year, ACT on Alzheimer’s is working with a multicultural group to revise its online screening, diagnosis and treatment protocols for health care providers to increase cultural competency — and thus be more effective in helping people of different cultures.
How You Can Help: Contact ACT on Alzheimer’s to learn how you can help your community become dementia-friendly. It offers great resources online, including a readiness survey and ACT toolkit.
If You Want to Support … Homebound Seniors
Consider: Store to Door
Store to Door delivers groceries and prescriptions to aging adults who are physically unable to shop on their own, thus helping them live independently for longer. Volunteers call clients every two weeks to take orders and shop at Cub Foods, then Store to Door staff deliver groceries and help unpack items and open difficult packaging. Fees are based on the client’s income level. During the 2014 fiscal year, Store to Door made 22,445 deliveries to 1,779 clients in the seven-county metro area. An additional 1,226 food deliveries were made to 183 low-income senior households through partnerships with local food-shelf programs.
New & Noteworthy: In 2014, Store to Door expanded its free food-shelf home-delivery program to include three new food-shelf partners, allowing it to reach more low-income households each month.
How You Can Help: Volunteer to take orders or shop. “Order takers are matched with a few regular, long-term clients and can work flexible times from wherever they have access to a phone and Internet,” says Development Director Tim Puffer
If You Want to Support … Senior Living Options
Consider: Episcopal Homes of Minnesota
Started in 1894, Episcopal Homes of Minnesota offers a continuum of compassionate and affordable senior living options, including independent living, assisted living, and short- and long-term nursing home care, situated along University Avenue in Saint Paul. “Our zip code has some of the greatest economic diversity in the state, and that diversity is represented on our campuses,” says Shelly Rucks, executive director of the Episcopal Homes Foundation. “We have people who are paying market rate living next door to those with low incomes. All share the same amenities. Our residents really embrace that.”
New & Noteworthy: In January, it opened Minnesota’s first nursing home designed around the Green House Model of Care. The Gardens’ six small “homes” (no more than 10 residents each) look like real homes, and their staff interact with residents in ways that more closely resemble family living.
How You Can Help: Lead a group activity, such as a book club discussion, exercise class, sing-a-long, or a session of bingo or bridge.
If You Want to Support … Family Caregivers
For more than five decades, FamilyMeans has been strengthening communities by strengthening families. Today, the Stillwater-based organization serves almost 24,000 people each year, primarily in Washington County but also throughout other areas of southeastern Minnesota (including the Twin Cities area) and western Wisconsin. Providing services and support to family caregivers of aging loved ones is a major focus of the organization. “We support them in a variety of ways, such as through respite care, individual coaching and consultation, and support groups,” says Beth Wiggins, director of caregiver support and aging services.
New & Noteworthy: FamilyMeans recently launched its “Aging by Design” educational initiative. This three-class course, aimed primarily at middle-aged adults, integrates the organization’s expertise in mental health, financial counseling and aging to help individuals “set the stage for how they want to age,” says Wiggins.
How You Can Help: Become a trained respite volunteer and provide welcome breaks to family caregivers.
If You Want to Support … Companionship for Isolated Seniors
Consider: Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly
During its last fiscal year, the Minnesota chapter of Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly linked about 1,000 volunteers with more than 900 older, isolated adults in the greater Twin Cities. Through in-home visits, phone calls, social events, holiday meals and other activities, the volunteers help seniors reconnect to their communities, thus relieving loneliness and enhancing well-being and independence. About 30 percent of Minnesotans aged 65 and older live alone — a statistic that underscores the need for such services.
New & Noteworthy: In 2015, the nonprofit launched its new Path to Better Living program. With educational workshops and one-on-one counseling, the program “offers elders specific life skills to build their self-esteem and make them better equipped to live independently,” says Interim Executive Director LuAnne Speeter.
How You Can Help: Volunteer to visit homebound seniors or to serve as a driver for daytime events and monthly flower/cookie deliveries.
The Philanthropedia Survey
Philanthropedia is a California-based philanthropic-research company owned by GuideStar. For this project, Philanthropedia surveyed 49 local experts from 42 organizations, asking them to recommend aging-related nonprofits that have had high impact in Minnesota over the past few years.. See more data at myphilanthropedia.org.
Kristi Kane, executive director of ElderCircle
How to help: Know your neighbors. Make it a point to keep in contact with them. Ask if they need help plowing snow or picking up items from the grocery store. A small amount of assistance can often help aging community members stay active, healthy, and in their own homes longer. And it’s rewarding to boot.
Local nonprofit everyone should know: The Senior Linkage Line (1-800-333-2433), a free service that connects individuals to services throughout the state. Although not really a nonprofit organization, it’s a great place to start when searching for a multitude of services for yourself or a loved one.
Dawn Simonson, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging
Biggest challenge facing aging baby boomers: Planning for their personal age journey while providing care for parents and other older relatives and friends. It’s daunting to understand the financial, social and health aspects of aging. Many of us don’t readily embrace the changes that growing old embody, much less plan for them in a timely, realistic framework.
Local nonprofit everyone should know: The Vital Aging Network. This grassroots organization is led by older adults who work to empower people aged 50 and older as they develop skills and knowledge and define their passions for community good.
Rajean Moone, aging and disability consultant, Moone Consulting
How aging is changing: People are living longer and healthier into old age. And the current cohort of older adults, the “Silent Generation,” is very different from their children, the “Baby Boomers.” It’s hard to imagine [Boomers] will echo their parents and be silent in old age!
Misunderstood aspect of aging: That government entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare solve all problems for older adults. While these programs are the number one and number two factors why most older adults do not live in poverty, they are not a panacea. There is a high likelihood that if we live long enough, we are going to need some help with our daily life — shoveling snow, putting away groceries, etc. — and neither of these programs help in this regard.
This article is from the Spring 2015 issue of MNSights, the flagship publication for Minnesota Philanthropy Partners. The contents of this article are current as of the publication date. Find more news, information and resources to help you be an effective philanthropist on our MNSights page.
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