Aging in place: How Summit County is addressing its growing senior population
Produced and written by GAR Foundation and Akron Community Foundation.
A homecare service provider arrives at Charles Cucuzza’s house on a weekday morning. She tidies up, restocks his groceries, and prepares a nutritious breakfast for him to eat. This unvarying routine is anything but ordinary for Cucuzza who says he nearly lost all hope after his wife died. This kind of support restored his hope when he thought it was the end.
Stories like Cucuzza’s are not uncommon and will soon become more frequent than they have been in decades. Our society is aging – as baby boomers began turning 65 in 2011, the United States Census Bureau estimated that the nation will soon experience considerable growth in its older population. By 2050, the population aged 65 is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double what it was in 2012. Summit County is no exception. According to an Akron Community Foundation report, individuals 85 and older are expected to grow by 60 percent. These individuals are those most likely to need long-term care services and supporters.
In order to prepare for the aging demographic, it has become increasingly essential for communities to understand the needs and strengths of their older adult populations.
One group working to achieve this mission is The Summit County Independent Living Coalition (SILC),a collaborative of over 70 nonprofit organizations, government entities, and individuals advocating for older adults. SILC members come together to speak as one voice on tough senior issues including elder abuse, independent living, hoarding, and the difficult but necessary end of life planning. They also work to raise awareness among seniors about the many programs and resources available to them in Summit County.
Health Commissioner at Summit County Public Health, Donna Skoda, coordinates the SILC effort and says the aging population isn’t just one agency or organization’s concern, but rather a matter to be addressed as a community. Each SILC member brings a valuable piece of expertise and knowledge around seniors and changing populations.
Regular research by the AARP reports that 80% of seniors say they prefer to stay in their home. This trend translates well into Summit County.
Aging in place is a matter of preserving the ability for older adults to remain in their home as long as possible, while receiving any necessary services to maintain their quality of life.
Both GAR Foundation and Akron Community Foundation have invested in a number of local programs that effectively deploy resources to meet basic needs of seniors, while empowering older adults toward self-sufficiency, independence, and good health.Several of these nonprofit organizations will work together to ensure an older adult is receiving the necessary wrap-around services for quality care.
Two of these organizations include Mature Services and Mobile Meals. Cucuzza is one of nearly 190 individuals who received in-home assistance from Mature Services in 2015. Homecare Services are one of several programs the organization provides to empower older adults to remain in their home environments.
Mobile Meals delivers healthy meals nutritional supplements to the seniors among other demographics. The organization’s president and CEO Blake Babcock says their role in SILC goes beyond identifying individuals or families who need nutritional support, it’s also as way for Mobile Meals to listen and learn about challenges and opportunities facing the community, so that they can continue to enhance their services to better serve Summit County seniors.
For Cucuzza, having access to the necessary supports that enable him to age in place has been life-changing.“I’m sure, if it wouldn’t have been for [Mature Services], I wouldn’t have been living this long,” he said in a video interview.
With the commitment of community partners coming together to understand the needs and strengths of their older adult populations, we can continue to ensure that Greater Akron’s seniors experience the highest quality of care possible. Because after all, the story of our growing senior demographic is a community success story and one worth celebrating.
Photo courtesy of Mobile Meals