Resources for senior citizens in Utah
May is the month of the greatest Americans, and this year’s theme, “Age My Way,” is an essential conversation start for our community, not just in Salt Lake County, but throughout state of Utah. When I think about it, I think of an empowered, intentional, decision-centered aging. This is the idea that when we grow up we will have the opportunity to make decisions about how we live, who we live with, how we spend our time and money, who cares for us, and even how we die.
While this is a reality for the wealthiest members of our communities, a brief visit to a long-term health care center for low-income seniors serves as a compelling reminder that this is not the case for many .
We all want to imagine a community where seniors drive decision-making about the most important aspects of their lives. So how do we get there? There are several things we can all do to build communities that are more supportive of the elderly.
Take care of each other
Get to know the people in your neighborhood, especially the elderly, and look at them from time to time. When the pandemic started, my agency was flooded with calls from people worried about their older neighbors who wanted to help. We don’t lose that energy as we get out of the pandemic! Social isolation is still a real and widespread problem among the elderly. An act as simple as a weekly talk can make a big difference to the health and well-being of an isolated elderly person.
Whether you’re in the “look at universities” phase of life or in the “look at retiree communities” phase, planning for the future is crucial. Younger people should take retirement savings seriously: open this IRA and start saving automatically. Older adults, on the other hand, have a myriad of things to plan for: home accessibility, health care coverage, and a fixed income budget are just a few. Accepting the reality that we will all grow old (if we are lucky!) And planning this eventuality are the crucial first steps to being able to “grow old your way”.
Advocate for the elderly
Community resources and public aging policies are an indicator of what society thinks of its older people. When there aren’t enough affordable housing units, nursing home beds, or affordable transportation options, it shows that we’re not really honoring our seniors. Changing this means talking about older adults and making sure that the needs and concerns of older people are central to the community’s conversations about the future. Ask public office candidates how their platform helps seniors. Support companies with fair hiring practices that do not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, or age. Make caring for the elderly a part of your values.
Know your resources
Aging Area Agencies (AAAs) are federally designated organizations that provide resources and services for seniors at all stages of the aging continuum. Salt Lake County Aging & Adult Services is the AAA of Salt Lake County, but there is one in every community in Utah. Find them, learn how to volunteer, and familiarize yourself with the resources of seniors in your community before you need them. AAAs are positioning themselves to become the windshield replacement industry – we want you to know who we are and how to find us before your windshield breaks or, in this case, you need to eat at home, breathe for the caregiver or an evidence-based class.