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News & Event

AAACF Update: Week of 5/11-15/2020 - Supporting Seniors in Washtenaw County

In 2018, AAACF began increasing its focus on older adults through the Glacier Hills Legacy Fund, building on decades of work through the Bach Fund and others. Washtenaw County values the wisdom, experiences, and contributions that older adults bring to our community. We began sharing a sobering call to action: the number of local seniors in poverty will likely double by 2040. Our community must be prepared for (and better yet, reverse) this long-term trend.

Now, a virus posing a higher risk to older adults has heightened national awareness of the need for efforts aimed at aging with dignity and the critical role of caregivers. While our community remains in crisis, it’s critical that we continue planning for and implementing deeper changes to build a better and more vibrant outlook for older adults and all Washtenaw residents. AAACF started this planning for seniors before the pandemic and is pleased to share important progress that will help reshape the older adult experience in Washtenaw County.

Based on our extensive local research, AAACF and the Glacier Hills Legacy Fund launched the $2.5 million Vital Seniors prize competition in 2018 to identify innovations in serving local older adults. This work has intensified during the pandemic and involves the convergence of four major and related efforts around service coordination, community resource mapping, enhanced caregiver support, and a shared data platform for providers. AAACF and its nonprofits allies imagine a not-too-distant-future where all of Washtenaw County serves as a seamless and responsive system of care for older adults who need assistance.

Here are select snapshots of those intertwined and groundbreaking senior-serving efforts:

  • Jewish Family Services, a Vital Senior prizewinner, is launching WISE (Washtenaw Integrated Senior Experience), which focuses on integrating aging services across the County. With one call or click, a person can connect to a dedicated care manager as a single point of contact for accessing local aging experts and services across many agencies.
  • The Center for Health Research & Transformation continues to develop an underlying shared data infrastructure that will support the long-term impact and success of programs coordinated across multiple providers.
  • Another Vital Seniors winner, AAA 1-B is now recruiting Caregiver Coaches. These volunteers will be trained, beginning in June, to provide an enhanced “good neighbor” role to family caregivers on a one-time or ongoing basis. Caregivers report that the best information and encouragement comes from other caregivers.
  • AAACF has engaged Root Cause to combine geographic mapping, senior and other stakeholder engagement, and evidence-based research to map the local systems and programs that support our senior communities and to identify where our community needs to invest more deeply.

Together, these and other efforts—all carefully designed and implemented before the crisis and now more important than ever—continue and will help to advance longer-term efforts to promote healthy aging.

As the dedicated endowment for Washtenaw County, we are committed to recovery and support for the post-pandemic future!


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