AAI Inform & Connect work group member Fred Silverman shares about the work of Aging Action Initiative, the benefits of collaboration, and the importance of accessing the resources to deal with advanced stages of aging.
What kind of work do you do?
Well, at the Inform & Connect Workshop a few weeks ago, I described myself as “unaffiliated”, which got a laugh, but it’s not really true. I’m a new member of the Marin County Commission on Aging. I serve on the Health and Nutrition Committee. We’re planning a series of presentations in a few months. I’m also on the Aging Action Initiative’s Inform & Connect work group putting on wonderful workshops for front line and help desk workers. We’ve done four of those so far, and I helped facilitate.
My passion right now is working with school volunteers through 10,000 Degrees (formerly Marin County School Volunteers). My work is in two schools in Marin City and Mill Valley. Almost all the volunteers are seniors. In these schools, we have 45 volunteers. I believe that more than 40 of them are over 60. It’s a way to connect the young and the old, something we all need.
How did you get into this kind of work?
I worked for the U.S. government for 15 years in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. My wife and I started doing volunteer work with the Marin AIDs Project in the 1980’s, and then I decided to go back to school and studied Social Work. After I graduated, I worked at Hospice by the Bay, Kaiser and other hospice agencies. When I started working fewer hours, I joined the Marin County Civil Grand Jury. We released Aging in Marin: What’s the Plan? (2014). One of our recommendations was to ‘improve information and referral phone lines to make them more user-specific, friendly and immediate.’ The report turned out to be influential as now we have 415-457-INFO (4636) which improved things considerably.
How does the Inform & Connect WorkGroup work?
We’re a group of volunteers who meet monthly to put together the programs for the AAI training workshops. My interests and work experience exposed me to a lot of issues that people 85 and older, like my father, encounter. The two issues that keep coming up for me are changes in health status, and the end of life.
The change of status is a huge unacknowledged problem. One day, being 85 is fine, and then with a fall or a doctor’s appointment and a new diagnosis, in one moment, everything changes, and people flounder. No matter how much you know, there’s still that moment when you don’t know what to do.
With the issues regarding end of life – we need to do better in talking about this. The Inform & Connect group decided we’re going to address this with our training workshop on November 1. To learn more, click here.
What are the benefits of the AAI Inform & Connect Workshops?
In the trainings, people increase their knowledge about available resources. They have a better understanding of the needs of older adults. And, they have the chance to network face to face. Hopefully, participants will leave the training better able to provide useful information for their clients.
Well, AAI has helped me professionally and personally. The AAI Convenings showed me that there are over 100 groups working on issues of older Marin residents. I learned more about them, and understood better how they could and should work together. It can be challenging with so many options for people to get the care they need, when they need it, without any coordination or collaboration. This is one way AAI helps – by making us aware of what other groups are doing when working with older adults.
Personally, AAI has helped me as I navigate the care needed for my father, who is 95. Even with my years of experience, it was a shock when, several weeks ago, I had to immediately find care for him when he had a fall. My hope is that with AAI, we’ll help smooth those times when people suddenly need help to get information, care and assistance.
Well, this isn’t a pleasant story, but it is timely. This last weekend, my wife and I were in the gym, and we got a phone call about my dad falling – this was followed by five hours in the emergency room, and us working through the uncertainty of finding him 24-hour care and making all the arrangements. I know all about this because of my previous work, but I still had to figure out how to do this, and we worried about him on so many levels. We were lucky to have an agency available that could respond to his needs and then to have a bed available in the heath care unit where he lives.
He’s safe now, thankfully, but it was an insight into what people go through: the uncertainty, the stress, the guilt. It’s hard to know if you’re doing the right thing.
How has collaboration helped you do your work? Specifically your relationships/partnerships in the AAI network:
I’ve gotten to know people in the AAI workshops, and make connections between people. Since I volunteer with mainly older adults, I’ve been able to point a few people towards the services that they need. And, I’ve learned that in spite of all the uncertainty and stress of our work, people step up and help when they know what to do.
What innovations do you see coming in your field?
I think that we should see more and more older adults using technology to find services and hopefully, the information will be more and more easily accessed.
What is your vision of an age-friendly Marin?
One that takes really good care of older residents… one where the young and the old are connected. That’s done through volunteering, the collaboration of the multitude of non-profits and interventions by the County to provide seamless access to services for older adults and younger people in Marin. If a pathway is safe for a wheelchair, it will be safe for a stroller. I’d like to see caregiving navigators to help people move through the phases of their lives as they get older. That would be a benefit for all of us.
Aging Action Initiative (AAI) is a collective effort of more than 65 different agencies, grassroots organizations, commission and neighborhood groups, funded by the County of Marin and coordinated by MARINSPACE, collaborating for an age-friendly environment. For more information visit agingactioninitiative.org or connect with us on Facebook.