Attending this conference was a great experience for me! It was amazing to see how many organizations are interested in the health of seniors and how this conference brings those organizations together. I must admit I haven’t really thought about seniors and how they continue to grow. Although I work side by side with seniors while volunteering with MFFC, I never stop to think about the challenges seniors face and how I can help be a part of the solution. One challenge that was talked about throughout the conference was social isolation.
Social isolation is a state in which the individual lacks a sense of belonging socially, lacks engagement with others, has a minimal number of social contacts and they are deficient in fulfilling and quality relationships (Grif Alspach, 2013).Researches have seen this happen more in the aging population than any other age group. To combat social isolation, organizations such as the Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation are awarding funding towards organizations to work with seniors. This can be hosting intergenerational cooking classes, partnering with Cooking Matters to lead super market tours that teach seniors how to shop for their health, distributing knowledge about elder abuse, and other matters. I believe what I learned from the workshops helped me to open my mind about how to connect more with seniors especially when it comes to fitness and nutrition.
A workshop in particular that talked about social isolation was called, “Reducing Social Isolation and Fostering Healthy Aging through Intergenerational Programming.” Presenters of the workshop discussed a program called Oasis, which is an intergenerational tutoring program focused on reading. In this program, older adults are paired with a kindergarten through 4thgrade student to help the student their reading and language skills. https://www.oasisnet.org/National-Programs/Intergenerational-Tutoringe
Besides the conference, I got the chance to tour Downtown Memphis. After eating breakfast, I stopped to talk to a biking security guard who was able to tell me the history of Memphis. One thing I noticed was that there weren’t a lot of people in the area compared to downtown Boston. The biking security guard told me that Tennessee got hit with 3 plagues of yellow fever. When that happened, only the well off could afford to leave the state while those who were not well-off could not leave. Almost 10,000 people died, with the disease mostly affecting those of European descent as those of African descent were able to fight it off. After the plague, downtown Memphis is slowly rebuilding itself. A positive is that Memphis has one of the most affordable downtown living units then other major cities. In other part of Memphis, one can rent out a one bedroom for $325 a month or a 3-bedroom house for $925 a month. The minimum wage is $7.25 and the wage is enough for an individual to live on! In Boston, this is not the case. After exploring the downtown area and earning about the history, I concluded Memphis is a good city for older folks to retire to. It’s quiet, not too crowded, and lots of low-key activities to do.
See the video shown at the conference:
The Magical Mystery (Food) Tour
People who live longer - as well as happier and livelier - have a purpose for their days and deep connections to the people around them. What we have learned is that food - growing, harvesting, cooking, and enjoying it together - is one of the most powerful sources of meaning and connection, no matter a person's age. This celebration of food and togetherness can erase the years between generations and spark an endless and joyful conversation.
With Harvard Pilgrim Foundation support, MaineHealth (Maine), Cooking Matters (Maine), The Granite YMCA (New Hampshire), and Mattapan Flavors (Massachusetts) have created innovative and culturally respectful ways to bring intergenerational food gatherings to local communities. These include weekly cooking sessions and creating a cookbook together, and planting and harvesting a community garden filled with fruits and vegetables to share and eat, among others. This session, The Magical Mystery (Food) Tour (thank you, Beatles!), will take attendees on a "visit" to four multi-cultural places in New England where together, young and old(er) are inventing approaches to gardening, cooking, and passing down culinary history and traditions. Places where generations share tools, recipes, stories, and better yet, learn to eat healthier together.
About the Conference
The theme for the 2018 Annual Conference is Wiser about Older: New Insights, New Programs for an Aging America. As many of us live longer, better lives, our nation is challenged to reimagine a country that truly cares for older people and also takes full advantage of our unique contributions. Like everyone else, funders must continue to get smarter about how we respond, and continue to develop new and innovative programs and policies that enable all of us to live as fully as possible in our communities.
Thank you Boston Alliance for Community Health and Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation for giving me this opportunity!